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Published: 06 June 2014

Farage and Ukip are wrong about older people and homophobia

Dr Andrew King's article for The Conversation insists that Nigel Farage is wrong to claim that people over 70 are uncomfortable about homosexuality.

Nigel Farage was wrong to defend homophobic comments by Roger Helmer (Ukip's defeated candidate in the recent Newark by-election) with the claim that he was merely reflecting widely held views among the over 70s, according to Dr Andrew King from the Department of Sociology.

In an article for The Conversation website, Dr King observes: "Understandably, the reaction to this statement has been swift and led to some interesting interventions. Writing in the Guardian, Harry Leslie Smith argued that the majority of over-70s don’t feel this way; it is, he said, just a vocal minority who express such attitudes.

"But there is another issue at play in Farage’s comments, which might make his candidate feel very uncomfortable indeed. Put simply, a significant minority of Britain’s ageing population, including those over 70, are themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT). Yet we hear very little about this group of older adults, even from within LGBT communities.

"Older LGBT people have contributed to society throughout their lives, as have all older people – whatever their sexuality or gender identity.

"The biggest problems that older LGBT people face stem from their invisibility and others' ignorance of them. What really angered me about the Helmer and Farage’s comments was not only the idea that all people over 70 are potential homophobes, but the erasure of older LGBT people’s existence. They might make some people uncomfortable – but we cannot pretend they don’t exist."

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Dr Andrew King is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, where he carries out research on gender, sexuality and ageing, as well as qualitative methods and social theory. He teaches on the BSc Sociology, BA Media Studies and MSc Social Research Methods programmes, as well as supervising PhD candidates.

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