Two contexts in which social inclusiveness is applauded but LGBT people aren’t mentioned — sending a signal of exclusion; silence can be a powerful message. First, the public pronouncements of Queen Elizabeth II. And then the spectacle of the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
On the Queen, Peter Tatchell in the Guardian back in June: “The Queen has turned her back on the gay community: She may not be a raging homophobe, but the Queen’s silence on LGBT issues shows she’s not gay-friendly either”:
Ever since the public relations blunders at the time of Princess Diana’s death, the Queen has gone to great lengths to be more in touch with the mood of country. She presents the monarchy as modern, compassionate and inclusive; often referring to the value of a diverse multicultural, multifaith society.
On one issue, however, she remains curiously out of step with public opinion. Whereas most of us now welcome and embrace lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, the Queen has never done so.
While I doubt that Elizabeth II is a raging homophobe, she certainly doesn’t appear to gay-friendly. Not once in her 60-year reign has she publicly acknowledged the existence of the LGBT community – or gay members of her own royal family. The Queen has turned her back on queens.
While she has spoken approvingly of the UK’s many races and faiths, for six decades she has ignored LGBT Britons. Judging from her silence, it seems that we are the unspeakable ones – the people she cannot bare to acknowledge or mention in public. Why the double standards?
Regardless of whether these omissions are a reflection of the Queen’s personal views or the result of advice from her courtiers, as monarch she bears ultimate responsibility. Her silence sends a signal of exclusion and disrespect.
Astonishingly, since she became Queen in 1952, the words “gay” and “lesbian” have never publicly passed her lips. There is no record of her ever speaking them. Even when she announced government plans for gay law reform in her Queen’s speeches, she did not use the words lesbian or gay. Apparently, mentioning LGBT people is beneath the dignity of the monarch.
There are things we don’t mention in public.
For comic relief, with a political point, here’s my friend Chris Ambidge, appearing as the Queen (complete with the queen wave) at Toronto Pride this year:
On to the RNC. Here’s Frank Bruni in the New York Times on Sunday: “Excluded From Inclusion”:
What the Republicans painstakingly constructed here was meant to look like the biggest of tents. And still they couldn’t spare so much as a sleeping bag’s worth of space for the likes of me.
Women were welcomed…
Latinos were plentiful and flexed their Spanish…
And while one preconvention poll suggested that roughly zero percent of African-Americans support Romney, Republicans found several prominent black leaders to testify for him…
But you certainly didn’t see anyone openly gay on the stage in Tampa. More to the point, you didn’t hear mention of gays and lesbians. Scratch that: Mike Huckabee, who has completed a ratings-minded transformation from genial pol to dyspeptic pundit, made a derisive reference to President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. We were thus allowed a fleeting moment inside the tent, only to be flogged and sent back out into the cold…
It was striking because the Republicans went so emphatically far, in terms of stagecraft and storytelling, to profess inclusiveness, and because we gays have been in the news rather a lot over the last year or so, as the march toward marriage equality picked up considerable velocity. We’re a part of the conversation. And our exile from it in Tampa contradicted the high-minded “we’re one America” sentiments that pretty much every speaker spouted…
Several gay Republicans with whom I spoke in Tampa said that the near-complete absence of any talk onstage about gays and lesbians was in fact a hopeful sign that the party’s extremists on gay issues had lost the war to moderates. At least gays and lesbians weren’t being cast in a negative light, as a way of riling the worst of the base.
“Our messaging within the party has been: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” said R. Clarke Cooper, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay advocacy group.
But that’s not progress enough…
I’d guess that the strategy of the convention organizers was to suppress public evidences of contempt for LGBT people, so as not to alienate the larger audience for the event. It’s touching, though, that the Log Cabin Republicans manage to see progress in almost any development.
I’d like to point out that LGBT people got more attention than Bruni suggests — in the Republican platform plank calling for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, supporting state constitutional amendments for this purpose, and supporting the Defense of Marriage Act. (And in its deliberations, the platform committee rejected amendments to the plank that would have supported civil unions.) The committee’s deliberations were not, however, carried out on the floor of the convention, nor were the details of the platform presented in any detail there, so that all of this activity was, technically, not in public.
Notes on the writers, from Wikipedia:
Peter Gary Tatchell (born 25 January 1952) is an Australian-born British political campaigner best known for his work with LGBT social movements. (link)
Frank Anthony Bruni (born October 31, 1964) is an American journalist. He was the chief restaurant critic of The New York Times, a position he held from 2004 to 2009. In May 2011, he became the first openly gay Op-Ed columnist of The New York Times. (link)
(Hat tip to Michael Nieuwenhuizen on Facebook for the link to Tatchell’s piece.)