The Queen’s signing of Commonwealth anti-discrimination charter ‘is not a fight for gay rights, it’s a vague whisper’. Photograph: Pool/Reuters
Queen fights for gay rights, declared the Mail on Sunday
‘s front page yesterday – a headline so jarring and implausible as to provoke a number of grave questions for middle England. Chiefly: whatever next? Queen stands as Labour councillor? Queen does the Harlem Shake?
My heart quickened somewhat, enlivened by the prospect of a glorious future for human rights. We extremists, who believe gay people should not be tortured or persecuted, shall be granted a new comrade: the supreme governor of the Church of England, the head of the Commonwealth, the Queen of more than a dozen countries. And then I read the detail.
Her “historic pledge to promote gay rights” as the paper put it (or “historic step forward” as Stonewall’s Ben Summerskill had it), will comprise her signing a new Commonwealth charter, which states:
“We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.”
Fighting for gay rights? The Queen won’t even mention them. She dare not speak our name – that is, if you believe she is even referring to gay people; if you buy the newspaper’s inference that “other grounds” denotes an “implicit support of gay rights”.
Let us assume it does mean that, and that Stonewall’s assumption is correct. How does keeping ma’am about a minority help? Jesus never mentioned homosexuality – has that dissuaded many of his followers that “love thy neighbour” does not in fact mean: “as long as his partner’s not called Steve”?
No, to refrain from specification is to collude with silence, the Grand Pause that keeps lesbians and gay men invisible, suffocating in marriages of inconvenience or trapped in police cells. The hush of polite conversation is the rusty mattock of a millennium’s oppression. By contrast, in the west, the one tool that started prising open the chamber of horrors in which LGBT people lived, was the simple self-expression of coming out, of specifying, of stating our innate being aloud.
And according to a Palace spokesman, the charter’s words are not even the monarch’s: “In this charter, the Queen is endorsing a decision taken by the Commonwealth… The Queen does not take a personal view on these issues. The Queen’s position is apolitical.”