I have a confession to make: I’m a baldy. By my early twenties, I knew what I was, but did my best to cover it up. I carefully arranged my hair to disguise the truth. I avoided bright lights and wore a hat on windy days. When conversation turned to the subject of hair, I quickly changed it, lest anyone make mention of my increasingly threadbare thatch.
After a couple of years, I decided enough was enough. I went to a barber and asked for a number one buzz cut. It was scary, yet liberating. I walked into the pub that evening, expecting to be greeted by shock and ridicule, but my friends were ambivalent. One joked that at least I had avoided the dreaded “egg in a nest” that awaits the baldy in denial, but that was about it. They’d known for years that my hair was on its way out and it hadn’t interested them whatsoever. Looking back, I can hardly believe I was so foolish and insecure.
I don’t for a moment think that exposing my bare scalp to the world compares to what a gay person goes through when they ‘come out’. Nor do I think that the centuries of persecution suffered by homosexuals compares to the gentle ribbing we baldies experience from time to time. To my knowledge, the follically challenged have never fallen foul of a lynch mob. No one ever called hair-loss unnatural or against the will of God. I’m more likely to receive unwanted attention from some government health nanny for my increased risk of sunburn than a gang of local rednecks. It would, however, be nice if the experience of coming out was as unremarkable as going bald. There should be no scandal or hoopla. It should be received with little more than a shrug.
I mention this because of the recent revelation that the Olympic diver Tom Daley is gay (or in a relationship with a man, to be precise – he still claims to like girls). Big deal. Most people in this day and age probably couldn’t care less. So why did this revelation become a major news story? Why did Daley’s toothy, perma-tanned mug appear on the front page of most of Britain’s dailies? He hasn’t cured cancer; he just mentioned that he fancies blokes. If we don’t believe that people should be discriminated against because of their sexuality, then why flag his up as something remarkable?
Some will say that since we don’t live in an ideal world and gays are still discriminated against, Tom Daley is showing great courage in coming out, and deserves recognition. While it’s true that homosexuality still holds a stigma for some, we shouldn’t allow their opinions to dictate the agenda. Why pander to their prejudice by tacitly agreeing that there is something weird about being gay? Homosexuality is never going to become ‘normalised’ in people’s minds if every outed gay is treated like someone admitting to mental illness, or like the first Dodo to wander out of the jungle in 300 years. It’s not freakish or an ailment; it’s just what some people are – like having different coloured eyes or being bald.
You cannot on the one hand state that natural qualities should be irrelevant to people’s opinion of others and then make it the basis of special treatment. Or rather, you can, but don’t be surprised if some people’s idea of ‘special treatment’ doesn’t match your own. Positive discrimination of minorities identifies them by the very thing that others condemn them for, rather than what really matters about them: namely, their actions. I’m sure Tom Daley would rather be admired as a sportsman than a gay man. His involvement in the execrable TV show Splash! might scupper that ambition, but the point stands. If a person shouldn’t be attacked for something they just happen to be, they shouldn’t be praised for it either. After all, no one admires me for being tall (although they do thank me for fetching things from high shelves occasionally).
Amid all this talk of discrimination, I should point out that I am a virulent hater of hate crimes. I don’t think anyone should be shielded from adverse opinion, because I don’t believe some higher authority should dictate what we can and can’t think. This isn’t something that troubles people on the Left, because they are blessed with absolute moral certainty, and believe their values were brought down from the progressive mount like the word of God. For the rest of us, however, values are a question of personal conscience that must be tested in the crucible of real life. As long as people are granted equality under the law, they should be free to judge and be judged. If you choose to be a racist or a homophobe, you should expect to be treated with contempt in return. In a civilised, free, self-correcting society, bigotry doesn’t pay.
When the moral authorities decide that certain opinions are beyond the pale, it allows no room for nuance or equivocation. You either get on board the progressive bandwagon or you face the consequences. I, for one, do not want to live under the unforgiving gaze of the liberal Eye of Sauron, so I don’t think anyone else should either. There are many people who have religious objections to homosexuality. I can respect their opinion without necessarily agreeing with it. They do not compel anyone to join their religion, so providing they have no intention of turning their prejudices into law, their opinions don’t concern me. I am more troubled by those who are so convinced of their own righteousness that they see no problem in invoking the power of the state to ram their opinions down my throat.
The problems of homophobia and racism are very real, but nowhere are they more serious than in the heads of liberals, who need victims like shepherds need sheep. The last thing they want is to for the victim status afforded to certain groups to be withdrawn, because they have so much invested in it. They want to ring-fence minorities as if they’re protected species, then stand guard over them. It allows them to think of themselves as enlightened individuals in a prejudiced world – part of the thin blue line holding back all those slack-jawed hillbillies and suburban bigots, who are just itching to form a posse and run them queers and darkies out of town. Moreover, it reinforces the idea that our social problems are caused by insufficient control by the Left’s coalition of intellectuals, bureaucrats and caring professionals.
What I find most wretched about all this is that the more tolerant society becomes, the more desperate the race and gender hustlers become. In their determination to keep their pet victims from escaping the reservation, they spread resentment and division, and deny people an opportunity to be treated as equals. As for those of us who decry the creation of designated victim groups, our stock has steadily fallen over the years. As Thomas Sowell put it: “If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labelled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago, and a racist today.”
So much for equality. So much for progress.