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Monday, 16 April 2007

The worst kind of homophobia ..

.. is the kind that comes masked in a smile or from an erstwhile friend.

Corny and, unfortunately, provocative I know. But it's something gay men get used to and it's pretty accurate for Michael Mullaney, a Councillor in Birmingham.

He's using YouTube to highlight issues which ordinary people have in his area. No problem there then, great use of technology.

The use of video comes clanging to the ground though when he and his colleagues focus on an issue which some locals have with some gay men who share the same park.

Here's how he calls it:
Anti-social activities in Highbury Park
This video is not for the easily offended. We describe anti-social activities in the historic Highbury Park in Birmingham and what the Council are going to be doing to reduce them.
It's difficult to know where to start (the video is just a classic).

It's him and a couple of others wondering around a park picking up condoms amongst some bushes and Oooing and expressing amazement at the presence of chairs.

Mate, it's a cruising area, as are hundreds of other areas around the country. Many are historic. It's the part of gay history which isn't found in Gay History Month.

In Hampstead they all live very happily together: the 'sex pests' and the 'happily marrieds' (yeah gods do you really think the two never meet!?), in a terribly nice and very English way.

I'll admit it here, I am a now middle-aged gay man who has distinct memories of having had sex in the open air in the past, like many, many, many other gay men - best (yeah gods I'll regret this but the moment calls for it ...) ever on a wonderful clifftop by the Pacific - and most of my straight friends who'd talk about such things have too (remote field of a hazy summer anyone?). But Cllr., when I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to get laid I absolutely didn't want to be seen by anyone else.

This is normal stuff, LIFE lived Cllr. Nothing at all wrong with it, especially if you use condoms.

Part of the travel industry practically sells itself on the promise of (heterosexual) sex on a beach. Maybe not your (excuse my presumption) 'happy family' life, though often the precursor, but a valid one nevertheless.

But, according to the Cllr., I'm a criminal along with probably most of the rest of the country. Us 'al fresco sex pests'.

Now he stresses, at length, almost to the point of satire, that he isn't homophobic. He has gay friends and even went to a parade. If this was straight people it'd be the same. blah, blah ..

To quote from his numerous comments accompanying the video:
"I'm a weird homophobe since I support gay marriage and gay couples adopting children. So how do you square that?"
Firstly, it's Civil Partnerships, not marriage and yes that is a very important distinction which marks second-class status, one fought tooth-and-nail over, and secondly it would be illuminating to know what - precisely - he is doing for gay people apart from turning up to events and supporting party policy and what everyone supports? His website appears to be empty.

A quick Google turns up news of increasing reports of homphobic attacks in Birmingham. Here's one:
I was sitting on the top deck of the bus in Birmingham when I felt something hit the back of my head. A group of school kids had started throwing stuff at me. I turned around and asked them to stop but they grouped up and started to kick and punch me. There were a number of people on the bus but not one tried to help me. I ran downstairs and reported what had happened to the bus driver, but he didn't take much notice. I got off the bus and went straight to the police station, where I got myself cleaned up. The most humiliating thing was that I have a colostomy and in the attack the bag had come off.

The police took all my details, but they could not find the CCTV footage from the bus; I discovered that day that it's not always on in Birmingham. No further action was taken against the perpetrators, and to this day I still cannot go upstairs on a double-decker bus.
We have an epidemic of anti-gay bullying in schools, ruining the life chances of thousands of gay kids every year, and politicians like Mullaney are completely disinterested.

So the video speaks for itself.

Whenever he refers to 'objectionable to the general public' it is clear what he's referring to - gay sex - and it's clear who he's addressing. Of course gay sex is 'objectionable' to [some] straight people (particularly straight men)! That doesn't mean you pay any attention Mr Representative of All Your Community!

Are you honestly trying to tell me that a dogging site would elicit this stuff? Point me at one single episode about dogging like his video. One.

Yes, I would want the place cleaned up as well and flashing and littering is bad, but public sex is a misdemeanour and it's the fact that he choose to use this as a campaigning tool for votes — ignoring or dismissing the effects — and that he ignores the plain fact that people have sex outdoors all the time. Including elsewhere in his area/every area.

Did you lose your virginity in the back of a car? Or a fumble behind the bikesheds? Never, ever, ever done it outside? Or were you one of his so-called 'normal' 'general public'?

Councillor, people do it because it's FUN and NORMAL. Remember fun? Some people think sex is fun. What a radical, LIBERAL idea.

What else does your sick mind think they're doing in that park? These "gangs of men"? Sitting around on chairs nattering, having sex + littering seems to be it. Anything else? Witch's covens? Paedophile rings?

From the comments the video's elicited, it also sounds like they are suffering homophobic attacks (which would be hardly surprising) but this of absolutely no consequence for Cllr. Mullaney. He doesn't even consider that he's giving bashers a guided tour.

Yes, we should all think about the consequences of our actions (not the least the Cllr.) but he sounds like a bloody Mormon! Yes, it's illegal but it's hardly smashing car windows and try measuring 'harm' here.

In his comments he comes across like he wants a War On Sex but it's really just old-fashioned NIMBYISM, he even owns up to that.

Did he ever think about trying to get the gay (and bi and straight) men using the park involved? Oh I forgot, all sex outdoors is ILLEGAL. Must be BANNED. BAN IT. BAN IT. I want the Daily Express vote and I want it NOW!

That this brings out the homophobes he blithely ignores, despite the endless comment accompanying this very video. He even ignores the worst HIV scaremongering. This is completely irresponsible.

The WORST is the stuff about 'and now you've got your rights and your pubs ...' He seems nothing but bewildered, as are many of the posters ('why do this when you people have pubs now?' Real Forty Acres and a Mule stuff ... )

Sorry but Nirvana hasn't arrived since we ain't equal yet - hadn't you noticed - and if you think discrimination isn't vast you are very ignorant indeed.

Councillor, take your patronising (look that up), heterosexist (look that one up too) crap and shove it.

And as for the gay people ready to shop their brothers for approval - for that's what it is ....

The only reason we have any rights at all is because some brave gay men took on the cops and the government when our existence was illegal — and some of them might be in that very park committing the extraordinary, call the dogs out, criminal act of having sex in the dark, in a bush. Think on.

In terms of online video, I find it quite scary. We know the BNP targets gay men, but this?


  1. Enough of what you write here has an unsubstantiated quality to it that you would do well to visit the park, talk with the warden and the allotment holders about what they've seen, and reflect on that in relation to what you've written here. If they tell you what they've told me, and if what they have said is reasonably accurate, and acceptable, then you'll find yourself eliminating some of the speculative things you've written here, while substantiating others. I think you'd have a different and better story.

    Better yet, you could help address these issues by volunteering in the park, contributing to the groups who've taken an interest in this and a variety of related issues. Maybe you already do, but what you've written sounds more like armchair criticism than a considered response to a question that's being taken seriously by a variety of people in the area. If it's an important issue to you, can we count on your further participation? Or shall I conclude that you are content to let the councillors speak for you?

  2. Hi Parkeur,

    who are you? you actually sound like a councillor? makes a difference to a response.

    yes, I am a critic, though not in an armchair and not a local.

    I saw the video posted on YouTube (anyone in the world can).

    In your response, you seem to encourage gay men to get involved. this is good, local gay men should be actively involved.

    if you had a problem with something you didn't like that a certain community was responsible for, wouldn't you go speak with them first?

    what i have a problem with is people like councillors wading into issues like this, seemingly unaware of the consequences.

    that video IS a bashers guide - whether the councillor realises or not.

    a bit more thought and discussion would actually 'solve' this - face it - culture clash.

    gay men cruise parks: fact. talk to gay men about the consequences but this is NOT the way to do it.