Hague and homophobia

By Symon Hill
September 2, 2010

Whatever the truth behind today's story about the Foreign Secretary and his special adviser, the way it has been reported is clear evidence that casual homophobia is alive and well in the British media.

As far as I can make out, the story involves only two serious questions. Hague's sexuality is relevant to neither.

Firstly, Hague, as Foreign Secretary, is accused of having appointed Christopher Myers as his special adviser unexpectedly, despite an alleged lack of experience. The evidence for this appears to be thin. But it is a serious thing to suggest that a minster abused his power to make an unfair appointment. Such an allegation should not be lightly dismissed.

Secondly, it is alleged that Hague is (or has been) in a sexual relationship with Myers. Adultery is a serious matter, although it is really a personal issue rather than one that should affect Hague's position as Foreign Secretary. But Myers' gender is irrelevant.

The two issues are abuse of power and infidelity. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with it.

Or rather, it should have nothing to do with it. But most of the media seem to think it does. The Guardian, who should know better than to put such a flimsy story on their front page, led with “William Hague denies gay rumours as aide quits”. The Evening Standard declared “Hague may quit over gay smear”.

The word “gay” appeared in almost every headline about the story this morning. Given that Hague has been married to a woman for thirteen years, it might be more believable to accuse him of being bisexual. I find it very frustrating that bisexuality is almost absent from the media and anyone in a same-sex relationship is described as “gay”.

If the media had truly left homophobia behind, they would treat the story exactly as they would have done if Myers were a woman. They are very far from doing so, delivering a reminder that while huge progress has been made in the struggle against homophobia, there is still a very, very long way to go.

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