Wings Over Scotland has started a fundraiser in order to pay legal costs for Stu Campbell’s defamation case against Labour in Scotland’s leader Kezia Dugdale. The case was brought after Kezia called Stu a homophobe after he insulted Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell by saying that Oliver’s public speaking skills were so risible that it was enough to make you wish that his father had embraced his homosexuality earlier. Oliver is of course the son of Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who came out as gay last year after spending many years in the closet.
Ever since, social media and the press have been full of people heterosplaining about that horrible homophobe Stu Campbell and how we should all recoil in horror from his hatred of gay people. As regular readers of this blog will be aware, I’m gay. I came out as gay a very long time ago, way back when we were still arguing about the B part of the LGBTQI alphabet. I came out as gay when homophobia was respectable, indeed obligatory. If I had a pound for every time someone called me by some abusive homophobic slur I’d have been set for life and wouldn’t have to do a fundraiser for this blog. That’s what life was like as a gay kid in Coatbridge in the 1970s.
I’ve experienced real homophobia. That’s real homophobia of the sort that leaves an actual bloodied and bruised body, homophobia of the never-darken-my-doorstep-again you pervert variety. I’ve been gay bashed twice. I was made unwelcome in the home of my birth by close family members some of whom refused to speak to me for years because of my sexuality. I’ve been subjected to sexual harrassment at work that was so bad I had to leave my job. I had children with lesbian friends back when the newspapers were full of screaming editorials that people like us shouldn’t be allowed to have children, and telling us that our families were excuses for child abuse. I’ve experienced homophobia that leaves real physical and emotional scars. Not homophobia of the “he said something nasty on social media” sort. 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.
What Stu Campbell said about Oliver Mundell was not homophobia. Homophobia is founded in the sentiment that gay people are less worthy. What Stu Campbell said about Oliver Mundell was based in the sentiment that it would have been a good thing if his then-closeted father hadn’t been closeted but had instead been proud and accepting of his sexuality. That’s not a homophobic sentiment. What Stu Campbell said was what gay people call throwing shade. Was it tasteless? Yes. Was it insulting? Hell yes. It was supposed to be tasteless and insulting, that’s what throwing shade is. It was throwing shade of the sort that a drag queen would be proud of. What it wasn’t was homophobic. Not all references to gay people are homophobic.
I know how serious an issue homophobia is. David Mundell did not feel able to be open about his sexuality for decades because of homophobia. He only came out after people like me had made it safe for him to do so. Homophobia blights and deforms lives. It has victims apart from lesbian and gay people. The wives and husbands of gay men and lesbians who entered into heterosexual marriages in an attempt to hide their true sexuality are also victims of societal homophobia. Scotland has made enormous strides as a society in tackling homophobia and allowing queer folk to live open lives, but there is still a lot of work to do. There are still people in Scotland who suffer real abuse and discrimination as a result of homophobia.
Last week I started a fundraiser to help support this blog for the coming year. I’ve only ever done one fundraiser before, that was back in 2014 when I was still a full time carer for my partner Andy, who was then in the final stages of a terminal illness. Caring for a spouse in the last stages of vascular dementia is extremely distressing. It’s hard work. I was unable to get out of the house for longer than it took to rush round the block with the dog, and I’d come home to find Andy upset and in a panic because he’d forgotten where I was. Getting to the supermarket and rushing round Morrison’s with a trolley was the closest I got to quality me time. Funding constraints meant that I was unable to get any respite from a task that was grinding me into the dust, both physically and emotionally.
Stu Campbell told me that unless I did a fundraiser in order to pay for respite care so that I could take care of myself, he’d do it for me. Then he held my hand through the entire process. That was not the action of a homophobe. That was the action of a man who respected my relationship with Andy as much as he would respect a heterosexual marriage where one of the partners was dying. That’s how I know that Stu Campbell is no homophobe, and that Kezia Dugdale was merely seeking to score a political point by bandying the term homophobia about as a weapon to use against a political foe, and cheapening it as a consequence.
As LBGTQ people we need the word homophobia. We need to be able to articulate the concept behind it, and the pain and discrimination that result from it. When an accusation of homophobia is made against something which is not in fact homophobic, we weaken the impact of future accusations, accusations which may very well rest in solid fact. That does no favours to the LGBTQ community. It is vital to us all that when we call someone a homophobe, that they really are a homophobe, that their words or deeds really do diminish and damage the life chances of lesbian and gay people. That’s what gives the accusation its power. We need that power.
Stu Campbell’s quip does not come into that category, but Kezia knew that she’d get more traction by accusing him of homophobia than she would if she’d simply called him out for being crass. She’s done our community no favours as a result. The next time a politician calls a blogger homophobic, many people won’t believe them, and that’s potentially very damaging to the LGBTQ cause.
Link to the Wings Over Scotland fundraiser is HERE
Wee Ginger Fundraiser
I’m doing a fundraiser this year to keep this blog going for another twelve month and to allow the dug and me to continue visiting local groups all across Scotland. You can donate via my crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo –
Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account I’ve set up for the purposes of this fundraiser, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send the necessary information.