a Workers Solidarity Movement position paper

Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Oppression


1. The spread of Aids focussed attention on gay men over the past decade. Called a "gay plague" because the disease initially spread among homosexual men, Aids was greeted by the upholders of right wing morality as the "wrath of God" and a sign that gays are "unnatural". Even without this issue, however, gays, lesbians and bisexuals have been subject to discrimination and prejudice in Ireland and in many other countries worldwide.

2. It is important to understand the nature of the oppression suffered by lesbians, gays and bisexuals. This stems from the function of the nuclear family in capitalist society. Since the end of the 18th century, within bourgeois society, the concept of the monogamous, heterosexual family was stressed as the basic unit of society. The family not only produces the necessary labour force; it also takes care of the workers, the sick, the elderly and the next generation of workers. The dominant bourgeois ideas and values are also passed on to the next generation through the isolated nuclear family.

3. The hostility towards gays, lesbians and bisexuals stems from the challenge their sexuality poses to the nuclear family because it clearly undermines the idea that sex is only for procreation. Homosexuals are condemned as "unnatural" because their sexual activity cannot produce children. The oppression of gays, lesbians and bisexuals, just like the oppression of women, stems from the nature of capitalist society and the morality it inculcates to serve its own needs. Personal freedom in the area of sexual preference is tightly controlled under capitalism, as are all other freedoms.

4. The Gay Liberation movement has been active in Ireland since the early 1970s. A small number of activists have been successful in putting the issue of discrimination at work, in housing, and socially on the public agenda. Two public sector trade unions passed anti-discrimination policies. In the late 1980s this position was adopted officially by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. The lesbian and gay movement as represented by such groups as the National Gay & Lesbian Federation, the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network and by individuals such as Senator David Norris and Don Donnelly has done a good job in putting equality on the political agenda in Ireland. However heir focus is almost totally on social activities, publicity stunts and lobbying politicians for law reform. They have failed to challenge the 'right' of the state to intervene in peoples' private lives, and they have failed to bring significant numbers of gays/lesbians/bisexuals and supporters of equality into active campaigning. This has led to them seeing the achievement of anti-discrimination legislation as providing far more solutions than reality would suggest. While such legislation would be a step forward it must be pointed out that that judges and police, who have often proved themselves antagonistic to gays/lesbians, will be the people charged with its implementation. For examples of the likely situation upon the passing of such legislation we can look at the experience of the Incitement to Hatred Act in the six counties and the Race Relations Act in Britain.

5. Public opinion has been influenced in a positive way. One example was the inclusion of a gay and lesbian contingent on Cork's St Patrick's Day parade in 1992. However, despite this and despite the decriminalisation of homosexual acts, many gays and lesbians still suffer discrimination in their daily lives.

6. Some gays and lesbians see the solution to their oppression in separatism and lifestyle choices, which are essentially just personal 'solutions'. Many others still hide their sexual identity because of the fear of the reaction they would face if they came out. Very few see the class nature of the oppression they suffer and the need to become part of the wider struggle for real freedom, for anarchism.

7. The fight for lesbian, gay and bisexual liberation needs to be taken up by all progressive forces, and certainly should not be seen as 'their' struggle only.

8. Anarchists believe that true liberation for gays, lesbians and bisexuals will only come about with the abolition of capitalism and creation of a society that gives everyone real control over their lives. This does not mean, however, that the fight is put off until then. Lesbians, gays and bisexuals are entitled to full support in their struggle for equality.

9. Immediately, this means that the fight against discrimination on the job has to raised in the trade unions. The right of lesbian mothers to keep their children must be supported. An end to harassment must be demanded. Stereotyping and anti-homosexual attitudes can be challenged everywhere. Progressive initiatives of the gay movement such as Gay Pride marches and anti-discrimination campaigns are supported by the WSM. We reject the tactic of 'outing' people without their permission. This is only permissible in the case of public figures, such as politicians or clerics, who promote anti-gay prejudice whilst secretly enjoying homosexual relations. Apart from such cases of hypocrisy, peoples;' sex lives are their own business and nobody else's.

10. While we recognise that lesbian separatists have a right to organise separately, our position is that this is a wrong strategy. The fight is a class fight. Links should be built with other working class campaigns.

11. The moral panic constructed around AIDS has meant a total lack of direction in combating the spread of HIV and caring for people with AIDS. As mentioned previously, this has greatly increased prejudice against gay men. The Irish government information campaigns have been mainly directed at heterosexuals who are actually at very low risk. The campaigns have relied on fear and moralising, and stressed monogamy as he only way to avoid AIDS. We call for the free availability of condoms and other prophylactics through vending machines in areas where sexually active people congregate. We also call for a nationwide needle exchange programme for injecting drug users, and for information on reducing the spread of HIV aimed at groups who face serious risks. We reject the victimisation and campaigns which rely on primitive scare tactics and reinforce conservative morality and family values.

12. We support physical self-defence by lesbians, gays and bisexuals against 'gay bashers' and the police where necessary. We reject all blasphemy and obscenity laws.

This paper is out of date - see the new WSM site for the more recent version