Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gay men of integrity and spineless homosexuals

You might find this a very odd comparison, but it's kind of apt I think.

On the one hand there are Malawians Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 33. They, were arrested in December 2009 after they threw themselves an engagement party at the Blantyre lodge where Mr. Chimbalanga worked as a cook and a housekeeper. They were eventually found guilty of some 'unnatural' (a contradiction in terms) or other by a Malawian court and sentenced to 14 years jail by a Christian judge keen on 'deterring' others from engaging in homosexual conduct in that country. Well, Malawi, being just another more or less failed African state depending on Western hand-outs, was told literally by the world (from the Canadian foreign minister to the newly elected UK Prime Minister to very many other people) to get a grip. The current UK's international development minister (ie the guy in charge of the Malawian international aid) is an openly gay man. The UN general secretary told Malawi's president that this verdict violated international human rights. Duly, and no doubt to the great disappointment of US evangelicals that usually have a hand in these sorts of homophobic actions, the Malawian president pardoned the gay men and they'd be free by now. There are a lot of aspects to this that are worth commenting on. However, I mean to compare the integrity with which these gay men have conducted themselves with the deeply embarrassing conduct of other gay men. Think of David Laws, the former UK Treasury Chief. He was caught with his hands in the till, well, sort of. Laws resigned after it became public knowledge today that as an MP he had himself reimbursed from the public purse for 'renting' a room in his same-sex partners properties. 'The Daily Telegraph disclosed that he claimed as much as £950 a month in parliamentary expenses for eight years to rent rooms in two London properties.The houses were owned by his partner, James Lundie, a political lobbyist. In 2006, MPs were banned from “leasing accommodation from a partner”. ' Laws says that he kept his sexual orientation a secret from both his family and the public, and hence did not disclose that his partner was his partner. Laws was probably not motivated by greed, being an independently wealthy former investment banker.

So, here's this rich guy then who doesn't have to worry about losing his job, who doesn't have to worry about jail sentences, who lives in a society where the civil rights of gay people are very well protected, and yet he engages in embarrassing shenanigans to hide what doesn't need to be hidden. He serves in a conservative-liberal government with other openly gay ministers, yet he remains in the closet. Worse, he's a member of the Liberal Democrats, so by any stretch of imagination he had no reason to worry about negative political repercussions if his sexual orientation ever became public knowledge. Compare Laws' lack of personal integrity with how the two Malawian gay men have conducted themselves under much much more difficult circumstances.

Strange times.

I have to be honest, I have no sympathy for gay people who choose to hide their sexual orientation (by means of living a life designed to deceive everyone around them, from their families to their business partners, friends etc etc) when there is no good reason to do so. All other things being equal, anyone who, like Laws, is independently wealthy, has little reason to reside in a closet. If you live in places where your life might be threatened or other serious repercussions are to be feared, you might have a reason to keep your sexual orientation a secret, but otherwise, you do not deserve any sympathy when you are found out (Laws being a case in point). This deceitful behavior is offensive to other gay people who are open about who they are.

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