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Letters: it’s all fine these days? Tell that to my gay son

The Guardian logo The Guardian 10/03/2019
a man standing on a sidewalk: Gay people still face prejudice. © Getty Images Gay people still face prejudice.

Brilliant Eva Wiseman writes in her column: “Families… where the idea of a child being ‘different’ still weighs heavily on parents so keen for their kid to move safely through a still-biased world” (“Violence is not the only way LGBT+ people are ‘erased’”, Magazine).

In my liberal, middle-class community, I am expected to swallow a myth that my gay teenaged son is going to move through life in as carefree a way as the straight children of my friends. I’m told (scoldingly) that “it’s all absolutely fine these days”. But what I hear from that community is (at best) self-conscious over-compensation and (at worst) ignorance. A middle-aged acquaintance described entering a cafe and deciding that it was run by lesbian proprietors. She smiled cheekily at me and said: “They were both giving me the eye!” Lesbians, apparently, fancy anything female. She didn’t mean to be an idiot, but that’s what LGBTQ people are still up against, insidiously, all the time.

My straight son can go anywhere in suburban Britain holding a girlfriend’s hand. So can my other son with a boyfriend, but he has to be prepared to be observed by politely fascinated onlookers. It’s unlikely he’ll be at the receiving end of violent homophobia, but it makes me furious that he won’t be safe from all sorts of exhausting nonsense. I’d like us to stop pretending that “it’s all fine now”.

Thank you, Eva, for your honesty.

Name and address supplied

More to life than religion

Catherine Bennett highlights how religion is unfairly privileged over other ethical approaches by the BBC (“Thought for the Day: is it time to silence BBC preachers who keep women down?”, Comment). Thought for the Day is just the tip of an iceberg that freezes out alternative world views. Its apologists skip around the issue by claiming that “religion is different”. Their argument is a con.

If the BBC lived up to its commitments to diversity, it would have to have programmes for and about the ethics and philosophies of the more than half of the population who have no faith. We could have a jolly good TFTD from perspectives rooted in ideas of goodness, civic engagement, education and human rights, for instance. But it would soon become apparent that to split reflective views is silly: there is lots of overlap and interplay because: a) religious and non-religious beliefs are part of the same conversation; and b) faith is only one parameter – pursuit of truth and living a good life are others. In the context of responses to life’s big questions, religion is less a singular plough in its own furrow than plural currents in an ocean of philosophies.

Hester Brown

London SE6

Thank goodness for Thought for the Day each morning! A single opportunity to consider religious and spiritual issues for less than three minutes at the start of the day, in amongst the chaos, blame, protestations and tedium of the world we live in. Catherine Bennett asks how the BBC can allow such discrimination, to which I would answer that the BBC’s charter specifies that it must present a range of spiritual and religious services and views to reflect its wide-ranging audience. The speakers it engages will naturally present their own beliefs and faiths, some of which will seem discriminatory to Catherine. So the answer is – it is committed to doing just this.

Faith matters receive such a pitifully small airing in our public life that anything that gets us thinking beyond the here and now must surely be a good thing.

Anne Harrison

Winchester

Ireland’s history with Wales

Misha Glenny’s often enjoyable article (“In exploring this united kingdom, I discovered a still proud separateness”, Comment, 24 February) says “Wales has only a marginal place in the history of Ireland”.

But my understanding is that there was interaction between Ireland and Wales at least from the dark ages.

Invasions of each country by the other are found in legend and in the historical record. St Patrick was born in Wales; Brychan, the ruler of Brycheiniog (Brecknock), was from Ireland. In later time Welsh ports were significant in the maintenance of the British ascendancy in Ireland – Telford’s great Holyhead road (now the A5) was built for this purpose.

And the mass migration of Irish into south Wales “when coal was king” is claimed by some to have helped establish English in place of the Welsh language and militated against the movement for home rule and devolution in the 20th century.

Nicholas Hoyal

Brynderi, Abergavenny

Monmouthshire

Not saviours, just volunteers

The founders of the No White Saviours campaign group in Uganda have a very jaundiced view of many volunteers’ motives in helping out in Africa (“Campaigners at heart of Dooley aid row speak out on ‘white saviours’”, World). I was part of a volunteer construction team helping a UK charity to build a school in a very poor part of Blantyre, Malawi in 2011, where my (white) co-volunteers were mostly in their 50s and 60s, hardly seeing Africa as a “playground and experimental ground”, but there out of a genuine desire to help those less fortunate than themselves simply by the accident of their birth.

We never saw ourselves as saviours. Many parts of Africa need all the help they can get, and the community we worked with were generally just glad to see us, whatever our colour. The charity I worked with did indeed listen to what the local people said, as NWS suggests, and provided what they needed most: education and jobs.

Melvin Hurst

Ventnor, Isle of Wight

Public services benefit us all

Sanity at last! This mania of turning services into profit-grabbing rip-offs had me thinking the world had gone mad (“At last we are turning away from our mania for hiving off public services”, Comment).

With family in America, I know that healthcare there depends on a costly insurance system and is the most expensive and non-universal system possible. Here, it has taken the loss of billions of pounds, the collapse of companies and hardship to too many people to finally realise that it is despicable to profit (often exorbitantly) from people’s random misfortunes. Our NHS and general welfare system is the best thing that ever happened to this country – it is called civilisation, morally caring for others ensures that our own lives are better and more useful to the country. We all benefit.

Sheila Myron

West Park, St Helens

Merseyside

Reading gives hope

Harriet Sherwood is right to highlight the inequality in literacy standards, which disadvantages white working-class boys most dramatically (“‘I want better than my Dad’: why Harry is so desperate to read”, Focus). As a literacy expert, I have seen first hand the effects that a low literacy level can have on adults in prisons, and experienced the immediate, positive effect learning to read in later life has had. It gives hope, a desire to succeed and dissuades from activities that would see them back in jail.

Levels of illiteracy are high in prisons among young men and learning to read can dramatically reduce reoffending. I hope that this new documentary has an I, Daniel Blake-effect, putting literacy front and centre of the education conversation. For young people like Harry, there is no time to waste.

Katy Parkinson

Middlesbrough

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