The Queen’s Non-Speech

by Maxwell Hamilton

Even the most ardent republicans – you know, the ones who tut their way through every bit of royal news complaining “This is news??” and “Who the f— cares??” – felt touched and grateful when the news broke that the British Queen would speak up for gay rights.

Right-wing monarchist small-q queens were weeping with joyful gratitude. Below stairs at Buck House they were breaking out the sherry and biscuits to toast their employers gracious condescension.

As head of the Commonwealth – a loose conglomeration of 54 ex-colonies, 41 of which still criminalise homosexuality – HMQ would make a speech in which she would say, quoting the new charter, “We are implacably opposed to all form of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.”

Pardon? That’s it? Did I miss something?

Odd as it may seems, despite all the ‘modernisation’ of the monarchy, despite the slow dismantling of discrimination, Betty Windsor has never publicly uttered the words “gay” or “lesbian.” Too “political”, apparently. And she wasn’t about to start now.

As UK activist Peter Tatchell pointed out, “Even when she announced government plans for gay law reform in her Queen’s Speeches, she did not use the words lesbian or gay. Apparently, mentioning LGBT people is beneath the dignity of the monarch.”

Quite. One does not speak of such things, does one? In the end, one couldn’t even turn up to make the speech: still a touch of gastro, apparently. So mild she was hospitalised for one night only, but so severe she couldn’t risk appearing in pubic to make her speech, despite her known devotion to fulfilling her public duties if at all possible. Perhaps she did not dare venture too far from the throne room.

And so GAY is left buried in the new Commonwealth Charter phrase “other grounds.” Apparently the homophobes in Zimbabwe and other enlightened nations couldn’t stomach anything more overt. This is being touted as progress.

Let’s be honest: using weasel words like “other grounds” allows liberal countries to pretend we’re included, and the majority – the murdering ones – to act as if we’re not, and everybody’s happy we don’t have to raise this distasteful subject again.

SILENCE = DEATH. Remember that?

Like “inclusion” and “diversity”, “other grounds” are the homosexuality you’re having when you aren’t having homosexuality. It’s the language you boiler-plate over the yawning gap. It’s what you say when you want to look like you’re doing something useful, but in fact you’re doing nothing at all.

You cannot tackle bullying, discrimination and second-class treatment based on sexuality, sexual orientation or gender diversity unless you specifically spell out those grounds by name. In practice, anything less than explicit mention excludes, silences, condemns. You have to spell it out.

Most sports try to to keep LGBTI hidden under the cloak labelled Diversity. Some anti-bullying efforts do likewise. Now the Commonwealth has joined the game. Whether driven by embarrassment, or something worse, like distaste, disgust, or even hatred, not saying the words kills us. Literally.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)