Last month the Church of England Newspaper called me a Nazi. I thought, as my eyelids splayed in disbelief, that the oceanic depths to which homophobic rhetoric was prepared to sink could not be lowered. Perhaps, I reasoned, they would reacquaint themselves with rational thought and retract the article. I was wrong.
Colin Blakely, the editor of the newspaper, defended the columnist who likened me to the Gestapo. "[Alan Craig] has got views that are pertinent on this issue," said Blakely, referring to the thrust of the thesis: gay rights activists are behaving like those who slaughtered 7 million Jews. The writer, who is also the leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance -- a political party -- stood firm. His self-defense comprised what he thought was an important distinction: "I've nothing against ordinary gay people but the leadership, well I stick by my word Gaystapo. It is bullying."
Ah, yes, the leadership. In his column he urged his Anglican readership to "rise up" and "forcefully confront" the "leaders" of the gay rights movement. Because, he argued, they behave like the Gestapo. And because he is a writer, he decided to invent a nifty portmanteau: Gaystapo. Thus, any bigot who is dissatisfied with the Aladdin's cave of existing homophobic epithets now has a new one!
It is, of course, tempting to laugh at such an article, so unhinged, so ludicrously offensive is it. Clearly the relationship between the author and reality is most charitably described as on/off. After all, we must ask, how many gay rights activists have committed ethnic cleansing?
But it is partly the prolonged nature of such an attack that must alert and alarm us. His Nazi simile was not a comparison en passant. This was a detailed analogy. Gay marriage, he wrote, "could be the invasion of Poland. The catalyst for war."
He continued: "The UK's victorious Gaystapo are now on a roll. Their gay-rights storm troopers take no prisoners as they annex our wider culture." Here, he detailed a range of recent cases where gay people have stood up for their rights, one of which was my landmark case against a conversion therapist. After going undercover to investigate therapists who attempt to "cure" gay clients, the therapist who "treated" me was found guilty of professional malpratice. But, says Craig, she, along with all the other homophobes, have found themselves "crushed under the pink jack boot."
And on he goes: "The gay Wehrmacht is on its long march through the institutions..."
And on: "[The Gaystapo] want to change our language, manipulate our culture and thereby impose their world-view on us all. Cultural domination is their aim and fascist-type intolerance of politically-incorrect dissent is their weapon."
As much of an extremist as Craig might sound, shrieking from a one-man raft on the river Styx, his is not a vox sola. His hate speech, endorsed by a national British newspaper, is the nadir of a recent narrative so persistent and viciously homophobic as to constitute a recognizable, sizeable backlash against gay rights.
Americans may think Britain has rid herself of such voices. Many peer over the pond to see us enjoying civil partnerships, adoption rights, employment protection and a slew of other equality measures and think that there must be a pink Waterloo sunset forever glowing over the U.K. There is not.
You may have a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination describing the discussion of homosexuality in schools as "child abuse." But we have a bulldog, right-wing press and a hefty Christian lobby routinely spraying Britons with anti-gay spittle.
The totem of this backlash is Melanie Phillips, a columnist for the Daily Mail, Britain's second most-read newspaper. She describes those who, like me, campaign for the protection of gay people as "bullies," as "totalitarian" and as "McCarthyites." When we dare to suggest that perhaps homosexuality should be discussed in schools, to help combat bullying, she opines that we are guilty of "bigotry in reverse."
When a gay couple took the owners of a hotel to court for turning them away (it wasn't that there was no room at the inn), Phillips referred to them -- and all those who uphold our existing equality laws -- as the "gay inquisition." Perhaps she is unaware -- as perhaps Alan Craig is -- of the irony of her allusion. The Spanish inquisition burned gay men at the stake. The Nazis sent thousands of gays to the gas chambers.
Others have waded in supporting those who advocate the death penalty for gay people. Stephen Green, the leader of Christian Voice, a pressure group, defended David Bahati, the Ugandan MP who is trying to introduce a death penalty for homosexuality, thus: "Bahati was trying to protect his nation's children from predatory western homosexuals."
Elsewhere in Britain, we have seen a rise in homophobic hate crime. In London's West End -- arguably the most liberal area of the country -- gay bashings increased by 20.9 percent last year.
So it is against this backdrop of drip-dripping, face-slashing prejudice that I suggest we do not simply laugh at paranoid rants like Alan Craig's. His might be the most extended and unhinged metaphor to ever disgrace a newspaper column, but delusion is no reason to disregard. Indeed, we do so at our peril.
Remember when you were in high school and you pretended not to hear the word "queer" shouted at you by the bullies? Did it work? Did it protect your face from the punch that followed?