Yesterday, in the wake of the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I wrote a post on Facebook. It said:
“If every person who has shared something about the Orlando shooting made a commitment to challenging homophobic or transphobic language the next time they heard it that could make a difference. We can’t do anything about America’s gun laws, but we can do something small about the prejudice against LGBT+ people which still exists basically everywhere.”
It has had a good response, from LGBT+ and straight friends of mine alike. But writing it got me thinking; about what people, especially straight allies, understand by homophobia and about what behaviours need to be challenged.
As a gay person, I have spent my life since my teenage years, in various degrees at different times and in different environments, fearing hate, harassment, discrimination, isolation and violence. These things are so insidious that to some extent I don’t even acknowledge them anymore; it is just normal to me that I would consider my safety before telling a stranger my partner is a woman, or look around for people’s reaction when we hold hands in public in case we are in danger.
I have also spent my life being told in public spaces that “no one cares if you’re gay anymore” even though things happen every day that remind me that a lot of people do. That doesn’t mean that every day an event of the horror of Orlando happens (thankfully), but it does mean that every day myself and my LGBT+ siblings are othered and joked about, often by people who would not consider themselves homophobic. A lot of these behaviours, I believe, don’t come from the hate of individuals, but from systemic prejudice which sets up LGBT+ people as second class citizens.
When I first heard about the Orlando shootings I was sad, but as the days have gone on I have just got more and more angry: angry that someone hated us that much, yes, but also angry that the roots of that behaviour are all around us, every day, and so often we are told how things are much better now, how we are taking everything too seriously.
Well, I have had enough. It is great that so many people have come together to say that Orlando is wrong, that love is love. But to get to the root of this needs more than that; it needs all of us, especially straight allies, to stand up against homophobia. This doesn’t just mean not calling someone a slur, or telling someone that calling someone a slur is wrong. It means challenging assumptions that everyone is straight, it means asking what exactly is funny about your mate’s Facebook profile being changed to say he is interested in men, it means telling people that LGBT+ people are not here to be looked at (whether as a point of sexual interest or as a kind of ornament), it means not tolerating homophobia from anyone, even your Granny. Perhaps most importantly, it means listening to LGBT+ people when they tell you about their experiences of moving through the world – the things that make them feel less safe, the things that make them feel that they don’t belong – and responding to those things, doing the little you can to transform the world into the inclusive utopia it is so often made out to be.
I’m not saying these things are easy, they’re not. But they are vital, and they could ultimately save, and will certainly improve, the lives of LGBT+ people everywhere.
By an LGBT+ Staff Network Member
Alys Einion June 15th, 2016
Posted In: Uncategorized
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