I’ve always aimed to avoid merely repeating the usual ‘big stories’ such as the recent stupid and offensive remarks by the allegedly corrupt, and evidently ignorant Sepp Blatter regarding his advice that gay men attending the World Cup in Qatar should “refrain from sexual activity” (read here). There are countless bloggers and journalists writing about that story and I have little to add. There aren’t so many writing about this story that appears on Pink News today and the story has me so annoyed.
The story revolves around Reace Mcdonnell, a 19 year old member of the UK Youth Parliament, and a gay activist who has now been suspended from the UK Youth Parliament. What can bring upon such a move you might ask? Apparently, he has posted a profile on a “porn networking site” – whatever that is. I suspect it’s just a networking site such as Gaydar, Fitlads or such like but why let details get in the way of a good story. The Plymouth Herald broke the story and you can read it in full here.
It includes a quote from Cllr Joan Watkins, the city’s Cabinet member responsible for children and young people, who said: “If this is true I would view it with great disappointment. We want young people to be involved in democracy and the life of the city but you have to bring certain characteristics to the role.”
What are those characteristics Cllr Watkins? Presumably you are a human being (subject to tests), and as such were in probability the product of two people fucking. You, Cllr Watkins owe your existence to sex. Sex is rather crucial to our biological and psychological existence. Amazingly, nineteen year old boys in particular enjoy sex – a lot. It is not uncommon to seek out sexual encounters wherever possible and that may well be through sites such as the networking site Reace was on. He was acting within the “norms” of many 19 year olds. Should he have instead merely restrained his relationships to affairs with a secretary, or perhaps a rent boy in a football outfit? What exactly, are the political standards on which Cllr Watkins’ remarks are offensively based? What are the norms of behaviour that she expects?
If we want politics to be attractive to “normal” people, and we want our politicians to be honest, to connect to our lives, don’t attempt to knock them out when their testing the water at the age of nineteen.
In any case, Reace himself suggests on his Facebook profile taht the story is untrue anyway, but the willingness of elected officials – what were you thinking Plymouth? – like Cllr Watkins, and the stupidity of members of the public coupled with a media desperate for anything to flog a paper makes for a heady mix of hypocrisy and bile.
This is the same kind of nonsense that means public figures, from nurses and teachers through to civil servants and elected politicians are confronted by a media onslaught for posting sexual images of themselves online or *bloody hell*, having sex! It assumes that a teacher engaged in a sexual encounter with her husband or who posts erotic pictures of him/her self online one day, will inevitably start disciplining their students with a silicone dildo the next.
Reace’s Facebook profile reveals a profile of a typical nineteen year old, stressing about hair and clothes, coupled with posting gay-rights related posts. He sounds like a great normal kid – and he does not deserve this. If I was a Plymouth resident, I’d be more worried about this Cllr Watkins. Her council profile reveals she is up for re-election next year and I suspect she couldn’t resist this attempt to play to the crowd but I hope sensible folk will give her the push. She is also a Conservative member of the council – surely this isn’t an indication that David Cameron’s party still has some old fashioned homophobes in its ranks?
In truth, she’s probably safe in her seat but I would ask that she follows the advice that Plymouth Conservatives offer to wannabe councillors on their website, and ‘learns’ about what it is she is commenting on rather than reaching for the nearest populist sound-bite. Cllr Watkins, your constituents deserve better.