Let's not weaponise homophobia against allies


 This is whom I really wanted to be, growing up.

This is whom I really wanted to be, growing up.

I don't write about gay issues much. While that is indeed the team for which I bat, I don't feel qualified to write at length or with any authority about it. I'm just not very good at being gay. 

After coming out twenty years ago this year, I've sort of made a hash of homosexuality. I'm no shrink, but what seems to have happened is that I cultivated a "straight" persona from a young age as a bulwark against what I thought to the morally reprehensible truth about myself, and did so effectively enough that, rather than transform into a glorious gay butterfly, as the coming out narrative demands, I remain a self-loathing caterpillar. To this extent, I am victim of the homophobia that permeated NZ society during my childhood and adolescence, peaking during the terrifying early days of the AIDS crisis. As if the depravity and dangers of the "lifestyle" that both drew and repelled me wasn't bad enough, there was now a brutal genocide, seemingly arising from nature, that appeared to settled the argument. Not that I literally swallowed the "punishment from god" thesis propagated by Reagan-era evangelists at the time. As a good liberal, of course I insisted it was unscientific nonsense! Unbridled bigotry! Hate speech! 

But I can't be the only closet case from the era who didn't, in some secret compartment of their mind, suspect there was something to it. If only metaphorically, being wiped from the planet seemed like fair punishment for what we were. 

Mine is a progressive family.  Dad worked in education and the arts, surrounded by whoopsies, and neither he nor Mum ever uttered a word against anyone for being gay or lesbian. My older brothers may have called me a "sissy" or "girl" after I'd been beaten once too often outside the off-stump, but that was the extent of it. After coming out, my entire family rallied in support, including, memorably, my religiously devout godmother who, back in 1997, was the first to call and offer unconditional love. 

The homophobia I had so successfully internalized was the product of values embedded deep in the culture, which proved more pervasive than the ethos of tolerance espoused in the home. 

Blogs encourage excessive threat-clearing, which is one reason I've been going off the form. You will note this is no exception. Sorry.

Anyway, this is not my coming out story. 

I have taken to this blog for the first time in yonks because I spotted numerous references to homophobia in the context of Shane Jones' move to NZ First. Here's one example.

Jones' alleged antipathy towards gays and lesbians is typically coupled with references to his apparent misogyny. In all my interactions with Shane, I've seen no evidence of sexism, but, as a man, I'll leave the feminist critique to women. On his attitudes towards LGBT people, however, I feel somewhat qualified to comment. 

I've known Shane for a while. We're mates. I know his amazing wife, Dot, and was privileged to meet many members of his whanau. 

Shane Jones is more comfortable in the company of gay men than at least two-thirds of New Zealand men of his generation and background. He is open and relaxed with it comes to discussing issues affecting gay and lesbian New Zealanders. He is no less baffled than me by persistent efforts to deprive people like me of rights otherwise available to New Zealanders. During our conversations, he may have used words than wouldn't make the cut in Acceptable Speech canon so eagerly monitored by New Zealand's Twitter tone police, but I can't recall it. 

i might diverge from Shane on his decision to join NZ First, and I understand (but don't share) anger from some on the left who perceive it as opportunism at best, treachery at worst. But if we are serious about tackling the remnants of homophobia that still, in 2017, puts too many young lives at risk, let's direct our efforts against real, not imagined, proponents of bigotry. And let's coopt allies like Shane to further expand equality and opportunity for LGBT New Zealanders, rather than counterproductively cast them as the enemy.