Being gay is not rated R

The New Yorker talks to the (gay) developer who made it possible to have LGB romances in The Sims. They also talk about a competing Nintendo product where it was explicitly disallowed and the attitude revealed is very American:

While Barrett opposes Nintendo’s decision—a form of wounding social commentary regardless of whether the company perceives it as such or not—he understands how the situation arose. “On one hand, Nintendo is a family-friendly company with a wholesome image that they have maintained for decades,” he told me. “On the other, their products are popular with gay people.

It’s the attitude that hetero kisses are okay, but gay or lesbian ones are always unsuitable for children to see or hear about. It’s a deeply reactionary, homophobic attitude but one that’s still widespread in the States, grudgingly shuffling to at least full legal equality between straight and gay people but still rather uncomfortable with the idea of two men kissing, regardless of context. True equality can’t be reached until this idea is gone.

Identity politics

I’m a straight cis white male but it’s only relatively recently that I’ve begun to think about myself using these labels. One of the surest signs of privilege is not having to think about your identity, to be sure you’re an individual and judged like that by those around you, not having to have to construct labels to explain yourself to others.

Which is why something like “cis”, a seemingly innocent counterpart to “trans” in the context of gender identities, similar to how it’s used in frex biological chemistry or when talking about cisalpine and transalpine Gaul, has been greeted with so much venom and outrage even in supposedly liberal environments. It rubs the noses of everybody who thinks of themselves as normal and trans people as the outliers in the fact that their gender identity is just one possibily, not as matter of fact as they’d want to.

In leftwing circles there’s long been a tendency to bewail this sort of identity politics, the endless parsing of possible gender or sexual identities, the splintering of groups into finer and finer subgroups, but I more and more think this is as much a good thing as a bad. First of course, for any oppressed or invisible group getting that identity established is a way to become visible, but second, it also shows up the unnaturalness of the default assumptions about people’s identities. The more we all realise you can be homosexual, bisexual, asexual, etc, the less “normal” being heterosexual becomes.

Gee, it’s not like we were warned

Reviewing two new books on the UK involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, Robert Fox draws some conclusions as why these campaigns became the mess they were:

The campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan were planned to be short and sharp. In the end they were neither. British troops became an occupation force, fighting a difficult guerrilla war while attempting reconstruction and nation building, tasks which none expected and for which none was trained. The human terrain was tricky, impacted, tribal and clan communities where the most profitable line of business was criminality.


In both Iraq and Afghanistan the UK forces tried to do too much with too little – and the conspiracy of events and politics in Whitehall, Westminster, and at the Joint HQ at Northwood kept it that way. Given the resources available in the British defence machine, running the two campaigns at the same time should never have been attempted. Yet the Chief of the Defence Staff of the day, General Sir Michael Walker, assured the prime minister that his forces were well up to the twin tasks.

I hate to say I told you so, but: we told you so. All those unrealistic antiwar protestors, accused of defeatism and appeasement and everything else up to treason, who didn’t see the clear task the UK had in Afghanistan and Iraq? We were right. Nothing good has come of British involvement there (or any other country’s for that matter) and it has only led to a decade and a half of worsening conditions in the Middle East as a whole.

Be honest: isn’t there anybody who’d not like to trade the Middle East as it is now for how it was on September 12, 2001?