Letter: Throw open the closet, then take it apart

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The Independent Online
From Mr Antony Grey

Sir: Monday was the 25th anniversary of the first Gay Liberation Front public demonstration against homophobic injustice. In those days - even after the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which I had helped to pilot on to the Statute book - homosexuals were still regarded by many "respectable" people as the scum of society - vicious criminals, sick, pathetically twisted perverts, or both.

Now, as your excellent feature "Moving into the mainstream" (27 November) shows, it is possible for some people to be open about their homosexuality without damaging their careers or their social standing. Some, but not all; as you say, the list is heavily skewed - anti-homosexual prejudice still keeps those in many walks of life firmly in the closet. And the great majority of your 40 subjects are London-based.

When I was Secretary of the Homosexual Law Reform Society in the Sixties, all of us were "in the closet" - there was nowhere else to be. Now, thanks to a third of a century's campaigning, that is no longer the case. But the closet still exerts a powerfully cramping and distorting impact, not only upon homosexuals themselves, but also upon the larger society's perceptions of us. We are the only discriminated-against minority that suffers the handicap of partial visibility.

It is time for the closet to be dismantled. The "outing" of specific individuals is a red herring. The crucial issue is the malign social effect of the closet itself. This will end only through the combined efforts of increasing numbers of gay people who are prepared to state openly, as the Gay Liberation Front did, that Gay is Good and Gay is Proud, and that they are not ashamed to be gay, and of everyone of goodwill in the larger society who is prepared to recognise the extent of the homophobic prejudice, fear and ignorance that still pervades society and to take meaningful steps to curb it.

A determined effort is needed to bring new initiatives into education, professional training and legal provision. The inertia of politicians and religious leaders unwilling to grasp the nettle of prejudice must, and will be, overcome.

Yours faithfully,

Antony Grey

London, NW2

28 November

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