Friday, 29 September 2006

"Homophobia is Gay"?!?!?

I have just been helping Slightly put in English this letter to newspapers I wanted to send. I thought I would share it with you, as these are my views too.

I recently came across a press release for the new Liberal Democrats Youth and Students group anti-homophobia campaign called "HOMOPHOBIA IS GAY". Enclosed were badges bearing that same slogan, and A5 leaflets asking people to sign a petition against homophobic bullying at school.

As a member of the LGBT community, I find this a very praiseworthy initiative.

As a communications consultant, however, I have to point this out as a very badly thought out slogan. At best, it sends a conflicting message (isn’t “homophobia” a sort of contrary to “gay”?). At worst it re-enforces the current trend that the word "gay" refers to something “bad” or “naff”.

Following the recent controversy around a BBC presenter's use of the word "gay" in accordance to some apparently justifiable new meaning of the word in playgrounds, the LGBT community has attempted to reaffirm the word’s positive meaning and highlighted the homophobic undercurrent attached to the new usage. This campaign goes squarely against this grass-root movement.

I decided to contact Mark Gettleson, the chair of 'Liberal Democrat Youth & Students', who is responsible for the campaign. Despite my own questions on this, and his acknowledgment that he has received several calls on the subject, he still saw no reason for offence. He insisted that his message is that “Homophobia is wrong and needs to be stopped in schools."

I raised the point that the badges said nothing like this but simply that "Homophobia is Gay". The reply was that it is a satirical statement and that whoever gets a badge will be handed a flyer; flyer, which in my view, does not alleviate the negative meaning given to the work gay by the badge. Presumably people are expected to wear both to ensure that the message comes across as the Lib. Dems intend it.

Satirical or not, the message thus sent to children in schools is, I think, irresponsible and will comfort them in their assumption that “gay” and, by extension, anything that is gay, indeed has a negative connotation and that it is ok to use the word in that way. This is obviously not ok.

If a campaign was ever needed to encourage homophobic taunts and isolation, "Homophobia is Gay" would be a good starting point.

Tony Malone
Design and Communications Consultant
Design for Diversity
Some people might say that this is all about semantics and that this discussion is therefore irrelevant to the aim of the campaign. I think semantics have a huge importance. It is, after all, with the creation of the word Homosexual in the 19th c that proper systematic discrimination started. This also gave raise to the gay liberation movement.

Associating the only positive term to describe who we are with a negative connotation is not going to help anyone. Especially not a kid who is trying to make sense of what is happening to him in an adverse environment.

Quibbling over a word is of course not going to stop homophobia but it is one step in the right direction among many other. I think this campaign is targetting liberal minded people who haven’t thought much about the issues involved and will think the message on the badges is cool because it use "youth speak". It has obviously been created by the same people it is targetting whithout much consideration.

More details on the campaign here.

Tags: , , , , , , , .

1 comment:

  1. I've just been outted in Zefrogs blog!



Please leave your comment here. Note that comments are moderated and only those in French or in English will be published. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and to leave a thought.