This weekend marked the 2nd anniversary of the Independence Referendum, with events taking place across the country. Regular readers know how much we love standing around taking pictures of other people standing around – so when I decided to give the festivities a bye, knowing they would doubtless be recorded elsewhere, I didn’t expect to miss the birth of a shitstorm on 2 of my favourite topics: homophobia and Ruth Davidson.
The clip now doing the rounds more than most comes from Glasgow’s Scottish Independence Convention Rally, at which the comedy group Whitsherface performed a “rap off” which included “Ruth Dykey D” delivering a skit which focused on how she’d like to shag an inebriated Mhairi Black. The whole thing was what you’re supposed to call “close to the bone” but could more accurately be described as a total fucking cringe. It’s the Minister “rapping” at the school assembly with yer maw jokes in place of the Jesus bits. Whitsherface have helpfully pointed out that comedy is “subjective.” We don’t dispute that – but the subject here (Ruth Davidson) was the object of ridicule on the basis she’s a lesbian and therefore obviously loves to have sex with drunk young girls. Subjectively speaking, I think that’s a hoaching way to treat anyone and perpetuates a dangerous lie about gay people.
It was all being livestreamed, so the press dutifully swung into action to deliver their “Hate Nats Gone Wild: Anniversary Special” pieces about how the SNP must all pure hate the gays. It’s so tedious for the media to act like this is somehow the responsibility of the entire 1.6m people who happened to vote Yes but frankly, it only becomes “not our problem” once it’s dealt with. It feels like chronic gay ja vu to be making all these points again but so long as it’s still happening, we’re going to have to keep doing the grunt work of rooting out homophobia in a clear and consistent way. We can’t keep acting like it’s not our problem or doesn’t really count because of something else the Tories did.
Many Yes supporters have responded instead with buckets of tartan pinkwash, “the sketch was written by a lesbian”, “Karen Dunbar’s involved with the group”, “Joanna Cherry liked it”, “some of our best friends do whatever it is you lot do”, “We’re all very tolerant here.” The rush by the media to paint this as yet more evidence of the existence of EVIL NATIONALISTS helps to feed this unhelpfully tribal response. But so do the people unhelpfully and tribally responding on an issue they know nothing about. Special shoutout to all the straight men seizing the moment to use the word (and worse) over and over again, like we can’t see what you’re doing.
Suddenly, it’s not about homophobia, you’re either Yes or No and that’s the end of the discussion…by which we mean, both “sides” get to be fucking awful, specifically to the openly gay politicians, without any consequences. Joanna Cherry was subjected to pretty horrendous homophobic abuse over the weekend too but that won’t feature in the Express because the people doing it mostly likely supported the union. But if we also act in this selective manner, we’re sending all the wrong messages.
The first message is basically that Ruth Davidson is fair game because she bats for the other team: she’s a Tory, a unionist, a class traitor no less, so all bets are basically off. That’s terrible politics which I’ve demolished before. But it also sends a message to the audience who, before the clip caused a viral rammy, were likely to be members of the “home team.” It’s telling LGB people that if we’re ever in positions of power, we’re fair game too. No matter how good or awful we may be, even if we’re Ruth Davidson levels of awful, the punchline is still that we’re not straight, with the added implication that we’re creeping on the youngest ones.
Whether this had happened at a Yes rally or the Boys Brigade shouldn’t matter and in many ways, we’re completely undermining the point by cramming it into this binary war to answer a question no-ones asked us again. At the same time, it’s quite hard for even the most fervent of apologists for awful behaviour to project the problem elsewhere this time, given it happened at a very mainstream independence event. The least we can now all do is recognise that this kind of insidious homophobia is everywhere, even at Yes rallies, even amongst people who don’t dedicate every waking hour to disliking LGBTI people, even in our own communities. We’ve been saying that way before there was an indyref, never mind its patiently awaited sequel.
If we apply different standards to people’s right to freedom from homophobia, on the basis of what side they bat for, we’re still doing it all wrong. Homophobia can’t be written off by being traded off against bad things Tories do or mopped up with references to how many out SNP MPs there are, it needs to be challenged, whenever and wherever it happens.