Prince William in Attitude: We don’t owe anyone our thanks

We don’t owe Prince William a debt of gratitude for his appearance in Attitude. Rather, we should expect more.


Ok, I get it. I understand why Attitude talking to Prince William is ‘making history’.

Of course it’s a positive thing to have any high profile figure as an LGBTQ+ ally. It’s also incredibly positive that he’s adding his voice to those highlighting mental health issues in the LGBTQ+ community. Together with the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, William leads the Heads Together charity which campaigns to end the stigma still associated with mental health. This will undoubtedly have a positive impact on many lives and it should be applauded.

But – and I’m sure that this is going to sound churlish to some but, hey – there’s something somewhat mystifying to me about all the people falling over themselves to say how grateful they are that Prince William has not only been interviewed by a gay magazine, but that he’s openly said (as its cover star) that bullying on the basis of sexuality is wrong.

Of course it’s a positive thing to have any high profile figure as an LGBTQ+ ally. It’s also incredibly positive that he’s adding his voice to those highlighting mental health issues in the LGBTQ+ community…This will undoubtedly have a positive impact on many lives and it should be applauded.

Well, first, yes of course it’s wrong and any decent person in 2016 knows that. We didn’t need Prince William to tell us that.

To those prepared to hurl charges of ‘being ungrateful’ at me, I actually turn your charge around and send it right back at you. Why should I, or you, actually be grateful for this? This is something which goes right to the heart of the LGBTQ+ psyche, and it’s largely because of how society conditions us. Let’s face it, the majority of us grow up scared of rejection at some point. It doesn’t matter if you had the most liberal and supportive parents in the world, (and by that, I mean the sort of parents where you knew that there would never be any issue whatsoever when you chose to come out), you still have to face the fear and stress of rejection or hostility.

We experience this in most of our human relationships, from the friends that we hope won’t reject us when they know about our true identity, to the need to ‘come out’ repeatedly in social situations with strangers, or new work colleagues, etc, etc. Life is actually full of the uncertainty of how new people are going to react to you for being LGBTQ+ and we get used to that, so much so that most of us will feel a palpable sense of relief and, yes, gratitude when things don’t go pear-shaped and people accept us unequivocally.

To those prepared to hurl charges of ‘being ungrateful’ at me, I actually turn your charge around and send it right back at you. Why should I, or you, actually be grateful for this? This is something which goes right to the heart of the LGBTQ+ psyche, and it’s largely because of how society conditions us.

This gratitude characterises many LGBTQ+ people. We feel grateful when can get from A to B wearing something rather queer and not have any abuse hurled at us; we feel grateful when we change jobs and our new work colleagues don’t discriminate against us; or we feel grateful to those politicians who graciously consent to support us in the struggle towards achieving LGBTQ+ equality, even going so far as to applaud their bravery for standing up against any of their colleagues who are less enlightened.

The point is, frankly, that it’s time to feel less grateful for these things and to see them as what we’re entitled to. They’re our rights and our achievements. Don’t tell me that either Labour or the Conservatives would have passed civil partnership or marriage equality legislation without the struggle that LGBTQ+ people and their allies engaged in to achieve these things. They don’t deserve gratitude for doing that, although by all means we can recognise that they did the right thing.

The reaction to Prince William appearing on the cover of Attitude magazine is another example of how society has conditioned us to be grateful for acceptance from heteronormativity. But let’s just consider this in context: surely the view that any form of bullying is wrong is something that we should just expect to hear from anybody in 2016? It’s not new, it’s not a brave view and it doesn’t deserve people falling to the floor to praise the person who’s expressed it.

The point is, frankly, that it’s time to feel less grateful for these things and to see them as what we’re entitled to.

But, I hear you cry, this comes from the future king!

Well, so what?

Being a decent person is what we should expect of people who are ‘figureheads’ in society (for want of a better expression). This is where we, as LGBTQ+ people, really need to shake ourselves out of the last century and give ourselves a talking to. We should expect people to have these views and to express them, just like we expect decent people in society not to steal or murder people. Or, if you want a less fanciful and societal comparison; we don’t congratulate people for not being sexist or racist, so why are we congratulating Prince William for showing that he’s not homophobic or transphobic?

The reaction to Prince William appearing on the cover of Attitude magazine is another example of how society has conditioned us to be grateful for acceptance from heteronormativity.

I’ve also seen many a comment saying how fabulous this is after the terrible events in Orlando. To be fair, I can understand why people would feel buoyed and supported after that, and I won’t criticise them for that if this gives them a little glimpse of something positive in light of such awful tragedy. But we should also bear in mind that William’s Attitude appearance was done and dusted long before those those terrible events – there is no connection.

Furthermore, it’s all very well talking about homophobia and transphobia in a gay magazine and preaching to the converted, but when will members of the royal family, or even the British government, take action over the discrimination of LGBTQ+ people across the Commonwealth? Do something about that, Your Royal Highnesses, and then you’ll have my attention.

This is where we, as LGBTQ+ people, really need to shake ourselves out of the last century and give ourselves a talking to. We should expect people to have these views and to express them, just like we expect decent people in society not to steal or murder people.

In short, Prince William deserves neither praise nor censure for his Attitude appearance. I can see that what he does in his charity work will benefit LGBTQ+ people but, quite frankly, I would expect that now of a leading figure in an ostensibly liberal western society in the 21st century.

As LGBTQ+ people, what we need to is to spend less time thanking people for doing what should come naturally, and more time expecting them to be decent.

We don’t owe anyone our thanks. We expect respect. We expect our equality.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter (@gaes_elskhugi)

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