Paris Lees

Why do the likes of David Starkey, Andrew Pierce and Rupert Everett oppose same-sex marriage despite being gay? Is it Stockholm Syndrome?

Apart from anything else, it shows a terrible lack of imagination


I remember my reaction when – as a teeny tiny teen of 15 or so, out with my friends in "female" clothing – people would ridicule me.

“Serves you right, Paris”. Well, if you’re a boy and you go out in girl’s clothes, don’t you deserve to be laughed at? What else did I expect?

Late one night, my friend and I went to buy cigarettes. Two women were behind us as we stood outside the petrol station waiting for our Marlboros and Superkings. Both women stood there and made aggressive, transphobic comments about us. And something within me snapped. 

I yelled. I swore. I’d had enough. What, after all, gives anyone the right to abuse me in the street – regardless of how I’m dressed? With this realisation came struggle though: the next few years were tough, as I felt every insult and snigger keenly. Eventually, as I started to look more feminine, it happened less, but the memory keeps me paranoid.

So I sort of understand where homophobia-apologists, who are gay themselves, are coming from. Don’t rock the boat, they plead. What do we expect, they ask themselves. Shouldn’t we just be grateful that people are not killing us on the streets, as they do in Iraq, Guatemala and Jamaica? I get it. It’s comforting to feel that one deserves ill-treatment. It deflects that unbearable feeling of injustice.

It also leaves us, however, in a very bizarre situation. Heterosexual transgender people, for example, have been allowed to marry since 2004 and the passing of the Gender Recognition Act. Little fuss was made of this in the press. Still, the new laws mean that I, who was born male, but who transitioned to female, may marry my partner who was also born male and is still male. If, that is, I have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). Seeing as I haven’t felt the need to apply for a GRC just yet, I could, technically, marry a woman. Even though my passport quite rightly reflects the fact that I am female. Isn’t this utterly ridiculous? Isn’t it a farce? Isn’t it absurd to suggest that gay people shouldn’t have the same rights that heterosexual trans people have enjoyed for eight years?

Of course, trans people who married before they transitioned must divorce their partners if they want a GRC. A couple who have been married for 20, 30, perhaps 40 or more years would have to divorce and become civil partnered should one of them transition later in life. After all, we can’t possibly have gay marriage, can we? But who does this serve precisely? And is society improved by making people jump through such arbitrary hoops, different formal words for the same loving relationships?

"Rupert Everett recently said he can't think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads. How unimaginative."

Rupert Everett recently said he can’t think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads. How unimaginative. What about a heterosexual father who is violent and cruel, not only to you but his string of women? I’d choose gay dads over that any day but, sadly, I was never given the choice.

And where do lesbian parents fit in? More and more people raised by gay couples are singing the praises of same-sex parenting. As Lib Dem counsellor Sarah Brown points out though, homophobia and transphobia are rooted in deep social neuroses around gender. Everett’s dislike of men-in-mother-roles presses the idea that a woman's place is in the home, caring for children. Still, though Rupie has possibly never met any, many single parents take on the roles of both mother and father with great success.

Now take Andrew Pierce, who seems frightfully confused:

“The truth is that no one has been able to explain to me the difference between gay marriage and a civil partnership. I have asked ministers and friends. None has an answer. But I do. We already have gay marriage — it’s called civil partnership. Why can’t Mr Cameron just leave it there?”

If there is no difference, why allow anyone to assert that there is? We don't allow racists to insist there’s a difference between black and white people that needs enshrining in law. Right-wing politicians and their apologists argue that pushing equal marriage is taking up valuable parliamentary time, which could be spent on restoring the economy. This is disingenuous. If we all accept equality, and that it's just a formality, it should only take a few minutes to pass the necessary legislation.

Then there’s David Starkey. Last year, when asked about negative reactions to the seemingly homophobic bed and breakfast owners, he said: “It seems to me that what we are doing is producing a tyrannous new morality that is every bit as oppressive as the old.” Of all the things dear Mr Starkey might apologise for, apparent homophobia certainly seems the oddest. I think I might have found the explanation though.

Stockholm Syndrome describes the strange propensity of hostages to feel positively towards their captors – sometimes to the point of defending them. It catalogues the “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” Gay men of Mr Starkey’s age remember well when the British establishment harassed and intimidated gay people, and the state’s reluctance to afford equal marriage rights continues those abuses today.

Mr Pierce, Mr Everett and Mr Starkey – as gay men, I do believe you have a touch of Stockholm Syndrome. The disappointing thing is that, deep down, I’m sure you would love to live in an equal society and enjoy the same rights as everyone else. It’s just so very sad, then, to see you lick the hands that push you down.

Independent Voices has launched a campaign to legalise same-sex marriage. To read more about our Equal Partners campaign and sign the petition, click here.

Sign the petition today!

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