opinion

Courtney Act being vilified for challenging Ann Widdecome's anti-gay views shows how insidious homophobia can be

Being against gay rights isn't just a 'personal preference,' and to defend such a belief makes you complicit

2018-01-30

Celebrity Big Brother comes to an end this week, and thank God for that, because it's just about reached boiling point in the house. 

When Courtney Act/Shane J entered the house earlier this month he instantly became the frontrunner to win the show, but over the past few days the housemates - and even some viewers watching at home - have slowly begun to turn against him. 

Why? Not because he's annoying people, or because he's a bad person - the sad truth is that it's simply because he's refused to allow Ann's prehistoric views about the LGBT+ community to remain unchallenged, and it's making some people uncomfortable. 

So much so in fact, that Shane was nominated by a number of his fellow housemates during Monday night's (January 29) because of his supposed "victimisation" of Ann.

Ex On The Beach star Jess told Big Brother: "Sometimes I feel like he can victimise Ann a little bit, and he does have strong opinions. I think we just have to accept it's a generational thing and we need to respect our elders."

Amanda Barrie and Wayne Sleep, who both identify as part of the LGBT+ community, also expressed similar views.

Former Coronation Street star Amanda, who came out as bisexual in 2002 and entered a civil parntership in 2014, ranted: "I feel as though he's been making a victim out of Ann. I don't like playground behaviour."

Dancer Wayne, who is also married to a same-sex partner, went one step further, suggesting he'd been made to feel guilty for not denouncing Ann's anti-gay views. 

"I adore him, but he made me feel inadequate and that I hadn't spoken out for gays. I feel he shouldn't be able to tell me what to say," he ranted. 

Yes, you heard that correctly. Shane is being called out by other LGBT+ people for challenging a woman who not only voted against every piece of gay rights legilsation she came across during her 23 years in parliament, but one who remains staunchly proud of that fact. 

The notion that LGBT+ people must blindly accept the fact that people of a certain age will oppose our right to equality is wrong. There are plenty of people of Ann's age who have demonstrated support for the LGBT+ community over the years; more still whose hearts and minds have been changed. 

Respecting your elders is all well and good , but when someone shows a continued lack of respect for LGBT+ people despite being given every opportunity to educate themselves, it's time to all bigotry for what it is.

'Operation Protect Poor Ann' is even more maddening when, by Ann's own admission, Shane has only ever raised the topic of her anti-gay record in a perfectly reasonable and "polite" manner. This isn't a man with a chip on his shoulder, but a proud LGBT+ role model who has had to live with a lifelong homophobe for weeks on end, while trying to maintain a sense of compassion and decency whilst broaching the senstive nature of her views. 

During the same episode, Ann parroted Amanda's comment that Big Brother isn't about "gay rights" but about "people rights", somehow attempting to argue that her views should be beyond criticism.

Again, Ann is not a sweet little old lady off the street: She is a former Shadow Home Secretary who made her views clear every time she stepped into parliament to vote on the rights of gay people.

Going on to demonstrate an astounding lack of self-awareness, Ann went on: "I don't judge any of my friends. Whether you're black, white, gay straight. I don't judge anyone as long as you're a human being that's kind to others.

"What I found ironic was that Shane J was going around wearing a t-shirt saying 'Be Kind' which I laughed at later on" added the ex-politician.

Clearly Ann's definition of irony is as loose as Alanis Morrisette's was.

What's so hard to believe is the fact that neither Ann, nor viewers sat at home, can see that the only ironic thing in this entire debacle is Ann's claim to love all people, regardless of who they are. 

This is a woman who is against gay marriage, gay adoption, a woman's right to abortion and equal age of consent. Someone who has built their entire professional career on judging those who aren't white, middle class and heterosexual. 

What adds insult to injury is watching the other LGBT+ housemates rally around Ann and perpetuating the belief that she's some kind of victim. Her age doesn't give her a free pass to be homophobic, and just because she's not calling for Shane to be burned at the stake on a daily basis doesn't mean that her views shouldn't be challenged.

Whether you're quiet about your anti-gay views or shout about them from ther rooftops - it doesn't change the fact that you're still a bigot. 

Wayne's feelings of shame about not speaking up to Ann hit a soft spot with the dancer, because Shane's implication is absolutely right: Both married Wayne and Amanda are in a position of priveledge, and just because they claim Ann's views have never personally "affected them", that doesn't mean they don't have a responsibility to stand up for the community.

For them both to espouse a 'live and let live' mentality towards Ann's views considering the real-world damage they've wrought over the years is not only shocking, but deeply disappointing. If it wasn't for people like Shane challenging people like Ann, Amanda wouldn't be able to be in the civil partnership she is in now. 

Whether you're 97 or 18, if you don't believe in equality then you deserve to have those views challenged. If Ann had a history of racist politcs and rhetoric she'd be absolutely crucified by both her housemates and the public - so for her homophobia given a free pass is insulting at best and outright disgusting at worst.

The behaviour in the house and from viewers at home demonstrates how truly deep-seated homophobia remains in our society, even among LGBT+ people. While racist or anti-semetic views would be met with widepread condemnation in this country, many wrongly place anti-gay beliefs such as Ann's in the realms of it simply being down to a "personal preference". 

If you're feeling uncomfortable about the way Ann has been made to own up to her discriminatory past, take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror and try feeling empathy for the way she's made gay men and women feel for the past three decades. 

Words: Josh Haigh