Andrew Doyle: Sexual identity flags creating division, not unity

Wearing a badge to say that you don’t have a problem with gay people is a bit like wearing a badge that says 'I am not a serial killer'. It’s bound to make people suspicious

Published Last updated

Pride month, formerly known as 'June', is coming to an end. For a full 30 days, avaricious corporations who continue to exploit poverty-stricken people in the developing world have been decorating their stores and products with rainbow flags to prove how compassionate they all are.

At least for the next eleven months they won’t have to keep up the pretence... Because it must be exhausting.

One of the oddities of this culture war is that sex and sexuality should be one of the major battlegrounds. And it’s not just corporations who are getting on board.

Last week we had the National Trust asking its staff to dress up in rainbow colours, with rainbow ribbons in their hair and rainbow face paints. Which has no doubt left their visitors rather baffled, given that most of them are septuagenarians who just want somewhere peaceful to eat their Victoria sponge.

The NHS in Scotland has asked staff members to sign a pledge to confirm that they are supportive of LGBT people. Having signed the pledge, staff are given a badge to wear while on duty to show that they've signed it.

All of which begs the question why anyone would assume they weren’t supportive of gay rights.

Wearing a badge to say that you don’t have a problem with gay people is a bit like wearing a badge that says “I am not a serial killer”. It’s bound to make people suspicious.

And what about those who don’t want to demonstrate their moral virtue at the behest of others? Remember the woman at the restaurant in Washington DC – who was accosted by BLM protestors screaming in her face to force her to raise her fist in solidarity? Even under this kind of mob pressure, she refused.

And the thing is, she was a Black Lives Matter supporter. She had been on their marches. It wasn’t that she didn’t support the cause. It’s that she didn’t want to be told how to express herself. We could all do with a bit more of that type of courage.

And of course when it comes to the NHS in Scotland, they’ve left their employees open to accusations of bigotry if they don’t wear the badge. For instance, one angry person tweeted this after the NHS Scotland announcement: “If they don’t badge up then they are trans hating TERFs and should be dismissed from the NHS. There is no place for hidden haters that take the taxpayers money as a wage, we don’t pay for hate”.

It’s almost as though insisting that people declare their moral virtue can lead to shame and division.

I’m sure there’s some precedents in history for this kind of thing. “Oh, you don’t have a photograph of the supreme leader on your mantlepiece? I’m afraid we’ll have to assume you’re a traitor and feed you to the piranhas.”

With the proliferation of multiple sexualities and genders, it can get very confusing. And for some reason, they’ve all got their own flags. Sexual identity politics has always been about groups of people fighting against oppression. The six-stripe rainbow pride flag was a sign of unity.

The whole point of the rainbow is that it includes everyone. But identity politics of today seems to be to be very much about creating as much division as possible. I say we get rid of all the flags and just be who we want to be.

Look, if you really need to fly a flag to advertise the fact that you’ve got a fetish for hairdryers or you only ever copulate in the moonlight to appease the ancient lupine gods, then by all means go ahead. But the key thing to remember? No-one cares.