A brief diary inspired by an Andrew Sullivan piece today What Equality Looks Like.
When I came to America from Britain, the gay rights movement was way ahead here of the old country. No longer. Here is a list of the most powerful openly gay people in Britain. The whole list is a staggering contrast with the US.
He then quotes the list from PinkNews:
1. Spencer Livermore, 32, Director of Political Strategy, 10 Downing Street
2. Nick Brown, 57, Deputy Chief Whip, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne East and Wallsend
3. Peter Mandelson, 54, EU Trade Commissioner. He’s back in the cabinet as Business secretary and Brown’s main spin doctor.
4. Angela Eagle, 46, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, MP for Wallasey
5. Ben Bradshaw, 47, Minister of State for Health Services, MP for Exeter
6. Andrew Pierce, 46, Assistant Editor, Daily Telegraph. Julian Glover, Matthew Parris partner, is opinion editor al The Guardian.
Most these names won’t mean much to you (time for my revenge since a lot of US politicians mean nothing to me) but it is a staggering list compared to my youth.
Just 12 years old, with the Conservatives still in power, we were under the thrall of ‘family values’ and its many implied bigotries: women were still expect to be primarily carers (despite Thatcher), foreigners were ‘swamping us’ (lovely neutral metaphor) and homosexuality was unnatural. Same sex relationships could not even be mentioned in schools under Clause 28 of the Local Government Bill.
The effect of having a centre left government in power has been staggering, even if people doubted Blair or Brown’s agenda on the economy, or on foreign policy issues, they have effected amazing change on many social issues. Whether it’s on TV drama or comedy, or in newspapers, or in the street, expressions of same sex affection are completely normal and tolerated these days.
My own personal experience of this was my younger brother’s coming out. He waited till his early thirties, around about the time of a Labour victory, and the way my large family greeted the news of his homosexuality was completely unpredictable a few years before. There was not a word of sorrow, regret or discomfort expressed. Only joy that he felt confident enough about himself, and about us, to tell us all.
So how did this happen? The US as Sullivan points out was well ahead on LGBT issues and publicly prominent personalities like Harvey Milk. And yet, thanks to Republican rule, you’re still arguing about Civil Partnerships (we call them marriages BTW) while these are a norm now in the UK, and constitute some of the solidest marriages I know.
Is it just the presence of the Republicans, and the power of the Evangelical churches, or is there some other factor I’m missing about the relative backwardness – and the amazing contentiousness – of publicly accepted gay and lesbian men and women in the US?
UPDATE: My bad. I don’t want to make this a diary on the merits of Andrew Sullivan, or some kind of puff piece for the UK. My question is – could change happen in the US as quickly?