by Gareth Roberts
Friday, 13
August 2021
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11:06

The BBC erases homosexuality with the stroke of a pen

Updated guidelines on gender and sex deny the reality of biological sex
by Gareth Roberts
The Tories’ guilt about section 28 is leading them to ignore something far more homophobic

There is a curious entry in the BBC News in-house style guide, updated last November but picked up this week by Steerpike. Our beloved national broadcaster has managed to do what Margaret Thatcher never attempted, or even dreamed of— to erase homosexuality at the stroke of a pen. 

Under the heading ‘gender/sex’ — which is telling even before you go any further — the BBC tells its staff that ‘Homosexual means people of either sex who are attracted to people of their own gender’. This is a bizarre, meaningless sentence. It begins by acknowledging the basic reality of biological sex and ends by denying it. You could replace ‘gender’ at the end of that sentence with raspberry, hippopotamus or jabberwocky and it would make the same amount of sense. 

An unfortunate linguistic quirk of English is that sex and gender are often used interchangeably — think how often we hear about the ‘gender pay gap’. This is presumably to avoid confusion between the meaning of sex as biological classifier and as an abbreviation for sexual intercourse; the ‘sex pay gap’ conjures up a quite different mental image. 

This makes it easier to swap the two words on the quiet, even though they refer to distinct things. But homosexuality describes people attracted to people of their own sex. The word is not ‘homogenderal’. 

The elision of sex and gender in this new BBC-approved definition is however quite deliberate, and echoes uncannily the recent words of the now-egregious charity Stonewall on the subject. In this, it openly contradicts section 12 of the 2010 Equality Act which explicitly defines the protected characteristic of sexual orientation as ‘towards persons of the same, opposite, or either’ sex. The magic word gender doesn’t appear there at all. 

Let’s have a think about what this means. If a straight man falls in love with a woman who claims to be a man, hey presto — he is now a homosexual. 

The guide goes on to say that the word homosexual ‘can be considered offensive in other contexts because of past associations with illegal behaviour and mental illness’.

Really? Offensive to whom, exactly? Who finds this neutral descriptor of observable reality offensive?

A few lines down we are told that ‘Gender identity has come to mean how people feel or present themselves’. Oh. Has it? When did this mysterious ‘coming to mean’ happen? Was there a special convocation? Who decided it?

If sex is swapped for ‘gender’ — a costume decided by the individual — then desire becomes merely a paraphilia for outfits, not an orientation for sexed human beings. This is a way of trying to reframe sexual desire to break down people’s (mostly women’s) rights and boundaries. It is deeply unpleasant and creepy.  

Shaming people for being attracted exclusively to their own sex is factory settings, baseline, original recipe homophobia. And this is a textbook example of the new homophobia baby-stepping its way through the institutions, slipping its way through the little gaps in language and the gaping holes in democratic accountability. 

In a sane world with an actual conservative government in power, this could all be put right in an afternoon. They would give a clear, unequivocal reminder that in law it is sex that counts, not nebulous gender, and for institutions that replace it and misrepresent that law to face swift and appropriate legal sanction.

It’s ironic that the Tories’ guilt about section 28, and terror of the increasingly deluded ‘LGBTQ+’ lobby, is leading them to ignore something far, far worse and far more blatantly homophobic. Yes, the Tories once passed a law banning the promotion of homosexuality, but at least that law acknowledged that homosexuality existed.  

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Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago

Excellent, well reasoned article. A further observation: when you correctly question the authority assumed for making these linguistic shifts – “Oh. Has it?” – you touch on important issues of influence and democracy. Linguistic convention cannot and should not be changed by a self-appointed few in defiance of the habits and doubts of the majority; nor should it be changed in defiance of established methods of defining the real. The fact that a self-appointed few are imposing such changes, and that they do defy reality is a sign of how deeply estranged the rulers are from the ruled; and of how those same rulers have been corrupted by authoritarian relativism. However, contemporary “liberals” are not entirely free from blame, for they began the process whereby ethical change was accelerated by the elite manipulation of manners and law. As an example of this “acceleration”, take the issue of marriage. Most people, even the most conservative, had – by the the early years of this century – accepted the notion of civil partnerships. When “equal marriage” was brought in, many were discomforted – but already they dared not say so. Lord Moore has written in an article, published some years ago now, that were he a young journalist he would have thought twice before raising objections to “equal marriage”. The lazy appeal of manipulation trumped argument among triumphant “liberals” some twenty years ago – and cancel culture is the resulting, poisonous fruit.

Hugh Oxford
Hugh Oxford
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I honestly think the end game is just dadaism, to make language meaningless. It’s ultimately spiritual warfare: destruction and nihilism.

Lee Jones
Lee Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Oxford

Indeed, if you don’t understand the language you can be dismissed as a fool, an old game, still played, often works, sadly.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Oxford

With respect, I believe the goal is the exact opposite – to use language to police acceptable thoughts and behaviour.
Witness the adjective: progressive, which almost all media uses to label even deeply regressive movements (XR, BLM, defund the police, etc.)
Cultural Hegemony.

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago

Indeed.
As I was saying in the Spectator, in Sabrina the teenage witch, there is the Theo (formerly Susie) character who as a bed sharing relationship with a man (only it was I think a goblin in the shape of a man… Maybe that will make a difference).
So, it is never discussed that Theo will have female parts when the relationship starts, but they do share a bed, so I wonder whether he got what he bargained for once they got into bed…
So is the boyfriend gay? It would seem so.

If you are male and are in a relationship with a transvestite, they you are heterosexual. But if your partner is a woman with short hair a probably butch (can I use this word), then you are gay again? The mind boggles …

I suspect the next target of Stonewall’s diversity training will be renaming electrical and plumbing connectors.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrea X
Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Enjoyed your comment. Still don’t get funny looks when asking for a Siamese connection, though!.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

The trans activists are at odds with women’s rights and gay rights. Some of them understand this and continue nonetheless, but a huge percentage I’m fairly sure simply do not understand the nuances and the hypocrisy.

Charles Lewis
Charles Lewis
1 year ago

What a clear, sane and powerful commentary! The trans activists are either insane or evil, or both — in so many ways.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
1 year ago

English is such a wonderfully rich language that you can argue that black is white and up is down if you have the linguistic facility. I’ve often wondered, for instance, what would be the reaction if you changed “sex education” classes for school children to “sex training” classes. On a point of historical interest, by the way, the “H” word was originally German, coined by the Austrian journalist Karl-Maria Kertbeny. It came into English in the early 1900s, at the time of the Eulenburg Scandal in Germany. Before that, the word generally used in English was, in it’s etymology, derived from a well known Biblical city, and I’m unsure if actually writing it would invoke the wrath of the algorithm.
The interesting thing about the traditional English term is that it implied an act, not a state of being. One could not be an S unless one actually practiced the forms, and if one desisted, one was no longer an S. Kertbeny’s genius, however, was to simultaneously coin the cognate term, also beginning with H, for a person of regular sexuality. The use of both terms together created an unconscious acceptance that same sex attraction was what we would today call an identity, whereas the previous English usage did not. It’s classic Orwellian use of language, before Orwell was even born.

Last edited 1 year ago by Francis MacGabhann
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
1 year ago

Another meaningless mangling of language: cis sexism. This is used by activists of heterosexuals who are de facto sexist as whites are de facto racist. The problem is that the activists deny the reality of sex. Someone needs to tell them it’s cis genderism…

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
1 year ago

The conflation of sex and gender is causing a lot of trouble, for sure. Not least because it has killed off an old (and bad) joke: once upon a time, official forms used to have an entry for “sex: M/F”, to which wags would respond “once or twice a week, please”. Now try to do that with “gender: M/F”. Who wants to have gender once or twice a week?

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 year ago

… the new homophobia baby-stepping its way through the institutions, slipping its way through the little gaps in language and the gaping holes in democratic accountability. In a sane world with an actual conservative government in power, this could all be put right in an afternoon. 
Excellent set of observations regarding the abuse of language, democratic process and the lack of government intervention.
There is the interesting phenomenon of a legal fiction when a GRC is created. Thus, a person will be treated in law as something that they are not in reality (i.e. they will be treated as a member of the sex that is not their biological sex).[Prof Rosa Freedman]. That is, they will be treated in the domain of law as a person of the sex that is not their biological sex.
I did wonder whether this concept of a legal fiction, in this instant, is being misunderstood or misused due to it not being viewed as a tool within the domain of law, but as an ideological principle such that being treated as a member of the sex that is not their biological sex is, in effect, being understood as treated as a member of a gender that does not cohere with their biological sex, and this is then inappropriately applied outside of the domain of law.

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
1 year ago

Thank you for spelling this out Gareth!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

Excellent argument, including the fact that the Tory government under our hapless semi-woke PM is absolutely useless on this issue. Less using ‘anti-woke’ to prosecute minor political wins over Labour, and more actual principled protection of women, gay men and anyone else harmed by this irrational, frankly evil, claptrap. Prosecute those breaking the law, including in the BBC.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Stephen Portlock
Stephen Portlock
1 year ago

Yep. interesting article though obviously there are times when gender does matter. It’s all about recognising what relates to gender and what relates to sex and the complete mess we’ve got into when failing to stand up to excesses from the Woke lobby.

It reminds me of my confusion over the word Black. To be clear, how should we write this line by Michael Jackson:

“You can be my brother it don’t matter if you’re Black or white”

Michael is entitled to his opinion but the capital B flat out contradicts his message – and, to me, silencing Michael’s message is a perfect example of racism.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
1 year ago

The capitalisation of Black is meant to signify someone who is politically black. That is, a black person with a ‘raised consciousness’ in accordance with Critical Theory. It’s this idea behind Wokists saying Kanye West isn’t Black!

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
1 year ago

The title of the song is “Black or White”. I’d like to see evidence Jackson actually capitalised the ‘B’ within the lyrics – this is a fairly recent phenomenon.

Julia H
Julia H
1 year ago

Interesting article and I agree with it, mostly. However…

If ‘Homosexual means people of either sex who are attracted to people of their own gender’ and we know that in this case, to be true, the statement can ONLY mean that gender is synonymous with biological sex, then the BBC, in making this statement, is acknowledging that gender is NOT a matter of self-identification (or the statement can’t be true) and furthermore there can be no such thing as a non-binary gender (gender is literally and almost uniquely a binary choice). Personally I’m quite happy to use gender synonymously with biological sex, but only on condition that everything that follows from that is applied consistently i.e. that the notion that gender can be a matter of choice is completely abandoned.

John McGibbon
John McGibbon
1 year ago

When I read the headline, my first thought was “Looks like there will be no non-BAME male presenters on the Beeb now”

Last edited 1 year ago by John McGibbon
sarah rutherford
sarah rutherford
1 year ago

Excellent piece

Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
1 year ago

Amusingly, this still amounts to “the vice that dare not speak its name” .

Hugh Oxford
Hugh Oxford
1 year ago

There’s a problem with lies, they usually get found out in the end. The big lie of the sexual revolution will be exposed in time, but the lie of “gender” is being exposed now. The attempt to replace biological sex with “gender” falls apart at moments like these.
This subtle attempt to manipulate the language has been quite successful until now: lots of perfectly decent people unsuspectingly use “gender” in the place of sex, thinking they are being polite, not realising they are being manipulated in a very profound way.
In this instance, the lie of “gender” is exposed.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
1 year ago

Gramsci would be proud of auntie.