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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Skin deep [the Gay Times on Gay members of the EDL]

- Gay Times August 10 - Issue 383

Last month, it was revealed that the English Defence League has 115 gay members – despite their extreme, far-right approach. Here, Peter Lloyd talks to three men, all of different ethnicity, and asks: is the gay scene racist? And if not, why do our peers feel the need to take a hard line?

Last month, results of a poll claimed Britain’s gay scene is racist – yet the online ballot split opinion almost evenly.
Suggestions of phobia were rubbished by 44%, while 45% claimed the problem is alive and well. The rest were undecided.
For British-born Indian, Kaush Ray – a city finance lawyer in London – his experience is bittersweet. “In all of my UK adult life, the only overt racism I have encountered has been in a gay context,” he told us. “I was in a club last week and smiled at some guy who was staring at me. He gave me a funny look, came over, leant in and said: ‘Sorry, I don’t do spicy’. I decided not to pour my glass of champagne over his head but instead replied: ‘Fortunately for me, I don’t do ugly’ and walked off. He might as well have said ‘Fuck off, Paki’ – that’s the effect.”
But he is not alone. For Rob Berkeley, director of Runnymede Trust – the UK’s leading independent race equality think tank – his truth is also based on plenty of evidence.
“My first visit to a gay club introduced me to racism on the scene,” he told us. “At the tender age of 19 I was asked to ‘prove that I was gay’. When I asked why, they said I didn’t look the type and that they ‘get a lot of drug dealers in here’. People report to me that very little appears to have changed.”
But surely it has – at least in terms of issue complexity?
“Prejudice can come from many sources and our cities are more complicated now than before, when perhaps it may have been true that the only fraught relationships on ethnic lines were between white people and people of colour,” he adds. “We know that there are tensions between Africans and African-Caribbeans, Hindus and Muslims, or Somalians and Bengalis. Black and Asian people are not immune from racism and still have to learn that judging people on the basis of their ethnic background is wrong.
“Each ethnic group has specific experiences and racism takes many forms. I’ve heard about incidents recently where Muslims have suffered outrageous abuse in gay bars and venues.”
For readers of The Guardian, this may be less of a surprise. Last month, they revealed that the English Defence League – a far-right, single-issue political party – has more than 100 homosexual members.
And while the idea that Sharia law – or any equivalent – may one day be imposed on Britain is ludicrous to the majority, many are calling for a more rigid approach to protecting UK freedom. Including fellow lesbians and gays who feel powerless.

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