Simon Williamson: Free speech – great if you can get it

This knee-jerk reaction to crowds of millennials throwing racist, doxing, white supremacists off college campuses has me less alarmed about free speech than about the liberal intelligentsia that spends more time on false equivalency than actually giving a shit.

The students of Middlebury College who turfed Charles Murray from their campus two weeks ago did not wreck free speech. Their contribution to stifling debate is so miniscule in relation to the ability of Charles Murray to spread his nonsense that I find it hard to care.

Because free speech in America is much deader than is often made out to be. For hundreds of years Americans have refused to allow LGBT+ people into any sort of classroom. You can count the number of states that have formally adopted LGBT history as part of their school curriculum with the number of fingers it takes to tell another driver to fuck off. We have been completely blanked out of American history, and even when someone tried to make a movie out of it, they told it worse than Southern states explain sex ed.

So many American parents have worked to try to make sure their children never see LGBT+ people on TV or in real life. American news networks gloss over the number of murders of black trans women, and how trans immigrants are put into the wrong prisons, and the suicide and homelessness rates among LGBT+ people, particularly high for trans folks.

We might think of these as common tropes to throw around now, but not even a decade ago we were restricted from being allowed to resemble a straight family by being able to do our taxes together – forbidden from respectability politics. Forbidden from classrooms.

Forbidden from Boy Scouts. Forbidden from being on TV, and then when that fell down, forbidden from being able to behave like an actual LGBT person on TV. LGBT+ people were written out of American life totally, until a brief period between some pleasant Supreme Court decisions and the election of Mike Pence to the second highest office in the land, making him the most powerful homophobe out there.

The media didn’t help. Our forbears were forced to create their own media because the mainstream wrote us out, or they peddled myths without us ever being able to reply. Conservatives whine about liberal bubbles now; it wasn’t that long ago that virtually the entire nation was swimming in its own world, free of the inconveniences of gays, lesbians, bi folks and transgender people, or those who don’t subscribe to the binary. It took hundreds of people protesting and pretending to be dead multiple times to wake America up into acknowledging an AIDS crisis because it was simply censored from public knowledge.

More contemporarily, the nuances of LGBT+ life are being simplified for general consumption. Milo Yiannopoulos may have no conscience, but he did talk about a realistic part of being a young gay man for a section of our people. There are some gay men who marry women and live fulfilling lives. There are a lot of straight men who have fucked men. There are many people who can be at different places on a straight to gay spectrum. We censor this because it’s a shitload easier to win a “love is love” (or whatever gnomish hashtag either of the HRCs has drawn up) argument with the general population when conversations don’t get difficult.

Free speech is good. I support it strongly. But I’m not sorry to not care that a few transphobes and racists can’t speak on college campuses when we have been denied platforms for hundreds of years, and they get them all the time.

It’s amazing how “fairness” becomes important to people when those who have been denied rights suddenly get some. What is it they say about how equality feels to the privileged?