No defamation case involving notable pro independence figures would be complete without a comprehensive ATF rundown on why the whole thing’s a fucking terrible idea. That’s the obligatory Tommy Sheridan reference out the way, now onto serious business.
Back in March, wir old pal, Stuart Campbell, the notorious roaster behind Wings Over Scotland tweeted, “Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner.” Oliver Mundell’s dad, Tory MP and former Scottish Secretary, David Mundell came out last year.
We’ve discussed Wings bellendry before – and we’ve discussed the kind of low level homophobia people like David Mundell are subjected to, even by well meaning individuals. No-one could argue that when Wings tweeted that, he was intending to be supportive of David Mundell, so that’s that excuse out the window. And no, we’re not suggesting the job of independence supporters is to be nice to Tories just because they’re gay, we’ve ranted about that too if we’re counting.
Kezia Dugdale, the out leader of Scottish Labour condemned the comments by Campbell, describing a situation in which someone was mocked based on their sexuality as…homophobia. David Mundell similarly pointed to the remarks as homophobic.
There would be nothing remarkable in this (sadly) had Campbell not decided to take Kezia Dugdale to court, pursuing a defamation action on the basis she described what he said as homophobia. Yes, a straight male with a well documented history of subjecting LGBT people to ridicule is using the legal system to try to get cash from a gay woman. It doesn’t get more shady than this. No wait, it does.
Rather than putting his money where his amply endowed gob is and paying all the costs himself, Stuart Campbell’s crowdfunding and framing it as an attempt to fight “lies and smears from unionist politicians” Independence supporters are being encouraged to part with their cash, despite the clear consequences this case could have for LGBT’s people ability to speak freely about the challenges we face in modern Scotland.
Straight people need to ask themselves a few basic questions before donating to a fund to facilitate this: Is my money best spent defending this person’s right to not be called a homophobe or could I do something less shit with my life, like, for example, anything? Does this help create the impression the independence movement will listen to and address the concerns of LGBT people or does it make us look like a shady, insular cult? Will I just get chips instead?
You would imagine, since this is Scotland 2017, most people would understand what homophobia is and why it was unacceptable: homophobia is behaviour which exists on a very broad spectrum from the internalised hatred many LGBT people feel about themselves, to the kind of pointed insults directed at Mundell right through to physical violence and murder. But of course, this is Scotland, in 2017, so the available answers are “Yes” and “No” and behaviour is now justified if someone happened to vote a different way to you in 2014. Except, it absolutely can’t be.
I’m not here to fuck around: shaming someone in a way that simply wouldn’t be possible if they were straight is homophobia. We’ve called this kind of stuff homophobia, because it is, long before we knew what a Wings was. We don’t intend to allow legal threats to prevent us from standing up for our views or standing by people when they’re under attack.
The real problem here isn’t so much Stuart Campbell, there will always be arseholes in life. The issue is the mass of followers who’re prepared to do anything to defend him, no matter how much damage their behaviour does to everyone else. So ENOUGH ABOUT HIM. He’s not even who I came for, he’s the weak broth to the general shit soup of the past week or so.
When it all kicked off, I was beginning to wonder how long it would be before the preferred alibi of definitely not homophobes the world over would make an appearance: The Gay Best Friend™, and right enough along came yer da in shining armour, here to tell us all about how Wings couldn’t possibly be a homophobe coz Wee Ginger Dug is FOR REAL.
Blogger and columnist, Paul Kavanagh AKA Wee Ginger Dug, penned a defence of Wings for his blog, a version of which has also somehow made its way into the hallowed pages of nationalists’ preferred paper of the news and it’s hard to know where to start with this “he’s never been nasty to me, so it’s grand” tropefest – but I do need to pause before I get tore in to make the point that Kavanagh recounts many pretty horrific experiences of homophobia and I can’t and won’t belittle those. We need to be constantly reminded how far we’ve come, and how quickly, how much we owe to the generations who went before. But we absolutely don’t need one person using their experience to define everyone else out of existence in a pretty transparent attempt to ignore all the problems with his pal.
After a brief intro, we’re told,
social media and the press have been full of people heterosplaining about that horrible homophobe Stu Campbell
Except, I’ve not read a paper or listened to a straight person in many a year, and here I was, knowing all about ‘that horrible homophobe’ without a single staightsplaination (it’s straightsplain, Shirley?). A lot of the critics of Wings’ atrocious gender and sexual politics are actually…not straight at all, a lot of the people at the forefront of challenging him are LGBT. Paul Kavanagh knows this, so he’s undermining and sidelining the voices in his own community by pretending otherwise. This tactic of implying no-one’s even a proper gay anyway is repeated over and over throughout the piece.
Kavanagh explains he came out,
“way back when we were still arguing about the B part of the LGBTQI alphabet”
Way back when biphobia was a thing? The heady days of…right this instant, is this you coming out, right now? Congrats babe, when’s the party? But seriously, it pains me to suggest that this not bisexual man might not have recently experienced biphobia on account of not being bisexual. See youse all in court for making that entirely unsourced allegation.
Then it all goes far South very quickly, as the third paragraph begins,
I’ve experienced real homophobia
So I figure I know what homophobia is. If you’d walked a mile in my ruby slippers, you’d know what real homophobia was too.
The bit in between defines “real” homophobia as physical violence and abuse which makes explicit reference to your sexuality. So, he’s the real gay, yet again, and all the other gays are just pretending. The assumption people either experience “real” homophobia or challenge the kind of comments made by Stuart Campbell does a disservice to many who’re still capable of standing up for their community despite what they’ve faced. Some people can do more than just bark “Yes” on cue. We’ve reached a point where most homophobes now choose to be smarter than they once were. That doesn’t mean men who’ve experienced homophobic violence have a monopoly on defining what homophobia is or what makes people’s experience of it real.
One thing Kavanagh is very clear belongs in the “not real” pile is,
he said something nasty on social media
However, in the totally real and please will you give us your money pile is: she said something about my pal in the media after he said something nasty on social media. People who call others things they dislike must face the full wrath of the justice system but also are just silly gurlz who need to stop being so offended, when there are real injustices like what she said to him which are worth diverting the funds and attention of the independence movement towards. Geddit?
It’s almost like there’s a deliberately confusing double standard which allows Wings, yer pal, to do whatever the fuck he wants while LGBT people i.e women, who’ve probably never experienced “real” homophobia like you, should be dragged through the courts if they ever piss him off.
The piece ends with an assertion that we need the word “homophobia” and we need it to “have power.” You cannae do this if you’ve just taken away everyone else in your community’s power to use the word on the basis it doesn’t match the narrow definition of how you experience or understand homophobia. Gay men diminish the power of the word homophobia when we presume it only refers to what happens to us.
It’s worth noting that, like Campbell himself, Paul Kavanagh has form on this. Back in 2013 when Wings was being a roaster transphobe (as he still frequently is), Kavanagh wrote largely the same blog (meaning The National paid him for a rehashing of a rehash, an actual hair of the dug). In this similarly hoaching mess, the ridiculing of trans women in particular was excused because Campbell had been nice to this one gay man.
There’s something you might have noticed about Kezia Dugdale, Chelsea Manning and all the other gay, bi and trans women who Wings seems to have a go at and/or get into big rammies with far too often. Despite what he says about many of them, they are all women. At the school of basic solidarity I went to, when you mess with the Ls, the Bs and the Ts, you’re messing with the whole fucking alphabet. Aye, we owe a lot to the men who went before us but we owe so much to the women and to people who never got a chance to be who they could have been, who battled and continue to battle alongside us and yet still get left behind, left behind when men stand by our men when they don’t deserve it. Left behind when men in positions of influence centre only themselves and their own experience as valid, real and worth defending.
Kavanagh’s attempts as othering those opposing Wings are part of a familiar pattern employed to attempt to isolate queer Yessers by writing out our frequently expressed concerns and replacing them with tinfoil hat conspiracy. Last time round, Kavanagh called people challenging Wings part of a “labour claque” and much of the chat from Wing’s fanboiz on Twitter is that anyone opposing him can’t be a real independence supporter anyway. The usual turgid chain-males of Scottish political chat have now jumped in with similar tactics, prattling on about how they totally won Twitter and everyone who’s ever disagreed with them must be in RISE. Nice. Fucking. Try.
I’m going bang this drum again, because some people don’t seem to want to get it: homophobia exists on a spectrum and it doesn’t impact equally on everyone, it’s not defined solely by physical violence and by tolerating behaviours which normalise the ridicule of LGBT people, you’re siding with people who take those attitudes to their logical conclusion. Playing “my homophobia is bigger than yours” isn’t a useful way to have a discussion about what homophobia is – and how we fight it. Unless your view of how to fight it is to use the legal system against anyone who mentions it, Stuart Campbell’s actions should deeply concern you.
People have been challenging the way Wings speaks to and about LGBT people and women for years. I know many LGBT activists, feminists and Yessers who’ve long since boycotted his platform for a host of reasons and who continue to challenge those who promote him. They deserve a fucking medal rather than the constant reinforcement of, well, homophobia: the view they’re not real, a sham, a conspiracy, secretly batting for the wrong/other side. Of course, gay men promoting this view hardly fucking help but no-one should get a free pass to do this just coz Dug’s long since given up on not pissing on those further down the LGBTree.
It matters that we’re allowed to openly and honestly discuss the many and varied ways homophobia impacts on LGBT people, without fear of being dragged through the courts. I couldn’t care less if David Mundell was mauled by bears – but if we allow anyone in the public eye to be ridiculed because of their sexuality without challenge, we’re creating a dangerous situation for LGBT people who’re a lot less able to defend themselves. If openly gay elected representatives don’t get to, well, represent, we create a climate in which LGBT people are further discouraged from participation in public life. I won’t fight for an independent Scotland where my community is expected to remain silent when we’re under attack or where voting No makes someone a legitimate target for sexual shaming. I want a Yes vote to be the start of creating a country where we don’t have to stand for shit like this. So despite my constant rage at the mere suggestion of Scottish Labour, I’ll be rearranging my diary and soaking myself in glitter for #TeamKez if Stuart Campbell doesn’t back the fuck up.