Ivan Massow: How many lives will be wrecked by homophobic witch hunts?

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Entrepreneur Ivan Massow writes for PinkNews on society’s treatment of gay men – from rugby star Keegan Hirst coming out, to gay politicians subjected to homophobic ‘witch hunts’.

As Edward Heath is slowly cleared by respective police forces of paedophilia and the smoke proved, once again, to have no fire, I’m left remembering how brutal attitudes are towards gay people are just below the surface and why so many people prefer to hide.

Last week’s we saw rugby league player Keegan Hirst come out. Brave? Not in my book.

This 6ft 3 19 stone man mountain quivered in the face of public scrutiny behind the drawstrings of an innocent woman considered collateral damage in a man’s war with his idea of failure and battle for masculinity and its associated rewards. But can you really blame him? He is, after all, just a prop. Not a politician.

Those of us who’ve grown up gay have always been aware that straight people think we’re paedophiles too.

Don’t forget it was in all practical senses impossible to be a teacher if you were gay until recently, and adoption was pretty much out of the question.

There was an overwhelming belief that gay folk shouldn’t be with kids, even though nothing in the culture of homosexuality suggests anything other than a fondness of developed guys for the boys, and I wouldn’t even like to comment on our girls’ tastes.

I’ve come into contact with many people who were abused as children. In fact, I was. And without exception it’s been an arduously suburban pursuit played out in Edwardian bungalows and semi-detached splendour that the French, at least, know to be England.

Uncles, vicars and friend’s dads touching kiddies – possibly the same uncles and dads who point the finger at celebrity homosexuals, no doubt to deflect attention. They remind me of the now stereotypical closet gay who becomes the homophobic school bully so that no one notices the true objects of their desires.

My close friend Paul Gambaccini – never a drinker and who’s never touched a drug in his life, came under the same scrutiny.

As public, ludicrous and as unkind, as the ducking stool – he was ‘hung out’ by the police to see who bites while this man suffered a humiliation and form of abuse that no one would wish on an innocent. He was just famous at a time when being ‘possibly gay’ was linked directly with ‘pervert’ and ‘paedo’.

As for poor Tory politician Harvey Proctor, whose love of men in in 1986 lead to a lifetime on the outside and even today includes accusations of paedophilia and murder! He was in his 30s and the lads, only a few years younger, would have been well past the age of consent had it happened now.

That poor broken man dragged through the tabloids forced to swap a glittering political career in the service of others for that as a village tailor. Will he ever get an apology?

Gay people are broken. But it’s not because of our sexuality, it’s because we are forced to hide and second-guess what someone ‘normal’ would do in any given a situation.

When my own drinking became an issue and I decide to attend AA meetings, I heard ‘normal’ men share about their fears, insecurities and love lives for the first time.

The thing that struck me was how ‘normal’ I was – how nothing but who I sleep with makes me gay. Beyond that, I’m no more, or no less a man than any other. We shared the same worries about work and relationships.

We cried at the same films and obsessed over the same diets. But growing up feeling, to use a hideous psychiatrists term, ‘less-than’ made me think I wasn’t as good as someone straight. That being gay was like some vile infection that had spread to all parts of me. And I don’t think I’m alone.

To generalise in a way that, no doubt will get me into lots of trouble, our women folk often seem to isolate with each other sharing a mutual distrust of the male world while us gays are dropping like flies as we OD on drug-fuelled hedonism.

I believe this is all a symptom of being messed up as kids. We tend to leave the paces we grew up and move to accepting communities, cities and careers – most of us taking years to sort out the damage that was inflicted on us by this still rabidly homophobic society.

It goes without saying that this needs to be stopped at schools. Kids must be taught respect for gay people as they are for different races and religions.

Gay sex and relationships talked about openly and included on the SRE curriculum and abuse like allowing ‘so gay’ to be linked by kids with lame – made as wrong as saying ‘so Muslim’ or ‘so black’. We just wouldn’t tolerate it and we should for ourselves.

Ivan Massow is an entrepreneur, Conservative activist and gay rights campaigner.

As with all comment, this does not necessarily reflect the views of PinkNews.