THE BLOG
30/01/2018 17:42 GMT | Updated 30/01/2018 17:48 GMT

Amanda Barrie And Wayne Sleep Ought To Be Ashamed Of Themselves For Defending Ann Widdecombe's Homophobic History

Widdecombe’s career has been a persistent, unrelenting act of hostility against an oppressed community

Tim P. Whitby via Getty Images

I really don’t know what Amanda Barrie is playing at. A quick scroll of her Twitter profile, which is currently being run by her ‘team’ during her stint in the Celebrity Big Brother house, and one retweet sticks out like a sore thumb:

 

“So tired of people playing the “Oh I’m Gay card”.

Granted this is not the work of Barrie herself but it perfectly reflects her attitude towards a conversation with drag queen Courtney Act over Ann Widdecombe’s history of homophobia in the Celebrity Big Brother house on Sunday night. Throughout the series, Courtney Act, a.k.a. Shane Jenek, has frequently yet eloquently raised concerns over Widdecombe’s persistent attempts to deny LGBT+ people rights during her time in Westminster. On Sunday night’s show, viewers saw bisexual stars Amanda Barrie and Wayne Sleep downplay Ann Widdecombe’s voting record, declaring instead it was better to take her ‘as she is’ rather than pull her up on her past. They even went as far as to suggest that Act’s distaste for Widdecombe’s voting history was somehow excessive or militant.

But that is total and utter bollocks.

This isn’t a case of a harmless doddery old woman with problematic views, performing her stereotypical role as a relic we’d rather not deal with. This is a former public servant of notable seniority, the former Minister for Prisons and Shadow Home Secretary, not Doris from the local tea rooms.

There is a monumental difference between a person holding unsavoury but private views and a person, paid for by the taxpayers of whom a significant proportion are LGBT+, who took every opportunity she had to actively deny those very people the rights we enjoy today.

This is not about being respectful of a divergence of opinion. Ann Widdecombe’s career has been a persistent, unrelenting act of hostility against an oppressed community. It’s a history she does not repent for, and one that is now being defended by two high-profile people from the very community she tried and tries still to infringe upon.

The fact that both Amanda Barrie and Wayne Sleep felt more comfortable defending Widdecombe’s right to be homophobic than empathising with Act’s activism, and respectfully confronting the former MP, speaks volumes.

The fact that both Amanda Barrie and Wayne Sleep felt more comfortable defending Widdecombe’s right to be homophobic than empathising with Act’s activism, and respectfully confronting the former MP, speaks volumes.

“I never asked anyone to accept me” boasted Amanda Barrie as she dug in to Courtney for standing up for the LGBT+ community, whom still watch Celebrity Big Brother en masse.

“I’m only here to enjoy myself” was the line Wayne Sleep used to exonerate himself of his duties to his community.

Well, tough.

Any occasion where a visible LGBT+ celebrity is afforded coverage like this should be seen as a chance to promote our freedoms and to help liberate young LGBT+ people’s minds from the all-consuming anxiety of what might await them later in life. Is two-thirds of the show’s remaining LGBT+ contingent defending the actions and views one of the most potent homophobes in Britain’s modern legislative history the way to do that? Not a chance.

I realise it has become an irritating social media cliché but the crux of this issue is that both Barrie and Sleep speak from a place of privilege; two middle class white LGBT+ people in an industry which has always had a higher tolerance for queer culture than mainstream society. It’s the same sort of privilege that allows Ashley James, as a white heterosexual, to say that though she disagrees with Ann Widdecombe’s views, she ‘admires’ her ‘conviction’.

I am truly thrilled that both Amanda Barrie and Wayne Sleep are so comfortable within their lives that they can be apathetic to politics. But, let’s not forget that others like Act ‘playing the gay card’ is what got them those rights in the first place.

It’s because of LGBT+ people who couldn’t afford to be indifferent towards dogmatic archaic women assaulting our freedoms that they can show this flagrant lack of gratitude. Each generation of queers has a duty to fight in the spirit of Courtney Act in order to ease the woes of the next, to protect them from a life others have had to endure. Usually, it is the community’s elders that are there to remind us of that, but on this occasion they have let us badly down.