Comment: Right of Reply

  • @PeterTatchell
The spokesman for OutRage! responds to Philip Hensher's recent article on gay rights

PHILIP HENSHER is wrong to claim "a measure of equality" has been granted to lesbian and gay people by the Labour government, and that other equal rights "will surely follow". Despite its pre-election pledge of queer equality, Labour refuses to state when or how it will lift the ban on gays in the military, repeal Section 28, recognise same-sex partnerships, outlaw anti-gay discrimination, and get tough on homophobic crimes.

Equality is not just around the corner. Pinocchio Blair promised the 1997 Gay Pride Festival that Labour would "build a new Britain free from discrimination". Twelve times since then his government has blocked proposals for queer human rights.

Labour's backing for the system of "sexual apartheid" that keeps gay people second class citizens does not, however, mean that nothing has changed over the last 32 years. Life has got better for most homosexuals. But these improvements have little to do with straight politicians. They are largely due to the gay community's own initiatives.

When straight society has ignored our needs, we have responded by creating a supportive network of gay community institutions, including helplines, social centres, legal advice agencies, housing associations, and victim support schemes.

These efforts have enhanced millions of lives. It is now much easier to access information about homosexuality, feel a sense of self-worth, come out, meet a partner, and get help.

Our initiatives have created a confident, supportive lesbian and gay community. Few changes have been due to straight politicians. We queers have uplifted ourselves. Malcolm X was right. Self-reliance is the key to the empowerment of marginalised minorities.