I would love to take a break from writing about gay-related issues, but it’s hard to keep silent in light of some of the things taking place here in America and in the UK.
Consider this brazen case of censorship in London, coming straight from Boris Johnson, the mayor. In 2007, gay activists in England launched a campaign “to tackle homophobic bullying in schools” with a simple message: “Some people are gay. Get over it!”
According to the Stonewall.org website, “After the launch, 600 billboard panels, kindly donated by Titan Outdoor Advertising Ltd, depicted this legend in giant, tabloid-style capital letters, on a bright red background at sights in England, Scotland and Wales. In September 2009 the simple, striking poster campaign appeared on 20 major railway stations advertising screens and on 3,500 interior bus panels in November 2009 for Anti-Bullying week.”
In response, an ad campaign was recently launched by Core Issues, which describes itself as “a non-profit Christian initiative seeking to support men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression. It respects the rights of individuals who identify as ‘gay’ who do not seek change.” The Core Issues group purchased ads to be carried on a number of buses reading, “Not gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud. Get over it!”
This was too much for Mayor Johnson, who explained, “London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance. It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses.” What a remarkable statement.
Aside from the fact that the ads did not say that “being gay is an illness that someone recovers from,” it is absolutely outrageous that the mayor of London – “one of the most tolerant cities in the world” – would deny the right of free expression to those who identify as “not gay, ex-gay, or post-gay,” especially in light of the ubiquitous “Some people are gay. Get over it!” campaign.
Some observers suggested that Johnson had ulterior motives in his actions, specifically, his own campaign for reelection, and his main rival in the upcoming election, Ken Livingstone, criticized Johnson for even allowing the ads to be booked: “London is going backwards under a Tory leadership that should have made these advertisements impossible. They promote a falsehood, the homophobic idea of ‘therapy’ to change the sexual orientation of lesbians and gay men.” Yes, censorship is alive, well, and being fully justified in “most tolerant” London.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.