Letter: Suffering gays

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The Independent Culture
Earl Russell is correct to point out that gays are constantly bullied for being different from other people, while being unable to change (letters, 10 June). Ann Widdecombe, however, is not right in suggesting we benefit from "equal rights rhetoric".

There is no country on earth in which gay people enjoy a right which even the world's most oppressed heterosexuals take for granted: the right to marry. Because of this, rights in matters as varied as employment perks and prison visits are denied us. In UK law, gay men are not allowed to choose their profession freely, and can legally be sacked from any job simply for being gay (equal rights legislation does not apply to us). An innocent cuddle in the park will lead to arrest. Holding hands in the street is unthinkable. Your heterosexual readers may wish to imagine their own lives without these freedoms.

In sexual matters the discrimination is starker still: we are not allowed to make love in a hotel room (more often enforced than readers may believe), and group sex is a crime. Recently a few men were imprisoned for indulging in consensual sadomasochistic practices which, like them or not are perfectly legal for heterosexuals. Last week two men were imprisoned for 18 months and ordered to register with the police as sexual perverts for 10 years. Their offence: they had amassed a sock collection for fetishistic purposes - bizarre certainly, but if they had collected women's clothes instead they would have had nothing to fear from the law.

The "equal rights rhetoric" Mrs Widdecombe so despises is exactly that: rhetoric.