The Queen who hates queens

Observations on royal tolerance

Though tolerance was the theme of the Queen's Christmas message, it was apparently confined to those of diverse "race, creed or colour". The monarch pointedly refrained from extending her largesse to queers.

No surprise there. In the royal lexicon, gay is still the love that dares not speak its name. During her 53-year reign, Her Majesty has never publicly uttered the word homosexual, even though the annual Queen's Speech in parliament has on several occasions announced gay rights legislation, such as the equalisation of the age of consent.

The palace says the Queen cannot be a homophobe. Look at all the gay staff she employs. So what? Is having queer servants proof of an absence of prejudice? I think not. Until a few years ago, palace staff were banned from bringing same-sex partners to the annual royal household Christmas ball. This rule was overturned only after the gay rights group OutRage! protested outside Buckingham Palace. Why did it need a demonstration? Why could gay staff not have brought an employment discrimination suit? Because, if you recall, the Queen is exempt from equality legislation and can discriminate with impunity.

Royal homophobia extends to the condolences that are routinely sent to the victims of large-scale disasters and atrocities. When the neo-Nazi homophobe David Copeland bombed the Admiral Duncan gay pub in Soho in 1999, killing three people and mutilating 70 others, the Queen was silent and failed to send any message to the victims or their families.

When it comes to the New Year Honours list - I know honours are awarded on the advice of the Prime Minister, but let's not pretend that the Queen has no input - we find the same attitude. MBEs and knighthoods are awarded to time-serving flunkeys for no other reason than that they did their jobs. No honour has ever been bestowed on pioneers of the gay rights movement, such as Allan Horsfall and Antony Grey. They campaigned tirelessly in the 1950s and 1960s - making huge financial sacrifices and risking arrest and imprisonment - to pave the way for the freedoms that lesbians and gay men now enjoy. Champions of queer human rights, they stand head and shoulders above the typical honours recipient for their vision, dedication and courage.

But what can we expect, given how the Queen treats members of her own family? She has given no indication that she is willing to accept openness by gay Windsors.

God save the Queen? No thanks. Could someone instead please save us queens from that Queen.

Peter Tatchell is Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, which campaigns for human rights the UK and worldwide: www.PeterTatchellFoundation.org His personal biography can be viewed here: www.petertatchell.net/biography.htm

This article first appeared in the 10 January 2005 issue of the New Statesman, The other tsunami