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"Do you know any gay people?" asked Sir Ian McKellen. "Well, you do now. I'm gay."
April 12, 2011 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Stonewall is a UK-based European charity founded as a response to the controversial Section 28 (which prohibited local authorities and teachers from intentionally promoting homosexuality) that was enacted in the UK in 1988. In the decades since being founded, the charity has become well-known for lobbying for gay rights. In 2005, Stonewall started Education for All, a campaign against homophobic bullying and for an inclusive learning environment for all. The charity has included support from famous people before, and now includes Sir Ian McKellen and others going to secondary schools to talk with kids and teachers about homophobia. (via TheophileEscargot on MetaChat)
posted by filthy light thief (27 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
One of Stonewall's prior Education for All campaigns featured John Barrowman and the line Some people are gay. Get over it!
posted by filthy light thief at 12:58 PM on April 12, 2011


The Guardian headline to the story: "McKellen takes gay tour to schools." It is funny/sad to think of the uproar that string of 6 words would cause in the US.
posted by jmccw at 1:29 PM on April 12, 2011


The idea of "promoting homosexuality" is, of course, ludicrous...but if it were possible, the best way to do it would be to make it off limits which is exactly what Section 28 did.

"What *is* your fascination with my forbidden closet of mystery?"
posted by inturnaround at 1:30 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hm. Interesting. I always assumed that the Stonewall riots were only symbolic to American audiences. Guess I was wrong?
posted by schmod at 1:36 PM on April 12, 2011


"Homework is gay", is not a homophobic comment but is merely making use of the word in the pejorative sense which is one of its two senses.

Reminder note to Self: Never read comments, unless the site starts with 'meta'.
posted by robself at 1:37 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am so thoroughly behind Education for All, and the thought of Sir Ian McFuckingKellen sitting in with classes of kids and casually informing them that he's gay is just too wonderful.

But you know what breaks my heart? Look all over Stonewall's website: they talk about their work with lesbian, gay and bisexual kids; they talk about their work with the adult LGB community. No T, though. Trans kids are in just as much danger as gay kids; more, probably, although accurate statistics for the UK are hard to come by. Stonewall UK doesn't service us, though. Stonewall UK honours journalists who've openly wished that trans people would just, well, stop. Stonewall UK, when I phone them to ask them why they're driving a wedge between the gay and trans communities in the UK, tell me, well, they're just not really about trans stuff.

They're doing good work. Amazing work. Work that will change lives; will save lives. And I fucking hate them for abandoning trans kids.

I really don't want to derail this thread because what it's about is fantastic. But please, if you're thinking of donating to support Stonewall UK, if you come into contact with them -- hell, if you bump into Sir Ian McFuckingKellen in the street! -- ask them why they're not helping the trans kids, who need them just as much.

Stonewall Scotland don't have this problem, though. Hurrah!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:42 PM on April 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


Reading that Guardian article only increased my adoration for Sir Ian. One more way in which Magneto/Gandalf is awesome.
posted by immlass at 1:46 PM on April 12, 2011


Just tell kids that if they stick to being gay, they can end up a wizard in charge of Hogwarts and hobbits when they grow up.
posted by klangklangston at 1:56 PM on April 12, 2011


"promoting homosexuality"

is that like "promoting" a product? are we selling gay now?

those Got Milk ads just acquired new subtext
posted by LogicalDash at 2:03 PM on April 12, 2011


"Homework is gay", is not a homophobic comment but is merely making use of the word in the pejorative sense which is one of its two senses.

Obligatory.
posted by schmod at 2:17 PM on April 12, 2011


Kind of an interesting interview here with one of the trans women from the Stonewall Riots which touches on Stonewall UK's use of the name.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:19 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


ArmyOfKittens - I noticed that, too, and was a bit confused. I provided the background of Stonewall (UK) because I thought it was interesting that a US turning point had so much impact abroad as to be the source of their charity name. But the recent Guardian article about McKellen's tour is full of good.


LogicalDash: "promoting homosexuality" -- is that like "promoting" a product? are we selling gay now?

Read through the wiki page on Section 28, and it's a terrible bit of history, peppered with curious phrases, like outspoken MP Jill Knight stating that "The major point of [Section 28] was to protect children in schools from having homosexuality thrust upon them."
posted by filthy light thief at 2:22 PM on April 12, 2011


I am swooning here. The interview to which ArmyOfKittens links is with Miss Major, the executive director of the TGI Justice Project in San Francisco. She is a titan of the transgender civil rights movement. I was lucky enough to get a summer clerkship with TGIJP's legal director last year, which means that I was lucky enough to work at a desk less than ten feet away from Miss Major's desk every day. Not only was she at the Stonewall riot in 1969, she was also at Attica in 1971. She is a walking textbook on civil rights history and prison justice. (She's also warm, kind, funny, and a terrific lunch companion.)

Did I mention I was really, really lucky?
posted by bakerina at 2:42 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love Ian McKellen as much as anyone, but Stonewall has some serious problems as an organisation. Quite aside from Ben Summerskill's recent embarrassing gay marriage gaffe in which several Tory politicians ended up arguing that gay marriage was more feasible than he thought it would be, they've never fully included trans people in their organisation at all. That sounds crazy until you realise that they're an integrationist organisation, in the Andrew Sullivan mould, all about being the Good Kind of Gays (just like you!) rather than the Bad Kind of Queers (why do they have to be so weird and different and alarming anyway?). Ironically, given Ian McKellen's involvement, they're absolutely the X-Men to OutRage's Evil Mutants. That ends up leaving a lot of trans people, poor people, and a surprising proportion of lesbians, among others, totally out in the cold.
posted by Acheman at 2:48 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Call me utterly, and truly naive, but I sort of thought Thatcherism in the UK, while economically conservative, was at least to some degree, more in tune with European mores. Maybe more socially conservative compared to les Grenouilles across la manche. but not, well, not, Maggie Gallagher with a British accent.

Shit, what was the point of the emphasis on this then? According to Wikipedia, this has been repealed in the UK at least. Kudos to Sir Ian.
posted by xetere at 3:26 PM on April 12, 2011


Just to spell out how loopy Ben Summerskill's anti-gay-marriage argument was, it went like this: If you let gay people marry, you will have to let straight people get civil partnerships. There are currently a number of straight couples who don't get married because they dislike the eg. patriarchal associations of the institution of marriage, but who would get civil partnerships if they are available. Those people's political beliefs currently make them unable to claim married people's pension rights; if they were able to get civil partnered, they would be able to claim various state benefits, thereby costing the government money.

Now, I'm not even sure that marriage equality should be one of the number one priorities of an LGBT campaigning organisation. I think it's important, but I also understand where people are coming from when they say that it's a problematic institution we should be looking to remake rather than buy into. But this has to be about the worst argument against gay marriage I have ever heard; I've seen more logical trains of thought coming out of the Westboro Baptist Church. Moreover, the figures for how much this would cost the government appear, according to most reports, to have been made up by Ben Summerskill on the spot. It was a really bizarre episode.
posted by Acheman at 3:37 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to the Wikipedia summary of Stonewall controversies, they have since changed their stance on gay marriage due to criticism from LGBT activists including Michael Cashman, Christine Burns and Sir Ian McKellen.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:50 PM on April 12, 2011


ArmyOfKittens, thanks for the link. Really wish the interviewer weren't so incredibly patronising to both Miss Major and the viewer...
posted by Dysk at 5:45 PM on April 12, 2011


Hm. Interesting. I always assumed that the Stonewall riots were only symbolic to American audiences. Guess I was wrong?

Thats what i thought too...but thinking about it, it sounds kinda british.

'i live in london now, but my family is from up north near stonewall'
posted by hal_c_on at 6:29 PM on April 12, 2011


Hm. Interesting. I always assumed that the Stonewall riots were only symbolic to American audiences. Guess I was wrong?

My understanding is that the Stonewall riots have symbolic but not historical meaning in England.
posted by Jehan at 7:01 PM on April 12, 2011


Call me utterly, and truly naive, but I sort of thought Thatcherism in the UK, while economically conservative, was at least to some degree, more in tune with European mores

Thatcherism was in many ways defined by opposition to European mores - in particular, to the accommodations France and Germany had made with their unions and public sector, and the expectation that Britain would stop trying to behave like a major power and instead accept a "managed decline" into a united, broadly social/christian democratic Europe.

As a result, very much like the modern Tea Party, ideological causes were espoused for avowedly economic reasons. In fact, Thatcherism as an ideology if not as a process of government makes a lot of sense imagined as a kind of British Tea Party avant la lettre - harnessing the interests of the wealthy to the resentments of a lower middle class seeing those traditionally underneath them - immigrants, unionised labour, the unemployed and indeed homosexuals - threatening their position, their prosperity and their propriety. So, the Thatcherite project to abolish homosexuality as a concept in education was informed at one end by the argument that Loony Left educators would otherwise blow their entire budget on printing pamphlets to teach kiddies about the virtues of gay sex, and at the other by the belief that the bedrock of society was a nuclear family living in an owner-occupied house, but it also played well as good old-fashioned homophobia.

(The owner-occupation thing also informed the sell-off of social housing at discount rates, of course, which led to the concentration of the poor in the unsellable property - what came to be called "sink estates". This also made life difficult for a lot of LGBT people in marginal professions or with marginal incomes. But that's another story.)

If you were the wealthy, and were prepared to play the game, your personal conduct was less important, because it was not a drain upon the state - so, the 2nd Earl of Avon could serve in the Thatcher cabinet because he was a) closeted and b) the 2nd Earl of Avon.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:44 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel I need to make it perfectly clear alongside xetere's comment: Section 28 has been repealed. Fortunately. The real shame is that it was ever enacted, based on that stupid idea that homosexuality is something you can be recruited into. Or that homosexual relationships are dangerous to straight relationships.

Actually what really floors me right now is a Conservative government (it's supposed to be a coalition, but it's obvious the Conservatives are setting most of the policy except the few concessions such as the voting system referendum) which is openly talking about marriage equality - gay marriage, and straight civil partnerships, and civil partnerships conducted in religious settings (currently they have to be entirely secular).

Things have changed a lot, but there's still a long way to go, and yes a lot of homophobic bullying in schools. 'Gay' was used as a perjorative term aimed at me for years, and I hadn't even figured out I was gay then. Whenever somebody says "$thing is so gay" it actually hurts inside a bit. How would they like a common term for their sexuality to be routinely used as an adjective describing something that's not very good?

I hope some of the kids Sir Ian McKellan and the others have been talking to realise this.
posted by mathw at 3:58 AM on April 13, 2011


>grunch<
But I don't know Ian McKellen...

Besides, is it a shock than some actor turns out to be gay? Really?
posted by Yakuman at 4:34 AM on April 13, 2011


But I don't know Ian McKellen...

That's odd - he speaks very highly of you.

Oh, and speaking of things the Conservative party dislikes:
It's time for the all-school assembly, the grand finale of Gandalf's visit. "I'm not useless," McKellen asserts in my old school hall, "but when you use that word as an insulting adjective, that's what you're saying about me. So please, watch your language. Because if you don't, you mightn't watch your actions…" He goes on to tell how Ian Baynham was recently killed in a homophobic hate attack by teenagers. "The girl who stamped on his head might have used 'gay' to mean anything rubbish and useless. And that probably convinced her that gay people were rubbish and useless – and don't deserve to live."
The BBC, I suspect in holy terror of what the Daily Mail might say about it, declined to censure one of its star DJs for calling a ringtone gay. Considering the utter panic, suspensions, resignations and soul-searching that took place when another pair of BBC stars upset Manuel from Fawlty Towers, this leads one to conclude that Manuel > Magneto > Mexico.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:46 AM on April 13, 2011


"The BBC, I suspect in holy terror of what the Daily Mail might say about it, declined to censure one of its star DJs for calling a ringtone gay."

Chris Moyles is a crass oafish buffoon, an utter fucking moron. I doubt this had anything to do with the daily fail: the beeb hates the fail.

re: stonewall and the UK - many years ago (about 12 -15) the BBC had a Gay night, which had a history of homosexuality (where one learnt that many years ago, it was illegal for a man to carry vaseline, but not for a prostitute, so some gay men ended up hanging round with prostitutes) and they also showed the stonewall movie, so i think maybe a lot of people learnt about this from there.

Interestingly, there are a lot of famous gay people in the UK, who are on TV and featured in magazines. Dale Winton, Paul O'Grady, any antiques bloke on any antiques show...
posted by marienbad at 8:55 AM on April 13, 2011


Yakuman: But I don't know Ian McKellen...

Besides, is it a shock than some actor turns out to be gay? Really?


marienbad: Interestingly, there are a lot of famous gay people in the UK, who are on TV and featured in magazines.

Yet rarely do they visit your school and remind you "I'm gay," and then have a number of other people say that they are also gay, including teachers and classmates. I think it's the sort of thing that isn't mentioned in many classes, because it might be an awkward topic, or because it doesn't apply to the subject at hand.

And calling out kids on saying "that's so gay" can also be hard, because it is such a common phrase, and has been for decades now (I remember the phrase from Jr. High and High School, through the 1990s). It's not just the culture of bullies, but it's so damned common, that many kids just think "it's a phrase" and don't give it a second thought. But to be called on it by a famous person, who is in the room with you, hopefully it's different enough that kids think about casual phrases.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:40 AM on April 13, 2011


Chris Moyles is a crass oafish buffoon, an utter fucking moron. I doubt this had anything to do with the daily fail: the beeb hates the fail.

Well, of course - the BBC represents, in the Mail's view, compulsory taxation to pay liberal media darlings, drug addicts and homosexuals inflated wages. Why wouldn't the Beeb dislike it? However, the Mail also has power - it was the Mail's aggressive campaigning that turned two complaints about Ross and Brand into thousands.

Combine this with a Conservative (effectively) government that opposes the very idea of the BBC, on a deep and visceral level. Like the NHS, it's a last bulwark of state monopoly, and it works - it produces services the private sector does not make available that people want and enjoy. Most people recognise the license fee, and this is profoundly irritating to any evangelist of the free market. It also tends to hire the artsy types who were getting all the attention at Eton and Oxbridge, and pay them more than MPs. Slagging off the BBC as anticompetitive is, as an added bonus, a great way to break the ice at Murdoch dinner parties.

As it became increasingly clear that the Conservatives were going to get back into power, and it seemed for a long time by a landslide, the BBC became increasingly nervous about looking like a tall poppy. You might think that the BBC trust needs no encouragement to throw LGBT people under the bus in favour of one of its star performers, but that was part of the context.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:53 AM on April 13, 2011


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