A chat with a Proper Lad inspires a rant (and very few jokes). Micro-aggressions, weather control and some names we shouldn't forget.
One of the lads at work is a proper lad, in the ladsladslads sort of way. He’s quite young, and only just moved to London from the country somewhere, so he’s being exposed to lots of new things and concepts that he’s not known before. He’d never even seen Big Ben until we went past it the other day. He acted like he didn’t care, but I saw him taking a selfie in front of it when he thought no-one was looking.
Anyway. He asked me the other day, “Scott, does it annoy you when people (He means him. I’m fairly certain no-one over the age of 12 does this anymore) Does it annoy you when people say “That’s gay” when they’re talking about something being bad?” And so I explained to him that, yes, it does, as when you do that, you’re saying that being gay is a bad thing, when it’s not bad at all. It can be quite fun at times, in fact. I was really polite and gentle with my explaining, as he’s a good lad, and I respect the fact that he asks about these kinds of thing, because he’s using it as an opportunity to learn about something he doesn’t really know about.
“Oh yeah. Never fort of it like that…” he said, and then went on to ask me if I’d heard of rimming, because someone had told him about that and there was no way that could be real.
To be honest, I really like it when he asks these sorts of questions, as it’s strokes my know-it-all ego, and it’s a chance to do a little good and help undo a little of the homophobia that’s still floating around. “Ah Scott,” you could say, “That’s hardly homophobic, and besides, gays have equal marriage now, so homophobia isn’t really a thing any more.” to which I would reply “How the fuck did you get into my house, random stranger? Also, you’re dangerously wrong in two different ways there, so shut your noise hole, sit the fuck down and I’ll explain while we wait for the police to arrive.”
Y’see, using ‘that’s gay’ to mean ‘that’s bad’ says that you think being gay is a bad thing. Or someone saying “You don’t act gay” (Which is kinda funny, cuz I’ve had sex with a lot of guys, and I’m pretty sure that’s the only gay act there is…), or “Oh, you’re gay? We should go shopping!” (What? Why? I hate shopping. I buy all my clothes online. That way I can try them on at home, decide which I like the look of and send the rest back. Much like I do with men on Grindr.)
The point is that all of these tiny things, these micro-aggressions, push this idea that there’s a certain way to look and act and dress to be gay or queer or any other way, and that we’re Different, because we’re gay. We’re Not Like You. And that’s the basis of homophobia in general, so yeah. They’re small, but they exist and they are symptoms of a bigger issue.
Think of it like this - humans are pack animals. We’ve evolved and survived because we stick together in tribes and groups of different sizes and definitions, but on a very basic level, we separate everyone into two groups - Us and Them. The Us is the trusted, accepted, loved group - they’re our family, our friends, the ones who we look after and who look after us. The Them is everyone else. The other tribes that might threaten us. They are to be feared, kept away from, distrusted and kept separate. These microaggressions help to keep that line. Queer people are different. They act in certain ways, they think and do things differently. They are different, they are Not Like Us, and should be feared, kept away. That’s a really basic version, but I’m not that clever, so you’ll have to ask someone who knows these things to tell you more. But the thing is, the more queer people hear these things, the more we feel pushed out, or made to be the ‘other’. And that leads to higher instances of depression among LGBT people, and that’s pretty dangerous. It’s not a coincidence that the suicide rate is 4 times higher for LGBT people under the age of 24 than straight people of the same age.
Christ. I was trying to keep this light and silly. Yeah, that’s… That’s not where this is going. Still, here we are.
And as for homophobia not being a thing any more… Buckle up, buttercup.
Honestly, I’m not even sure where to start on that one.
How about Ian Baynham, who was kicked to death in 2010. In Trafalgar Square. Not some tiny inbred country town but literally in the centre of London. Ah, but that was years ago, Scott… You might interject. Oh, chewed your way through that gag, did you, random listener? Ok then, how about Carl Johnson? In August of this year he moved to Rochdale in Manchester. Didn’t know anyone in the area, went out to a bar to make new friends and got the shit kicked out of him for his trouble. Imagine being in a strange city alone, with no friends, and then when you try to meet new people you end up near death.
These aren’t isolated incidents. They’re just the ones I can remember. There are so many others.
One of the ones that’s really stuck with me recently was Dexter Pottinger. He was a gay activist living in Jamaica, which is a particularly homophobic country. He was named the ‘Face of Jamaican Pride’ last year, and a few weeks ago, he was stabbed to death in his home. Multiple stab wounds and blood everywhere. And y’know, if I’d been at the gin a bit hard and was feeling particularly cynical, I’d say “Well, that’s what you get for being defiantly out and proud in a place where people aren’t keen on such things” and then I would feel incredibly bad that that thought even crossed my mind, and so should you if you found yourself agreeing with it. Anyway.
The thing about Dexter Pottinger’s murder that really stuck with me was a phrase in the article reporting it: “Neighbours reported hearing screams in the early hours of Wednesday morning, but did not tell police.” His neighbours were woken by the desperate screams of a man being stabbed to death and they did nothing. I can’t get my mind around that. Honestly, that sentence has been floating around in my head for days now. Imagine being the sort of person who doesn’t see a problem with that. There’s the old saying about evil flourishing when good people do nothing, but I don’t think that applies here. Because if you hear a man screaming as he’s stabbed to death and you do nothing, you are not a good person. I don’t care if you go to church every weekend, or how much money you give to charity, or if you recycle, doing nothing in situations like this is as bad as if you were holding the knife yourself. Worse, in fact. At least the killer stands a chance of being punished for what he did.
Or how about one of those godawful ‘pundit’ types in the US who declared that it seemed more credible that the storms and devastation in the US were due to a Lesbian mayor than climate change. Bitch, please. If homosexuals had anything to do with bad weather, you’d have been hit by a farmhouse years ago. Which, to be honest, would explain your face.
I was reading the other day about the postal survey in Australia to see how people felt about allowing same-sex marriage over there. It’s not legally binding or anyhting, so it seems like a huge waste of time, but the anti-same sex marriage brigade have really been frothing about it. Recently there was a leaflet sent to some 6 million people equating marriage to a seatbelt, how only one man and one woman could make it work. Which is the stupidest argument ever. Even Jurassic Park had an answer to that in the 90s. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go watch it and look out for the helicopter scene where they all struggle to get strapped in. Anyway, someone in the comments had written “What if some queer kid saw this? It could be really damaging!” And to be honest, they’re probably seen and heard much worse already, but that’s not the point. We need to be showing all the queer kids this sort of thing. They need to see the idiocy, hatred and willful ignorance that’s out there. They need to see that this fight just drags on and on and it’s time to grab your big girl pants and get involved. But more than that, they need to see that they’re not alone in the fight. That there are good people out there, queer and otherwise who are supporting each other can calling this shit out on every level. Because we sure as hell can’t show them a perfect world where this sort of crap doesn’t happen, but we can say we’re working on it. And that means everyone. So if you’re not queer or trans or any of the other definitions, great. Good for you. But you don’t get to sit this one out. We who deal with this need allies, straight supporters who do their bit to stand with us and work to make things better. Because if you’re not inside pissing out, you’re outside pissing in. By which I mean, every time you hear something and don’t correct it, or read something and don’t respond because it doesn’t affect you directly, you are actively supporting the homophobes and much like the neighbours in Jamaica, you might as well be holding the knife.
Shit, I’m supposed to end this with a joke. Ok… It’s 2017 and people are still being persecuted, tortured and killed for something they can’t control and shouldn’t have to hide.