*A warning to readers: this is a long, speculative short story. Cup of tea and a chocolate digestive recommended.
Lars Wentworth III was a right wing Tea Party supporting billionaire who thought that President Obama was a communist. Throughout his life, most of which was spent as America’s ninth richest man, he had funded right wing candidates who held such extreme positions that many of them would have been arrested had they opened their big yaps in Europe, or Canada or any of those countries where not letting poor people die from illness was not regarded as proof of Marxism.
However, acute observers of Wentworth would have noticed one surprising factor about the candidates that the billionaire generously funded. They all kept quiet on gay issues.
The reason was simple. In his sixtieth year Wentworth had finally accepted something that he had always known but had never accepted. Lars Wentworth III was gay, and after he reached that point in a man’s life where he just doesn’t give a damn about what other people think about him, and finally embraced his homosexuality (and a series of young and buff personal assistants and trainers) Wentworth sat down to draft his will.
As with many men of his wealth, material property came to matter little late in his life, with him instead pondering the question of his legacy. What would be left after he had gone? people say of him after he had departed? Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! And all that.
The answer he found on CNN, with a report of the murder of gay Ugandans by Christian fanatics. For the first time in years, his natural cynicism was replaced by anger, then by the long thought lost feeling of excitement at having found something that stirred him.
He instructed his staff to prepare a briefing for him on the oppression of gays and lesbians across the world. From Russia to Africa to the Islamic world, gays were being oppressed, beaten and murdered. Sure, the West treated them better, at least, North of the Mason-Dixon line anyway, but the fact was that there were millions of gays and lesbians being mistreated, far too many for politicians to allow into the US or Europe. Wentworth, through a mixture of massive ego and just a drop of compassion, decided to act.
What gays needed, Wentworth said to his startled aides, was their own country, and that was going to be his legacy.
He assembled, in that way that only a billionaire can do, experts in nation building and international law and economists and former politicians. Their initial reaction was that he was mad. You can’t just wander around the world creating countries, a former British foreign secretary told him. Not anymore, at least.
But a personal fortune just shy of €80 billion says different, and his well-remunerated team knuckled down and focussed on the set task.
It turned out that a vast and empty tract of the African west coast could be leased for 1000 years for the right price, and that a de facto gay colony could be established.
The word “colony” had caused difficulties for the team, of course, but that was the reality. But would it be economically viable, Wentworth asked? He was damned if he was going to found some socialist state.
There were no natural resources, the team reported. However, with proper investment and planning, the colony could grow enough food to sustain itself. The key was tourism and as a retirement destination, becoming the number one gay holiday destination in the world.
However, the team warned. If the purpose of this place is to provide refuge for gays fleeing oppression, how does that tie in with keeping it attractive? Who wants to holiday in a refugee camp?
Wentworth dismissed the problem with a wave of the hand. He wasn’t interested, he said, in creating a paradise for refugees. All they would be guaranteed would be freedom to be gay, and access. Feeding and clothing themselves was their own problem.
A legal agreement was quickly arrived at with a small and impoverished African state delighted to be able to flog off a huge tract of coastal real estate. The colony, now called Wentworthia, was built with a mixture of Wentworth’s private wealth and investor funds who saw an opportunity from the retirement and tourism angle. A private healthcare provider believed it saw an opportunity in the pink dollars from aging gay couples, as did a large retail mall developer.
The announcement of the colony was met with a mixed response in the media and from governments. The Russian President announced that he would instruct the Russian Air Force to provide a free ONE WAY flight to any gays who wished to move to Wentworthia.
Al Quaeda announced that Wentworthia would be destroyed.
The Iranian Ayatollah issued a fatwa.
Israel caused ructions in liberal-left circles by wholeheartedly endorsing the new state, offering to exchange ambassadors and to help train security forces.
The West cautiously welcomed the concept, sort of hoping that it was just one man’s ego and wallet in action, and one or the other would burn out.
Throughout the building phase, African gay refugees started making their way to Wentworthia, where they found work on the various building sites and in the developing businesses.
Lars Wentworth III died just as stage one was complete, essentially providing the infrastructure for a town of 100,000 people. As per his will, most of his wealth was transferred to a handpicked Provisional Government of Wentworthia, pending elections to choose a parliament within two years of the population exceeding 50,000 people.
The provisional government, led by a former Danish finance minister and a cabinet of former government officials from the US and Europe, worked diligently to attract the private investment needed to generate an income for the new country, and the state’s new Department of External Affairs announced that it was inundated with requests for information from across the world.
When the Acting First Minister presented his first State of the Nation report 12 months later, the news was mixed but positive. Including specialists hired to operate everything from power to water treatment plants, the population had reached 55,000, including 20,000 refugees from Russia and the rest of Africa. Most of the population, it had to be said, were relatively wealthy retirees from the West, and large numbers of jobs were available for refugees providing services to the retirees. It did, however, lead to comment in the global media about the vaguely colonial flavour of the situation, with wealthy gay and lesbian couples living a lifestyle, complete with servants, that would be almost unaffordable in Europe or the US.
The provisional government, in accordance with its contract, moved to prepare to hand the country over to a democratically elected parliament. The government decided to offer themselves for election as the Continuity Party. This provided an interesting choice, as the other main parties were all ethnically based, centred around the various national and tribal communities that were taking root in the country. A small socialist party, made up of wealthy Europeans and very poor refugees, also contested the polls.
The electoral system, borrowed from Australia, required voters to rank candidates in order of preference, which meant that most voters lower preferences ended up back with the Devil You Know choice of Continuity, who won a clear majority of seats in Parliament.
The new government faced new challenges. On the plus side, the country continued to develop economically, with large numbers of people continuing to immigrate. Refugee numbers continued to rise, reaching a point where the unemployment level began to turn upwards. This led to heated debates in Parliament and in the Wentworthian media, as Continuity had been elected, primarily on the votes of retirees, as a low tax economically conservative party. The socialists and ethnic parties demanded the creation of an income tax to fund a welfare system, a proposal which was vehemently opposed by the retirees. Instead, Continuity increased the National Security budget to provide for more policing of refugee areas.
With the support of the European Union and the United States, Wentworthia was accepted into the United Nations, despite the protests of most Muslim and African countries. Within Wentworthia, however, further divisions continued to emerge. With refugees continuing to arrive, unemployment and poverty began to grow amongst the low income groups in the state, causing the government to suggest the possibility that Wentworthia should change its absolute right to refuge. The proposal caused turmoil in the political system, with even some Continuity MPs objecting to the changing of a fundamental founding principle of the state.
“This is either a retirement home for the wealthy, or it’s a country. It can’t be both,” one Socialist MP observed.
A number of MPs started raising the quietly ignored up-to-that-point that a majority of the Continuity cabinet, having originally been hired by Lars Wentworth III, weren’t even gay. Charges of hetero-phobia were levelled in Parliament, especially when a number of MPs announced they were forming the Wentworthia First Party, committed to ensuring that straights “knew their place”.
The second general election in the country saw Continuity very narrowly defeated, with a coalition of ethnic parties, Socialists and WFP MPs forming the government. The new government found, however, that although it held a majority of seats, it agreed about nothing. The ethnic and Socialists wanted to introduce taxes to fund a welfare state, whereas the WFP wanted to limit the rights of straights living in Wenthworthia.
Then the Gay Pride attack happened. On a warm August weekend, as Wentworth Square bustled with cheering crowds celebrating Gay Pride Day, a number of huge explosions along the parade route killed over 400 hundred people.
On the same day, an armed group, later identified as Saudi refugees, carried out an attack on WF party headquarters, killing 9 party workers and volunteers before being overwhelmed by armed police.
The Gay Pride attacks sent support for the WFP soaring. Continuity, which was strong on security issues and fortunate not to be in power when the attacks occurred, initially held its support. Socialist Party activists, pleading for tolerance for straights and pointing out that not all straights were terrorists, were jostled in the streets.
Then the WFP started a campaign calling for straights to be registered, declaring that whilst all straights may not be terrorists, all terrorists were straight. The WFP then withdrew support from the government, and a snap general election was called.
It was the nastiest election campaign yet. An angry mob chanting “Heteros out!” stormed a Continuity meeting, beating up their straight candidate and a number of her gay campaign workers, whom they labelled traitors. The WFP denied any involvement, and condemned the attack in all the right media outlets, but the link was clear. The WFP was not openly hetero-phobic, but it was the party hetero-phobes voted for.
The ethnic and Socialist parties won a handful of seats between them, and Continuity slipped to second place, with a clear anti-straight swing in seats held by straight MPs depriving many of seats. The WFP won a clear majority.
The new government moved quickly. Heterosexuals would have to register, temporarily, the government said, for the duration of the emergency. A new Department of Heterosexual Affairs was to be created, with a mandate to create a standardised psychological test to determine the sexual preference of an individual.
When the DHA announced that it was to conduct a survey to see how what percentage of straights held jobs compared to their share of the population, Continuity MPs objected strongly to profiling on sexual orientation grounds, but the government was clear. If Wentworthia was to be a gay state, it had a right to protect its ethos. In the spirit of that pursuit, the First Minister said, the government would now start profiling all refugees to ensure that they were in fact gay, not just claiming to be. He also pointed out that such a test would allow the security forces to root out homophobic religious extremists, such as those who carried out the Gay Pride attacks.
Polls showed that the country was dividing sharply on the matter. Older citizens from Europe and the US tended to be quite liberal on the issue, and regarded identifying people by their sexual orientation as an outrage. But younger citizens, perhaps bitter from their harsher experiences in the rest of Africa, Russia, and the Middle East, were much more hard-line. As well as that, they tended to be poorer, and objected to straights taking jobs they felt they were entitled to.
After all, this was a gay country for gay people, right?
The international media, especially the liberal media, didn’t know what way to look. They had initially welcomed the new state, with many liberals in Europe, Canada and Democratic states in the US buying Wentworth Treasury Bonds which funded the fledgling state’s development. But now, here it was adopting shocking authoritarian tactics against a minority. Some on the left couldn’t bring themselves to condemn the government’s action, with a small extremist faction in liberal and gay communities suggesting that straights had no business being in the country anyway, and should “go home”.
When the DHA reported that straights, despite being only 3% of the population, held 48% of jobs in middle and upper ranking positions in the civil service and state utilities, there was a furious row in Parliament. One Continuity MP was knocked unconscious by members of Young Wentworthia, the angry youth section of the WFP who staged a mass protest on the day of the report’s publication.
When the First Minister announced that government jobs would be filled by sexual orientation, according to population share, a fistfight broke out on the floor of the chamber. A further proposal by an influential WFP backbencher that straights should have to pay a higher tax rate to “compensate” the community for the negative effect their sexuality had on the national culture was only narrowly defeated in the WFP parliamentary party.
Within months, the straight population had dropped by two thirds. It was only stopped from dropping further after the direct intervention of the First Minister to prevent key technical jobs being left unfilled until a suitable gay candidate could be found. The small number of openly straight-friendly businesses found themselves subject to attack by YW extremists, with religious buildings also coming under regular vandal and arson attacks. The justice minister, whilst condemning the attacks, nevertheless called their presence “provocative”.
Immigration into the country from the West, since the coming to power of the WFP, had dropped sharply. Negative coverage in the US and European media was transforming the nation into a perceived apartheid state, with even some gay and lesbian organisations beginning to debate calling for sanctions. The participation of the first Wentworthian team in the Olympics was marred by boos from both the traditional homophobic nations but also normally supportive and tolerant European nations. A Dutch gold medallist who revealed a “Straights are people too” tee-shirt got into a fist fight live on television with a Wentworthian Olympian. Another Wentworthian contestant, who dared paint her nails in the pink and yellow colours of the Wentworthian Straight Rights Movement was dismissed from the national team on the orders of the outraged sports minister.
It also left the government in a quandary, without the necessary influx of highly skilled workers needed for a new country without its own educational system. On top of that, young, unskilled refugees continued to arrive, skewing the political demographic away from the original intent of a gay friendly libertarian state towards one where a majority of its citizens were now demanding increased services from the state, and as a result, higher taxation. This in turn began to irritate the wealthy older Americans and Europeans who had moved to Wentworthia for the original vision, and now looked to move back to their respective countries.
The WFP, with a general election approaching and the economy deteriorating sharply, found itself in a political pincer. Its core vote was now openly anti-straight, and demanding a No Straights immigration policy. But that very policy was damaging the country economically, in terms of skills but also tourism. The Continuity Party, with a lesbian leader and pledging to reverse the vast majority of the WFP’s policies, was now even in the polls with the WFP.
The First Minister decided that the best chance of the WFP winning was to mobilise his hard core base. He announced that on polling day there would also be a referendum, to ban intersex marriage, require that non-homosexual relationships would not be taught in the schools, and that a small multi-denominational religious centre proposed for near the site of the Gay Pride attacks be banned from being built.
He then dissolved Parliament, and called an election.
Later that day, the WFP press office released a statement calling on the leader of the Continuity Party to reveal whether she had ever been in a heterosexual relationship.