Last year, two Birmingham neighbourhoods found themselves at the centre of protests where parents objected to same-sex relationships being acknowledged in their children’s primary schools, as they believed it was contrary to their religious beliefs (see ‘Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson’ – 10 May 2020).
An opportunistic agitator, took advantage of parent’s concerns, spreading misinformation and incorrectly claiming that a gay lifestyle was being promoted at the schools. He hijacked any legitimate parental concerns and aggressively exploited them for his own agenda of distrust and division.
The protests peaked on one Friday last May, when over 300 people descended on one of the schools at the heart of the controversy. International media were on the scene to report, as demonstrators were ferried in on coaches from other cities and religious leaders were invited to deliver vitriolic sermons.
This drama coincided with the arrival of a friend’s flamboyant lodger, who sashayed through the throng with all the attitude of Joan Collins entering a champagne soiree. He had to drag his luggage along several streets, as the Uber driver was too intimidated by the crowds to drop him at the doorstep.
At one point in the speeches, an Imam pointed at the school and libellously spat, “There are paedophiles in there! They have a paedophile agenda!” He went on to mock the LGBT community, “They are saying that men can love men… women can love women, well that’s OK I suppose, but bisexual?! Yoyoing back an’ forth!!!” His parting shot was to resort to the oft used accusation that the gays cannot breed (although we give it a damned good try), so are hellbent on ‘recruiting’ children. I didn’t realise that gay numbers were in decline and we are looking to swell the ranks. An enGAYnered species, no less! I should put an advert in the window, ‘Gays Wanted. Apply Within.’
I know that there are inspirational, inclusive, moderate Imams out there, but the jumped-up little Farage that organised this event didn’t invite any of them.
Ironically, there was one fabulously camp Imam, in a bold gold turban, that the media made a beeline for. I assume the bling turban looked good on telly. Beeline for a headline.
“Ho-mo-sexuality?! It’s disgusting, it really is,” he exclaimed to SKY News and others, in a fey Yorkshire accent that put me in mind of Alan Bennett. “Two men together? It’s just not right! When I think of them ho-mo-sexuals kissing and fondling and touching… with their rippling muscles and their tight clinging t-shirts, it makes me blood boil! Oooooh, I can feel me blood surging even now. I’m positively throbbing with it!!!” (I may have paraphrased).
I came to the street to watch the circus but instead found myself engaged in a forthright discussion with one of the religious leaders (not the one in the big gay hat, unfortunately), whose style of debating was to bark rapid questions, dismiss any answers that challenged or contradicted him and quickly switch to another subject.
An ever-growing circle of his male supporters encircled me as we talked, jeering, sneering and disparaging my comments.
“We are not homophobic people,” I was told, just as two passing men bellowed threats and insults at one of several houses on the street that had dared to fly the Rainbow Flag.
Faced with a barrage of arguments and abuse, I calmly explained that I could only comment from my own personal experience and perspective.
“See,” the Imam announced in a mocking tone, “he can’t even answer my questions!”
“I can’t comment on every aspect of the diverse LGBTQ+ community just because I am a gay man, any more than you can discuss every aspect of multifaith theology, just because you represent the beliefs of one aspect of one religion,” was what I wanted to reply, before he abruptly interrupted me and jumped to a whole new topic.
“It is a fact that there is a high proportion of mental health problems amongst the gay community,” the Imam stated, but before I could draw breath to reply, he continued, “is that because it is God’s punishment?”
“NO…” I responded, furiously. I flung my arms out to indicate the sea of protestors filling the small backstreet. “It is because of things like this! There are children in that school that are gay. They may not be able to acknowledge or articulate it yet, but they know that they are different. Every day for the past six months they have been greeted at the school gates by members of their own family telling them that it is not OK to be themselves, that they will not be accepted by their community and that their parent’s love is not unconditional! THIS… HERE… NOW…. is why there is a high degree of mental health issues in the gay community!!!”
I had finally managed to get a word in and I was determined to make the most of it, “Every person in this crowd has a member of the LGBTQ community in their family, but because of ignorance and intolerance it has to remain hidden. Everyone here will have a brother, sister, cousin, child, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, parent, or grandparent who is either L…G…B…T… or Q, but they are forced to live a lie. These protests are hurting your own families.”
This revelation clearly rattled the Imam, as he purposely turned the questioning to intimate aspects of my own personal sex life, so I made a decision to answer every question he asked me… in excruciating detail. I countered his inevitable opening gambit about how revolting he found the idea of anal sex, by explaining the practicalities of douching. It was a joy to watch his entourage squirm as they were compelled to listen, because their respected community leader had instigated the topic.
“It’s still disgusting,” I was told. “The anus is where excrement comes from!”
“The hole that you use is where a woman menstruates from,” I countered.
“We do not have sex with our wives when they are having their period.”
“It is also a region associated with urination… and we have already established that your wife doesn’t douche.”
“My wife is a clean woman!”
I had managed to turn the tables on him. This revered figure was now openly discussing intimate details of his sex life and the wife’s lady-parts in the street… with an audience.
“I hope that you return the favour by cleaning yourself thoroughly before your wife performs oral sex,” I said, with my most charming smile.
“My wife and I do not engage in that act!”
“Oh, I am sorry,” I offered sympathetically. “It does sound as though you have a very dull sex life. I hope, at the very least, she gives you a good tit-wank.”
With this parting shot, I departed.
Touché… or should that be ‘douché’?