Focus: Yes, But.: Homophobia ; as Soon as Police Chief Brian Paddick Stepped out of Line, His Homosexuality Became an Issue. Just How Tolerant Are We of Others' Sexual Persuasion, Especially When They Are Men in Prominent Roles? Are Supposedly Liberal, Open-Minded Attitudes Merely a Veneer?

By Field, Marcus | The Independent (London, England), March 24, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Focus: Yes, But.: Homophobia ; as Soon as Police Chief Brian Paddick Stepped out of Line, His Homosexuality Became an Issue. Just How Tolerant Are We of Others' Sexual Persuasion, Especially When They Are Men in Prominent Roles? Are Supposedly Liberal, Open-Minded Attitudes Merely a Veneer?


Field, Marcus, The Independent (London, England)


... what about a gay policeman?

XThere are no bars to gay people serving in the police force, and openly gay constables patrol events such as Gay Pride. But when homosexual members like Brian Paddick rise through the ranks to positions of power, being openly gay becomes more sensitive.

Accusations by his ex-boyfriend that Mr Paddick had smoked cannabis and had sex in public places led Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips to describe him as "an icon for our morally inverted, decadent times". Sun columnist Richard Littlejohn wrote: "He's not my kind of cop, nor I suspect is he your kind of cop either."

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell abhors the inherent homophobia. "The campaign against Paddick is primarily motivated by those who want to stop liberalising trends within the force," he says.

You might agree with him. But how would you react if you found that the most senior police officer in your area was also homosexual? Would you:

a Welcome his anti-crime measures

b `Accidentally' avoid him at the next Neighbourhood Watch meeting

c Demand a straight police chief instead

... what about a gay soldier?

XAfter a ban of many years, gays are now in theory able to join the British military. In January 2000 the Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced a new Code of Social Conduct for the armed forces which welcomes all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation. Even the most senior posts in the military are now open to gay men or women.

But if you were told that Britain's forces in Afghanistan were being led by a homosexual would you:

a Salute his leadership and bravery

b Feel uneasy that a man who had to face enemy forces might also fancy half of them

c Call for him to be court-martialled

... what about a gay royal?

X"Could [Prince] William have a gay partner as a royal consort?" asked Johann Hari in the New Statesman recently. "You can imagine the Sun headline: `Two Queens at the Palace'."

There is no evidence to suggest that this is true. If it were, however, the are no precedents of previous monarchs leading happy homosexual lives. Edward II, who cavorted publicly with Piers Gaveston in the 14th century, was murdered by having a red hot poker up his backside.

If the King of England paraded his partner at official functions, would you:

a Wave the flag for the happy couple

b Sigh over the old days of Liz and Phil

c Call for his immediate abdication

... what about a gay businessman?

XThere might be hundreds of pink ties in the City, but there are still very few out gay men.

"There are a lot of gay people in senior positions who still feel unable to be open about their sexuality," says Peter Tatchell. The most senior out businessman remains Sir Michael Bishop, the chairman of the airline British Midland.

So how would you feel if your fund manager or a future chairman of the Bank of England came out? Would you:

a Rejoice that your finances were in the hands of somebody so honest

b Moan about the country going to the dogs but leave your money in place

c Change your funds into euros and take them abroad

...what about a gay sportsman?

XThis is a notoriously homophobic field. And one game is more guilty of the offence than any other. "If you are sporty and gay, it's anyone for tennis. Or ice skating. Even rugby. But forget football," wrote Liz Kershaw in The Independent last year. She reported sports minister Tony Banks claiming "there are a number of Premiership footballers who are gay" but who were too afraid of the homophobic football crowds to come out.

The only real example is the late Justin Fashanu, the first black player in Britain to be sold for pounds 1m in 1980. After he came out in 1990, he claimed that he had been suspended from the Nottingham Forest ground by its coach Brian Clough after he found out about his sexuality.

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Focus: Yes, But.: Homophobia ; as Soon as Police Chief Brian Paddick Stepped out of Line, His Homosexuality Became an Issue. Just How Tolerant Are We of Others' Sexual Persuasion, Especially When They Are Men in Prominent Roles? Are Supposedly Liberal, Open-Minded Attitudes Merely a Veneer?
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