Rocking The Boat

Jewish homophobia challenged.

Lesbians and gay men should not have to justify fighting homophobia.


The controversy over OutRage’s synagogue of a Jewish synagogue has highlighted disagreements within the lesbian and gay community over what tactics are acceptable when fighting homophobia.

OutRage has been accused of using offensive methods in its protest against the bigotry of the ex-Chief Rabbi, Lord Jacobovits.

Homosexuality is a sin comparable with murder, according to Jakobovits. He wants gay sex made totally illegal and gay men jailed. He argues that homosexuals are genetically flawed and that genetic engineering should be used to eradicate homosexuality from society.

OutRage felt that this extreme homophobia merited a hard-hitting response. While most critics now accept that our leafleting of a synagogue was low-key and inoffensive, they remain furious at our decision to point out that Jakobovits’ anti-gay theories are similar to those of the Nazi leader, Heinrich Himmler. This has provoked accusations of anti-Semitism. Yet, surely, what is offensive is not that OutRage exposed the similarities in the ideas of Jakobovits and Himmler, but that Jakobovits has dared to echo Nazi theories.

Our comparison between the ideas of Jakobovits and Himmler, although true, may well have been shocking to some people. However, it was not anti-Semitic. The definition of anti-Semitism is hatred, denigration and persecution of Jewish people. OutRage did not attack Jews in general. We only criticised Jakobovits. Our focus was his homophobia, not his Jewishness.

So, if Outrage’s tactics are not anti-Semitic, were they offensive? Perhaps. But so what!

While we did not intend to be gratuitously offensive, we reject the idea that fighting homophobia is only acceptable if it does not offend anyone. Of course bigots and their apologists will get offended. Tough!

No movement for social equality has ever succeeded without rocking the boat. The campaign tactics of the Chartists, Suffragettes and the Black civil rights movement were all condemned at the time as being’extremist’,’offensive’ and’alienating’. Yet their confrontational methods were vital to raise issues, provoke debate, and pressure the authorities for social reform.

Compared with the often violent tactics of the Suffragettes, OutRage’s peaceful methods are positively moderate.

What is perverse is that instead of homophobes like Lord Jakobovits being forced to justify their bigotry, OutRage is being forced to justify fighting homophobia. Yet again, the lesbian and gay victims of prejudice are being condemned for daring to challenge their oppressors.

A similar controversy has erupted over the campaign against Black homophobia in south London. Accusations of racism have been levelled against those who are organising to stop the rising number of attacks by Black youths on lesbians and gay men.

The accusers seem to think that just because Black people suffer discrimination, we are not allowed to fight back against Black homophobia. Bullshit!

Homophobia is always wrong and never excusable. We would not dare make excuses for racism. Why should we make excuses for homophobia? The fact that Black people are victimised doesn’t mean they should get away with victimising us.

The false accusations of racism are hindering an effective campaign to stop black-on-gay violence. Some lesbians and gay men are now afraid to take a stand against Black homophobia in case they are criticised as racists. Others are thinking of dropping out of the campaign for the same reason.

In the meantime, the bigots carry on bashing us. The people who suffer are often as not Black lesbians and gay men. By doing nothing, we collude with their suffering. That’s a weird kind of anti-racism.

The tyranny of political correctness means that those of us who are fighting homophobia are constantly having to waste time explaining and justifying our tactics when we could be getting on with the task of challenging the bigots who are wrecking our lives.

For OutRage, the bottom line on tactics is this: any form of non-violent action is justifiable if it will help win lesbian and gay freedom. We believe that other discriminated minorities, such as Jews and Blacks, also have the right to fight back by any non-violent means necessary. If some people cannot accept that, too bad! OutRage is sick of apologising for confronting homophobia. We are proud that we rock the boat.

An edited version of this article was published in Capital Gay,

8 October 1993.

See also “Touching a Nerve“, Pink Paper, 8 October 1993.