The homophobia of InsideOUT
In which I explore how NZ group InsideOUT, meant to defend gay and lesbian kids, denies their very existence, how this bizarre situation arose, and how InsideOUT can fix it.
Homophobia, coming to a school near you!
If my kids’ sexuality evolves into exclusive same-sex attraction, they’ll be hard pushed to find a word to describe themselves.1 Is this because I homeschool them, in line with some fundamentalist religion that says homosexuality is a sin? Nope. Is it because I send them to a conservative school where the words gay and lesbian are not mentioned for fear of giving kids unwholesome ideas? Nope. It’s because I send them to a perfectly normal co-ed, New Zealand state secondary school. And at that school they might well be visited by, or see pamphlets authored by, the diversity champions called InsideOUT.
According to its website, InsideOUT’s mission is to:
work with youth, whānau, schools, community groups, youth services, government agencies and other relevant organisations to provide safer schools and communities for rainbow (LGBTQIA+) young people.
But, despite its rainbowyness, it looks a lot like InsideOUT doesn’t believe gay people exist. In their rainbow glossary, available on their website, InsideOUT has redefined the words lesbian, gay and homosexual from meaning same-sex attraction to same-gender attraction.2 This may seem a small shift, but it’s not. It cancels homosexuality.
In InsideOUT’s lexicon, your gender is self-defined and nothing to do with the body you’re born in. Someone born male can therefore self-identify as a woman and, if attracted to women, be a lesbian. A biological, teenage girl (perhaps succumbing to the latest socially sanctioned way to hate her body, or in an understandable attempt to throw off the shackles of sexism) could announce themselves to no longer be a straight girl, but a gay boy. Two biological males could self-identify as women and be in a lesbian relationship.
In a great leap backwards, facilitated by InsideOUT, same-sex attracted young people, yet again, have no words to name and describe themselves. InsideOUT, having stolen well-established terminology, does not even do the courtesy of providing exclusively same-sex attracted people with a new word. If you are a biological male, exclusively attracted to other biological males, soz, you don’t get your own word. Ditto lesbians. These sexualities have vanished. Interestingly, scrolling through InsideOUT’s website, I can’t find resources specifically addressing the needs of the L,G and B of their LGBTQIA+ young people. L and G, particularly, are subsumed into the wider loose grouping of rainbow or queer.
A group purportedly fighting homophobia can not even acknowledge that homosexuality, as it has long been understood, exists. InsideOUT appears too phobic of violating its own ideological viewpoint to accurately define the group it is supposedly supporting.
This change in language is ripping through NZ officialdom as well. The Ministry of Education’s own curriculum guidance for college students has a list of definitions that closely resembles InsideOUT’s glossary. It entirely leaves out any names for homosexual experience.
So much for safety, InsideOUT. So much for inclusion.
The rainbow conundrum
For groups like InsideOUT, who have a remit of supporting both gay and transgender people, it’s actually damn awkward. You don’t have to scratch very deep to see an internal philosophical conflict that threatens to rupture anything that tries to contain both ideas at the same time.
For practically everyone, sexual orientation is about the physical bodies that you fancy. Heterosexuals are turned on by other-sexed bodies, homosexuals by same-sexed bodies, and bisexuals by both. Biology is central. And those advocating for gay and bi people understand same-sex attraction as a naturally occurring phenomenon and they work to fight against stigma, shame and discrimination towards people who experience it.
Meanwhile, gender ideology, which has come to dominate pro-trans advocacy, downplays biology. It contains the idea that all of us have an outer biological sex (though some genderists deny even this) and an inner “true” sex or gender.3 A transgender person is someone whose “inner” sex does not match their “outer” sex. Because the inner sex is considered by gender ideologists the true sex, it follows that a transwoman, for example, is literally a woman, and a transwoman can be a lesbian.4
This entire gender belief system makes no sense to same-sex attracted lesbians and gays. They don’t want to go to bed with other-sexed individuals no matter how those people identify. They don’t believe that a trans man is a gay man, and they don’t believe a trans woman can be a lesbian. As JK Rowling has put it “without sex there is no same-sex attraction”.
How do rainbow groups reconcile these seemingly incompatible philosophies? Physical reality or inner feeling? Sex or gender? How can they contain both?
Redefining gay: The new homophobia.
Rainbow groups like the UK's Stonewall and NZ's InsideOUT have gone the gender identity route. They believe in an inner gender or sex which must be viewed as someone’s true sex. But leveraging the rainbow brand (and no doubt accessing rainbow-tagged funding) they still have to appear to be supporting lesbians, gays and bisexuals. So, to make it all fit, they redefine same-sex attraction as same-gender attraction. The problem of biology goes away.
To distract from this significant sleight-of-hand, gays, lesbians and bisexual people, who want to own, name and discuss same-sex attraction, are shamed and stigmatised. Stonewall and its ilk are the new homophobes.
Nancy Kelley, Stonewall’s director, has called lesbians who only want to sleep with biological women prejudiced, bigoted and has likened them to racists. Stonewall has employed Morgan Page who in 2012 held a workshop in for male-bodied people who identify as lesbian on overcoming other lesbian’s aversion to sleeping with them. This is rightly identified by some commentators as promoting corrective rape. Trans rights protesters raise banners saying some lesbians have penises get over it. Gender activist Twitter is a maelstrom of misogyny and homophobia directed at same-sex attracted people defending their rights.
Many lesbians and gays aren’t having it.
The UK’s LGB Alliance formed in opposition to Stonewall’s gender philosophy. It advocates for the rights of same-sex attracted people. It believes that same sex attraction is a real thing that is not shameful or bigoted. Lawyer Allison Bailey’s keynote speech, at the LGB Alliance conference in November last year, talks of gender ideology as an existential threat to the LGB community. Her pithy assertation that “the word lesbian is already taken” is frequently quoted. In gender ideology circles, because of its same-sex sexuality advocacy, the LGB Alliance is labeled a hate group.
Last week, Ben Appel’s opinion piece, The new homophobia, was published in Newsweek. In it he says:
Sure, the religious far right remains something of a threat, and I, like any other gay person, can still be stung by anti-gay slurs and can fear the threat of violence in less-accepting spaces. But today I am equally fearful of the radical activists I once longed to emulate, activists who push a regressive, anti-liberal agenda that reifies gender stereotypes, downplays the seriousness of long-term medicalization and ultimately seeks to abolish my identity—for without biological sex, there is no homosexuality.
Dennis Kavanagh has helped set up a same-sex advocacy group called the Gay Men’s Network. A month back he was interviewed on GB news. Of the nullifying of biology in rainbow advocacy he says:
No one ever asked us gay people if we were okay with this. This change took place, unilaterally, in the corridors of power, amongst an aristocratic class of charity people, who turned round one day and said, no, you’re not homosexuals anymore, you are homogender.
Next steps for InsideOUT
Perhaps our own New Zealand-grown flavour of homosexual denialism, spreading ugly tendrils through schools and workplaces, is unwitting. Perhaps the directors and staff of InsideOUT do not understand the deep homophobia inherent in swallowing gay language and spitting out gender woo. Perhaps they have turned to UK’s Stonewall, and consider that, as a larger, older rainbow organisation, it must represent best practice. Stonewall must know what it’s doing. InsideOUT will simply follow and learn.
But given the many gay critics of Stonewall, it’s time for InsideOUT, which claims to represent gay people to grow up, and think for itself. It needs to be honest. InsideOUT uses queer, rainbow and LGBTQIA+ as synonyms. Funders, supporters, employees, ministries will naturally assume that InsideOUT supports lesbian and gay people, not that it sweet talks them out of existence.
InsideOUT needs to explicitly support the L and the G of their rainbow mandate, or it needs to openly relinquish it. Here are the options I think InsideOUT have:
Option 1: InsideOUT wants to advocate and support exclusive same-sex attracted young people
If InsideOUT wants to meet its mandate of supporting gay young people it needs to explicitly affirm the legitimacy of exclusively same-sex attraction. To do this it must:
Rewrite its glossaries and resources to acknowledge the reality of biological sex.
Reassert the traditional meanings of same-sex attracted vocabulary and acknowledge same-sex attraction throughout its resources.
Explicitly support young people who have exclusive same-sex attraction (together with its other constituents).
Support gender dysphoric, gender questioning and trans identified kids without denying biological reality.
Lobby the Ministry of Education to follow suit.
Option 2: InsideOUT does not want to advocate for or support exclusive same-sex attracted young people
If InsideOUT do not believe in the legitimacy of same-sex attraction, and does not want to advocate for same-sex attracted young poeple, it needs to be honest about this. Others need to consider their relationship with InsideOUT.
Given the history of the term rainbow, most people will assume same-sex attracted young people are InsideOUT’s central focus. InsideOUT needs to clarify in all its resources, promotion materials and funding applications that it will not support or validate exclusively same-sex attracted young people. It should consider dropping use of term rainbow.
InsideOUT should reword its discussions of mandate, purpose, mission, inclusivity and diversity to make it clear they do not include same-sex attracted people.
Schools, Ministry of Education, funders and partners should withdraw any funding, support or contractual relationships with an organisation claiming to support rainbow groups that does not support exclusive same-sex sexual orientations.
That is, if they didn’t have family to talk it through with, many kids don’t.
Lesbian: A woman or gender diverse person who is exclusively attracted to women and self-identifies as such. This term was often used as a political identifier and its definition has expanded over time.
Homosexual: A term describing someone who is exclusively attracted to people of the same gender. The term can refer to someone who is gay or lesbian. While some people do self-identify with this term, others do not due to its history of being used in a clinical or negative way.
Gay: A term describing someone who is attracted to people of the same gender as themselves. Gay is also commonly being used by young people as an umbrella term that encompasses diverse sexualities.
Usual caveat, this strand of gender ideology, upheld by many rainbow groups, is not universally held by transgender, transsexual or dysphoric people, who have a range of views on the matters. Many people, trans and other, believe there are far more compelling grounds to advocate for the human rights of trans people than a belief in a notion of an internal “true” sex or gender.
For those new to these discussions, gender ideologists push the idea that any man who identifies as a woman, must be accepted from the moment they announce their womanhood, as a woman. This has given rise to males with penises and full beards announcing they are lesbians and garnering wide support when they denounce lesbian groups, unwilling to admit these males to their lesbian spaces, as transhphobic and hateful. For lesbian groups defending their rights, this is just a more recognisable jarring instance of the violation of their right to exercise their sexuality without harassment or attack.