Bring on Those White, Ageing Males ; Guess What? You Don't Have to Be Gay, Female or Potty-Mouthed to Have Something Worthy to Say

By Pelling, Rowan | The Independent on Sunday (London, England), May 27, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Bring on Those White, Ageing Males ; Guess What? You Don't Have to Be Gay, Female or Potty-Mouthed to Have Something Worthy to Say


Pelling, Rowan, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)


The BBC's Look East started their bulletin on the ceremonial robing of the new mayor of Cambridge with the subtlety and sophistication for which regional news is famed: "Jenny Bailey [footage of attractive, raven-haired woman walking out of the Guildhall] started life as a man ..." It was like the beginning of a late-night sex-umentary on Channel 4. The news report also showed footage of Bailey with her proud partner and mayoress, Jennifer Liddle, who also happens to be transgender. A roving reporter then solicited opinions on the new mayor from passers-by. They all said that they didn't give a stuff about their new mayor's gender or orientation, past or present. The city's bigwigs have stampeded to say the same. I often think of Cambridge as North North Islington. It's a fantastically liberal city, a place where you can sense the angst that there's not more ethnic diversity, so that everyone could show their impeccably tolerant credentials. The liberal left consensus so pervades the very ether, I'm not sure Melanie Phillips could draw breath here without falling to the ground, as one poisoned.

The downside of living amid so many caring, sharing, bleeding- heart, politically-correct liberals is that the right-on do often harbour one distinct prejudice. They can't quite be doing with ageing, white, middle-class males. Take my Cambridge neighbour John Hipkin, who has served the city for many years as a dedicated and conscientious local politician, and is known internationally as a peace campaigner. He was a splendid mayor and recently an outstanding chair of the Planning Committee. My husband said it was like going to a masterclass in how to conduct meetings with dignity, fine rhetoric, and intelligence. So we were astonished, as were many in Hipkin's ward, when we learnt that he had been accused of "heterosexism". Firstly, I was appalled that anyone in Cambridge could use the sort of ghastly, nonsensical term that was clearly cooked up on a US campus to harass some leering professor into retirement. Secondly, the accusation just didn't make any sense. "Heterosexism," according to Google (it's not a word for the OED), "is the discrimination towards or against non-heterosexual behaviour due to a cultural or socio-biological bias. Heterosexism suggests that the basis for this bias is not found in the individual per se but rather has a broader cultural or biological basis that results in weighted attitudes towards heterosexuality over other sexual orientations." In other words, you're a blinkered old homophobe, but you can't really help it.

What had John Hipkin done to deserve such a bizarre accusation? He had voiced concern about a dearth of family housing in Cambridge during a planning meeting: "We keep getting developments of one- and two-bedroom houses.

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