There was furore over the weekend when Katie Hopkins appeared as a guest at a new event - the British LGBT Awards - in London on the same day that she was denounced by the UN for describing migrants as ‘cockroaches’, evoking the rhetoric of Nazi Germany and pre-genocide Rwanda. Holly Johnson apparently refused to sit next to her, former Stonewall chief Ben Summerskill criticised her as he accepted his lifetime achievement award, and Peter Tatchell confronted her directly. When reports of her appearance got out on Twitter, many in the LGBT community were outraged.
Hopkins tried to turn this around on us, implying we were not exerting the same equality and tolerance we demand for ourselves. On Twitter she said the event did a "fine job promoting tolerance, equality & diversity provided there's absolute consensus of opinion" – as if we’d also have to let in the local branch of the EDL if they decided they wanted a good rainbow coloured night out. Before her migrant comments, Hopkins' schtick and her performance on Celebrity Big Brother was, for some, entertaining but when she wrote in The Sun
that she wouldn't care about seeing "bodies floating in water" she crossed a disturbing line from tabloid pantomime villain into a peddler of extreme hate. There is clearly no place at an event celebrating unity and diversity for someone who says such things.
There is also something unsettling about her apparent desire to be a ‘gay icon’. By having Katie at gay events, or club nights, there's a subtle message that a bitchy woman in a shiny dress is somehow an ally, no matter how hateful they are. Let’s get this clear, once and for all: Katie Hopkins does not deserve to be called a gay icon, and the misguided, outdated idea of what constitutes one is an insult to the LGBT community.
Hopkins believes that delivering offensive vitriol while looking fabulous is enough to have gay men worshipping at her Louboutins, and that’s not on. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a classic Joan Collins bitch slap as much as the next red blooded homosexual, but that’s high camp, not base insult; which is all Hopkins has in her diamond clutch arsenal.
As a gay man, I am offended that Hopkins thinks we’re this easily bought over.
An acid tongue can be entertaining and forms part of a long gay tradition. Arguably, bitchiness was once something of a coping mechanism for gay men – spouting insults at one another to mask the pain of being outcast second-class citizens – but we’re over it. These days we’re far more comfortable in our own skin. More comfortable, it would seem, than Hopkins herself - who comes close to having a breakdown if someone actually pays her a compliment.
Gay men aren’t all shallow airheads, drawn to the nearest shiny object before hoisting it on a pedestal and getting a selfie with it. It takes a lot to become a gay icon these days (if indeed they still exist), and the efforts of veterans like Kylie and Madonna - even Hillary Clinton - are no longer safe from our ‘what have you done for me lately’ scrutiny. Being a bit evil in a nice dress no longer wins our approval.
Yes we might laugh at RuPaul’s quips to his contestants, or Eileen telling Gail where to go on Corrie, but the difference is, that’s all fiction. It’s performed. It doesn’t hurt anyone. Hopkins means what she says, and whether or not we like to admit it, she yields a social, and even political influence.
And while she has so far spared the gay community her infamous wrath, we shouldn’t feel comfortable accepting her allegiance when it flies in the face of so many other minorities, communities, and anyone else she decides she doesn’t like the look of.
Hopkins feels she can bask in the glory of our giggles and attention while elsewhere she faces unbridled condemnation. In this sense, declaring herself a gay icon is a sort of pinkwashing. Sure, she thinks fat kids should be laughed at and migrants should be dealt with by "gunships", but she likes gay people, so she must be fine by us, right? Unfortunately for her, we’re no longer that desperate for allies.
I understand some gay men share her views – I know some who do – but I know many more who do not. Such polarization means you cannot christen Hopkins a gay icon on behalf of the entire gay community. People who have met Katie Hopkins say that in person she is charming and warm, but she seems to have a pathological need to make people hate her. That's not someone we need as an ally. You might enjoy, or support her personally - but a gay icon? Not in my name.
BY BEN KELLY