National Sections of the L5I:

Deadly homophobic violence on the rise in Britain

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

Recent months have seen an increase in the number of homophobic attacks across the country. Alex Kelby and Jim Parker argue for a militant campaign of resistance

Over the summer, a number of gay men were attacked coming out of London bars. In one incident, a 21-year old was left paralysed after being repeatedly stabbed outside a bar in Hackney. Then Ian Baynham, 62-year old civil servant, died as a result of a brutal attack in Trafalgar Square, central London.

Homophobic attacks in London have risen by 20 per cent according to the police, but lesbian and gay rights’ group Stonewall says that most crimes are never reported. A Stonewall study last year found that one in five lesbians and gay men had experienced a homophobic hate incident in the previous three years. It also found, three-quarters of those attacked did not report the attack to the police. In fact, 70 per cent didn't tell anyone. Stonewall explained: “Respondents in our research didn’t report incidents to the police because they didn’t believe the police could or would do anything about them. So the number of people experiencing homophobic crime could well be far higher than crime figures show.

At the vigil held in memory of Ian Baynham, organiser Mark Healy said: “We need to unite against all forms of hate crime, stand together and say out loud that this is no longer acceptable.”

And everyone nods yet the attacks continue. On 25 October, 22-year old James Parkes was attacked by a group of up to 20 people outside a gay bar in Stanley Street, Liverpool city centre, leaving him with multiple skull fractures and fractures to his eye socket and cheek bone.

Homophobia and the capitalist media
Homophobic violence is but an extreme expression of an ideology that is both widespread and constantly promoted in capitalist society. Many people may not have paid attention when BNP leader Nick Griffin said that he finds gays kissing “creepy” on Question Time, but far more are influenced by a mainstream publication of the capitalist media, such as the Daily Mail.

When Boyzone singer Stephen Gately died, Daily Mail journalist Jan Moir jumped on the chance to whip up homophobia. Gately’s death, she said was “strange, lonely and troubling. Whatever the cause of death, it is not by any yardstick, a natural one.”

In case we didn’t get the point, she goes on to claim the “ooze” of a “dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see”, striking a blow to the “happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships”.

The article provoked outrage with more than 25,000 people complaining to media watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission.

It is clear from all of this gay bashing, be it verbal or physical, that despite the legal reforms of the past decade, including an equality act outlawing discrimination on grounds of sexuality, homophobia is alive and thriving in some places.

Lesbian and gay resistance
Lesbian and gay people have fought back against attacks showing that it is possible to win victories through militant struggle. The Stonewall riots of June 1969 broke out after a police raid on a gay bar in New York. The police were carrying out one of their usual raids, but this time they met with resistance. Seven plain clothes detectives and one uniformed cop entered the bar and attempted to remove people from the bar and arrest them. A crowd of 2,000 gathered outside the bar, fed up with routine police raids they started to fight back. Despite police reinforcements, the riots continued into the next night.

Stonewall was a turning point in the gay rights movement. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) people across the US began to organise. New publications were launched and groups created determined to show they’d had enough of being marginalised and oppressed.

LBGT people are still struggling for acceptance and equality today. However, it won’t be won through parliamentary reform. Indeed, LGBT oppression isn't accidental, it is endemic to capitalist society.

Capitalism uses the family as a social unit for the reproduction and socialisation of labour power. Capitalism has developed “moral codes” to reinforce the family as an institution, providing the justification for the oppression of LGBT people. In this sense, although there are non-working class LGBT people, the struggle for LGBT liberation is a class question.

Socialists, of course, defend everyone against homophobia. This includes countering it when it is in the media or wider society and having joint defence committees between LGBT and workers to defend themselves against physical assault.

But working class LGBT people do not have the same material interests as those of the middle or upper class, who can find themselves a comfortable niche within capitalist society.

Working class LGBT people have a material interest in fighting to overthrow the capitalist system that underpins their oppression. This is why we oppose the call for “an autonomous” or cross-class movement, arguing instead for a working class LGBT liberation movement, a part of our overall struggle against oppression and exploitation.
• Forward to socialism and LGBT liberation!