25 February 2014

♫...What else should I be? All apologies. What else should I say? Everyone is gay...♫

Both the mainstream media and the gay press have been writing vast amounts of articles over the last couple of days about Uganda's new homophobic law, punishing gays with up to life imprisonment for having the audacity to love. Rightly so; it's an outrageous law that needs to be condemned internationally.

But there's been one remarkable fact omitted from all the write ups I've read in the pink press, and that's the disablism written into the law.

First-time offenders will be sentenced to 14 years. But people found guilty of "aggravated homosexuality" which means 'repeated gay sex between consenting adults and acts involving a minor, a disabled person or where one partner was infected with HIV' will be sentenced to life. The mainstream media will write about it - that link takes you to The Guardian - but not the gay press.

(Note I said "all the write ups I have read". If you've seen an article in the gay press that I've missed, please post a link in the comments.)

As David pointed out in a post on my Facebook wall with regards to the law itself:

the Ugandan law considers gay sex with a disabled person to be equivalent to sex with a child, so it's simultaneously equating being gay with being a paedophile, and being disabled with being a child. Absolutely massive bigotry fail for the Ugandans.

I'm sure the press don't think it's worth reporting the extra sentencing for shagging a disabled person because disabled people are seen as so disgusting that the authors of the articles themselves would never dream of doing one of us. You have to remember that 70% of people would never have sex with a disabled person, and I've never seen any evidence to suggest that gay people are less disablist. I'm sure that journalists writing for gay publications can imagine themselves going on assignment to Uganda and winding up spending 14 years in jail, but they just can't envisage hooking up with a hot crip; because they refuse to see disabled people as sexual beings.

So I'm an aggravated homosexual alright.

The weirdest thing is that it's not the gay disabled person that's going to get the increased sentence; it's their partner. The press usually suddenly give a crap about disability issues when they start to affect non-disabled people. Like how the papers didn't give a damn about disability hate crime until the death of Fiona Pilkington. But once a non-disabled person had taken her own life because of the disablist harassment her family faced; the press were all over it. Most people still call it "the Pilkington case", despite the fact that she murdered her disabled daughter Francecca Hardwick who'd been on the receiving end of the hate crime.

This isn't the first time the gay press have ignored issues where gayness and disabledness intersect. When disabled gay teenager Steven Simpson was first killed, the gay press wouldn't touch the story. That particular news story for Huff Post's Gay Voices was written when his killer was sentenced nearly a year later (and several other gay outlets did deign to report it at that point too).

The one place that reported the story at the time of Simpson's death was The Daily Mail. Remarkable considering they usually hate both gay people and disabled people in equal measure.

At the time I did Email a gay website drawing their attention to Simpson's death and the reply I got was:

I wasn't quite sure we could draw the connection clearly enough to warrant a story

Because an openly gay kid getting set on fire suddenly can't be connected to anything gay if he also has an impairment. Disability is like the ultimate gay remover. (But no-one tell Museveni that or he'll go around snapping the spines of suspected homos to sanitise the gay away.)

This same website that doesn't think that there's a gay enough connection when a gay kid gets killed is the same website that once devoted an entire article to the fact that the toilet above Ben Bradshaw's Parliamentary office was leaking.

It wasn't gay urine leaking from a gay toilet dripping through a gay ceiling. It wasn't a gay interest news story. Gay kids getting immolated? That's a gay interest news story.

Unsurprisingly I had a bit of a Twitter rant about this yesterday morning. And I got a reply from a gay website. At the risk of sounding like Upworthy: You'll never believe what they said.

You'd think that anyone with a modicum of nous would either ignore my rant or say "you know what: We could do better." Instead the reply was a link to an article. The article was a write-up of a wheelchair user's experience of bad access at a Pride festival.

One article. One. And they expect a fucking commendation cookie for being inclusive?

As a disabled lesbian, the gay press's determined ignorance of topics where gayness meets disability is a personal matter. But I'm not some unique special snowflake. Around 18% of the population have some kind of impairment and that's going to be higher among the gay community due to the increased incidence of mental health problems and rates of HIV. By sticking their heads in the sand where the two issues intersect the gay press are snubbing probably at least a fifth of their audience. The gay press is mostly an online business, and that means they need pageviews to make money from advertisers. By failing to cater to such a sizeable chunk of their prospective readership they're pissing away ad revenue. You'd think the economic benefits of including the whole gay community in their content would be enough to convince them to stop ignoring us.


  1. This makes me so angry. I don't like the expression "conspiracy of silence", but I can't think of one more apt for the treatment of bigotry towards disabled people that almost all media displays almost all of the time. It is so very painful when it's media that is aimed at other traditionally-marginalised groups, however, that I find it hard to know what to say. If people are fed up of social justice buzzwords like "intersectionality" then they should stop assuming they're off the hook just because they manage to treat one or two marginalised groups (usually the ones they themselves are members of) with the bare minimum of respect.

    Brain fog at almost full density today, so I can't tell how relevant this is, so if it's just an emotion-dump, sorry. Great article, anyway.


    Disgusted of Edinburgh

  2. I wish I had known about the Ugandan law affecting those who have sex with a disabled person even more as I recently went to an LGBT&Intersectionality event where that would have been very relevant.

    I was thinking about the sectors in which discrimination is worst on different strands and how if an LGB person is refused service on the grounds of their sexuality there is an outcry yet disabled people are refused (accessible) service all the bloody time and no one cares. >:(

    I am much more oppressed by society for my disability than I am for my sexuality, even being one of those invisible bisexuals...