For every Hitzlsperger, there's a Holyfield: Silencing homophobic views won't do anything to solve the problem of homophobia

There are still so many people who hold these opinions deep down

Share
Related Topics

What a long way we’ve come. In less than a decade the standard response to coming out has gone from being sneered at in disgust to being cast off as boring. Yes, we’re now so achingly okay with the gays that the fashionable response is increasingly to bang on about how you wish gay people would shut up because of how little it matters.

This week, former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay. The response was overwhelmingly supportive. Yet the usual suspects couldn’t help themselves: out they crawled, across Facebook, Twitter, offices and dinner tables with the same old lines. Who cares what you do in the bedroom? Yawn! Why is this news?

A few days earlier, heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield sat in the Big Brother house, discussing gay sportspeople. Holyfield asked a question which actually has a pretty obvious answer – namely, what would be “good” about having more openly gay sports stars? That obvious answer is not, as a fellow housemate said: “it’s just how some people are born”. Holyfield responded with what is probably a perfectly logical extension of the argument, to a homophobe:

"It don't make no difference. If you're born and your leg were turned this way, what do you do? You go to a doctor and get it fixed back right."

It’s not hard to explain why he’s wrong (for a start, you get your leg treated because it’s painful or inconvenient, not because it isn’t “normal”). But although insisting homosexuality isn’t normal and could be cured is homophobic, it wasn’t actually Holyfield who chose to make that the crux of the issue.

For too long, our equality narrative has been that being gay or bi is okay because it’s “normal”, that you can’t discriminate because it’s “how we are born”, and that we should be “tolerated” because we can’t help it. This may all be true, as far as it goes, but it’s not the point. Lots of things aren’t “normal” – including being a heavyweight boxing champion – but so what? I don’t care if bisexuality is “normal”. And I wouldn’t choose differently if it was a “choice”, either.  

Thomas Hitzlsperger during his time at West Ham Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay this week Channel 5 reprimanded Holyfield because, they said, people might be “offended.” I’m used to my opinions, even carefully researched and considered ones, being minimised as me being “offended” but it’s still tedious. Positioning homophobia as a matter of hurt feelings is missing the point in a big way.

Ofcom is now investigating the show for broadcasting the “offensive” sentiments. We’ve reached an odd situation here; society mostly accepts homophobia as A Bad Thing, so we encourage homophobes to word their homophobia more carefully, to avoid causing “offense.” Powerful, educated people continue to write neatly worded columns, often working from an equally problematic premise, couched in the correct terminology. We end up with angry homophobes feeling censored or silenced as they there sit murderously grinding their homophobic teeth, while everybody else thinks homophobia is over and we should all shut up about it, because it’s boring, and by being bored, they’re somehow above it.

To lambast Channel 5 for broadcasting homophobic comments in a show like Big Brother only makes sense if you believe homophobia is about hurt feelings. Evander Holyfield isn’t an official running the country, or a policeman, or a teacher. Channel 5 didn’t validate his homophobia, or present it as an authoritative, credible viewpoint. Making out that this is about people being “offended” – and that the problem will solved if no-one has to hear homophobia expressed out loud – ironically plays into the “if you don’t like it, ignore it” narrative which is so often used to silence dissent. It reduces homophobia to a matter of nasty words, like swearing before the watershed.

When everyone is so polite, it’s easy to forget how many people do still hold these views deep down. And if people are thinking it, I’d rather hear it expressed honestly. After all, it serves to remind us that sneering at the need for the modern LGBT movement and pretending it’s a great big yawn when a footballer comes out doesn’t make you clever. It makes you willfully naïve. And worse, it makes you part of the problem.    

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Lead Application Developer

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am current...

Senior Networks Architect

£65000 per annum + 15% Pension, Health, Travel & Bonus: Progressive Recruitmen...

SAP BW/BO Consultant

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW/BO CONSU...

Hydraulic Power Pack Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I recruit for contract mechanical design...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

How silly of me to assume it was Israeli bombs causing all the damage in Gaza

Mark Steel
 

Careful, Mr Cameron. Don't flirt with us on tax

Chris Blackhurst
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices