Volume 91, Issue 58

Tuesday, January 13, 1998

fun dipped


Unhappy about anti-gay letters

Re: Anti-homosexual letters

To the Editor:
Barbara Smith, a prominent Black feminist writer and activist once posed the question, "Homophobia, why bring it up?" The response to her own question was twofold. On the one hand, she indicated that at least 10 per cent of those around you are lesbian or gay males – friends, family members, colleagues and co-workers, for example. On the other hand, and more pointedly, Smith described the "intertwining 'isms'" – that is, the interconnections between different oppressions and the way in which different oppressions reinforce one another.

I have to wonder then, that while The Gazette, a reflection of the supposedly progressive atmosphere of university life, is prepared to reject letters to the Editor that are "judged" to be either "libellous, sexist or racist," why it continues to print letters to the Editor which would be judged by just about any bisexual or homosexual person to be "homophobic." Perhaps it's time for The Gazette to assume some responsibility for this also fundamental axis of oppression. Pairing "gay content" in the newspaper with homophobic letters is not enough – just as printing "multicultural" coverage, for instance, does not make racist letters fit to print.

Moreover, in response to the supposedly radical position that my apparently "politically correct" stance will stifle reasonable debate, I would like to illuminate the fact that – surprise! – this persuasive attack on political correctness is especially persistent in right-wing discourse. Political correctness is not necessarily a bad thing. Rather, it effectively allows for a temporary suspension of power imbalances in order to correct for the oppression of human beings. In this case, the human beings in question happen to be consenting adults who live and work as your friendly neighbours and kin.

I must concur with Barbara Smith's observation that all too many "progressive people who oppose oppression on every other level, balk at acknowledging the societally sanctioned abuse of lesbians and gay men as a serious problem." Personally, I applaud The Gazette for opposing racism and sexism. I also thank The Gazette for recently (and finally) including gay/lesbian/bisexual content. But when a debate over the relative "explicitness" of a few posters turns into a printed tidal wave of hurtful and damning attacks on a larger group of people simply because they happen to be non-heterosexual, I begin to question the printers. I begin to wonder just how progressive they really are, just how responsible they purport to be and just whose interests they really represent. I wonder if their "read all about it" attitude has blinded them to blatant manifestations of larger oppressive systems.

I propose that The Gazette develop some new criteria for judging the appropriateness of the letters to the Editor before it prints them. I propose that my university's student newspaper takes responsibility for the potential emotional hurt and physical violence born from the same ideologies that are reinforced by blatant expressions of homophobia. More generally, it's about time that The Gazette no longer plays the role of a finger puppet on the hand of all oppressions – that it recognizes the intimate and reinforcing relationships between all types of oppression: racism, sexism and homophobia alike.

Rick Telfer
Sociology IV

To Contact The Opinions Department: gazoped@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998