The producers of The Apprentice are apparently considering how much of a discussion of homosexuality and homophobia to include in forthcoming episodes for fear of offending people. Maybe that’s a step n the right direction but the kind of language used to discuss the whole issue is very telling.
In a task to rebrand the ‘traditional’ UK seaside town of Margate one gay male contestant suggested it should be rebranded a gay resort. This led to a rather uneducated reply from female contestant that she wouldn’t want her son to meet a homosexual man. Chances are her son has probably encountered more than one gay man in his six year life with no ill effects. The idea that gay man corrupt children is not as the show’s insider termed it, ‘traditional’. It’s just ignonance of the facts. Using ‘tradition’ for excusing homophobia is as relvant as referring to racism as ‘traditional’. According to the so-called traditional view ‘Gypsies supposedly abduct the children, Homosexuals supposedly molest them and Black people supposedly eat them!’. It’s not traditional, it’s ignorance. (I’ve added lots of ‘supposedlies’ just to make sure that no one ‘traditionally’ quotes out of context!)
On the subject of tradition, the term ‘homosexual’ is used as a neutral term, whereas infact t was first coined (in the late 1800s) as a term for a particular kind of sexual impotence, referring to the passive partner in a sexual encounter. It was only in the early 20th Century tha he term was extended to the active partner. Science inevitably goes through stages of relevant ignorance too.
Whenever, faced with these kind of debates, it’s useful to exchange contexts for the comments. So what if the offending comment had referred to someone of another skin colour or another religion? What if a contestant in The Apprentice had implied fear of cannibalism as justificationb for racial segregation? And before we get ino the old discussion of whether gayness is learned, inherited or chosen, couldn’t we ask the same questions about religion? It’s not relevant here. The issue is whether it’s`acceptable to justify prejudice with ignorance or educate ourselves about subjects where our only knowledge base is folk tales and ‘fairy’ stories? The psychological evidence tells us that, ‘tradionally’, there is a connection between racism, sexism and homophobia.
So should the producers air the offending discussion and be damned? Perhaps we need to make up our minds, and have reasoned discussions about homophobia fits into the whole mechanism of prejudice. We’ll have made some progress when we say ‘informed discussion you’re hired’ and ‘ignorance, you’re fired’!