Freelance journalist, Karl Du Fresne, believes that the gay community is too sensitive when it comes to homophobic slurs. An opinion piece published in the Dominion Post has been written in response to John Key’s gay red shirt gaffe and the backlash that followed.
Apparently we are predictible, “If the gay rights lobby is to be believed, Mr Key’s statement was likely to excite prejudice against gay men. But what’s more likely to generate a backlash is the fuss gay activists make every time someone says something that might be construed, however tenuously, as an attack on them.”
“In many people’s eyes, it reinforces the impression – am I allowed to say this? – that they are a bit precious. We live in a robust, liberal democracy. People say things every day that could cause upset if the maligned parties were of a mind to take offence. Most of us manage to ignore it and get on with life.” says Du Fresne.
Kirsty Ren, one of the organisers of Gay Red Shirt Day says, “A big misconception from everyone in the media is that the organisers and participants of Gay Red Shirt Day are gay. Yes, there were gay people and groups that participated, but most people identified as straight. The people who started this (Facebook) page are not “precious members of a minority”, we are mothers of young children who may or may not grow up to identify as LGBT in the future. We started this page to destigmatise the word “gay” and to remind people to watch their language, not just their use of “gay” to mean “stupid” but things like “retarded” and gendered swear words too.”
Du Fresne goes on to make excuses for Key saying that he was merely trying to “sound blokey” and connect with the radio shows audience.
“No-one can seriously accuse him of being anti-gay. How quickly his critics forget that he has ingratiated himself with gay men, too – for example, by speaking at the Big Gay Out rally in Auckland last February and posing for photographs with transvestites.”
Ren says that these comments are deflecting from the main issue, “Many commenters are focusing on the fact that John Key attended events like the Big Gay Out to show that he supports the gay community. So “posing for photographs with transvestites” cancels out his casually homophobic language? We understand that using “gay” to mean stupid, or as John said, “weird”, is something that young people all over the country are doing, but that doesn’t mean it is right. Teachers and the PPTA’s Rainbow Taskforce have been working to change this and get their students to reconsider their use of the word gay as a putdown. The leader of our country shouldn’t blindly copy what his children say. Even the Oxford dictionary labels “gay” in the way that Key used it as being offensive.”
“Gay Red Shirt Day wasn’t created as a chance for gay people to get out in red shirts and protest against John Key, it is a reminder to all people to watch their language. People may not mean to put down people with mental health problems, intellectual and physical disabilities, or people from the LGBT community, but when they use words like “schitzo”, “retard”, “lame”, and “gay” in a negative way, that is what they are doing.” says Ren.
Green MP Kevin Hague has responded to Du Fresne’s comments by saying, “I actually understand where Karl du Fresne is coming from. People who have never been the ones harmed by the sort of hostile environment that the use of the word ‘gay’ in this way can cause generally have no idea of the capacity of language to cause harm, particularly if they have difficulty putting themselves in another’s shoes. Therefore our objecting to it seems to them ‘precious’ and over-sensitive.”
“I have no doubt that the Prime Minister did not mean to cause anyone harm or offence with his comment, and that’s why I have tried to be as light-hearted as I can in responding to it. But I also know with absolute clarity how that use of the word helps create the hostile environment that drives a rate of suicide attempts in our young people five times that of their heterosexual peers. Creating a more supportive social environment is a deadly serious priority, and that’s why I absolutely will not just let it slide.”