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Scarlett Nation » Gay Rights » The Right Not To Be Offended

The Right Not To Be Offended

Bear with me here, I’m going somewhere with this.

I have a good friend who is a vegetarian. She believes, genuinely and passionately, that animals are just as much alive and just as capable of feeling as we are, and as such it’s monstrous to farm and kill them for food. She abstains from eating all meat; she occasionally speaks on the issue and contributes to animal rights newsletters, and she has discussed her view and her reasons with us many times.

I am not a vegetarian. I’ve listened carefully to the arguments and I’m not convinced. But I have every respect for her beliefs – I don’t think she’s stupid or crazy, I don’t expect her to lie about her opinion and I think she has every right to expect the vegetarian option when we go out for a meal. However, if I decide not to go with the vegetarian option, and she responds by walking over and throwing my steak on the floor, well then we have a problem. Even if she does think I’m murdering innocent baby cows, even if it really upsets her, she can’t inflict her point of view on me in any way. I’m assuming that my fellow meat eaters share this expectation of freedom.

So please understand when I say, if you think homosexuality is immoral then I’m okay with that. I think you’re wrong, very wrong, but as outlined above I believe you have a right to be wrong. You have a right not to sleep with members of the same sex. You have a right to respond honestly when someone asks what you think. You have a right to speak on the issue in appropriate context and contribute your thoughts in a responsible way. You do not have the right to tell two men who have nothing to do with you not to show affection in your general eye line. Even if you do get as upset as my friend does when we slaughter bubby lambs, you still have no right to throw their food on the floor.

I know that there are people who just feel uncomfortable watching gay couples, and honestly I don’t think we can judge that. Thoughts are like post, you don’t control what gets sent to you, you just sort it out when it arrives. If the sight of two girls kissing is completely alien to you, it isn’t what you were brought up around and goes against everything you were taught in Sunday school, then you can hardly help it if it comes as a bit of a shock. Bullying people for their reactions is pointless. But then some people just feel uncomfortable watching a disabled couple kiss, or watching very fat people eat, or watching people smoking outside the pub. Does that mean we should ban all of these things, to save people having to get upset about it?

You may think that in this day and age I needn’t bother with this rant, but again and again the attempted justification of homophobia rears its ugly head. Just last year a politician came out in support of a landlady who refused a gay couple a room in her B&B. Now comes the news that a pub landlord ordered two men to leave because they kissed in public. Because this is obscene, apparently.

Of course, things do not become more or less obscene OR more or less child friendly because of the gender of the people involved. Sexuality has nothing to do with sex. If little Suzy can handle mummy kissing daddy and not question where it’s leading or what they do in bed, she’ll manage exactly the same when it’s daddy and daddy. If a straight couple can do it in public then clearly there’s nothing wrong with the act itself. So why is this landlord allowed to say what he said?

I know, I know, he’s not, not legally, not morally, not socially – but actually, he kind of is. It’s still in this grey area where Chris Grayling might pipe up with a defence for the guy, or you may hear him being defended in the bar after work. Already the internet has thrown in its two cents. It is, I feel, a very different reaction to the one he would have got if he’d thrown someone’s Dad out because the elderly turn his stomach. Why?

For those who play the ‘religion’ card and argue that they’re defending a decree from a higher power, I’m not convinced. If that were the case, you’d be throwing divorced people out of your pubs and hotels. They are, after all, wilfully committing a far greater sin in the eyes of God than homosexuality, especially if they’re there with the guy they left their husband for. But the truth is it’s because divorced people don’t look any different and can’t make you uncomfortable – you’re not defending God’s will, you’re defending your own sensibilities. (As an aside, I should imagine that if God’s annoyed about something, he won’t be up there thinking ‘damned gays, wish I had the power to do something…it’s all down to you, Norman from Sheffield’). Moreover, if the government allowed the divorced to be victimised in such a way there would be uproar, because that’s far too many people. If it applied to us, then suddenly being told we had to keep our relationship behind closed doors would be a much bigger deal. We don’t want to do it, but we’ll sit quietly and do nothing whilst it’s being done to someone else.

Apparently the majority of people in this country are pro gay rights, and yet we still don’t have gay marriage, we still don’t let gay people give blood, and an openly homophobic landlord can continue to run his pub with no repercussions for his actions. This is because the people who are pro gay rights don’t vote on the issue, and those who are anti-gay rights do. The government knows, as these business owners know, that they don’t risk 90% of their votes or their custom by pandering to the 10% (percentages are invented). We will grumble, but we’ll still vote Tory, Labour or LibDems if gay marriage isn’t on the agenda. We’ll still support a party that allows and even facilitates the marginalisation, humiliation and segregation of a whole group of people, forcing them to be defensive about something as wonderful as love and secretive about something as fundamental as their relationship. But if that party allowed a person to spit on our steak – for genuine moral reason – I should image we’d soon speak up.

I’m writing to my MP.

Written by

Co-founder and contributor to Scarlett Nation.

Filed under: Gay Rights · Tags: , , ,

  • Myles Nester

    I really like the idea of telling people they have the right to be offended whilst increasing equality. It models equality and liberty in a completely different light and allows people to cling to their beliefs whilst still enacting real change.

    It also means you don’t have to tell people they’re wrong whilst enacting legislation opposite to what they want. Its the model that worked on getting abortion legislation passed in the UK, and its easier than wasting time convincing the minority who won’t be affected that their views are wrong.