Homophobia: The Basics
Let’s cut directly to the chase; homophobia is something that gay people (both male and female) have had to deal with since the beginning of time. Whether it’s a dirty look in the street when you’re holding your partner’s hand, or a violent encounter with a less-than-accepting acquaintance – it’s here, it’s relevant, and it’s on the rise.
Now, something that I have always found scarier than homophobia itself, is the lack of awareness that it is here (and explicitly un-queer), in everyday life. So, what actually is it?
Obviously, if someone uses a known homophobic slur or uses physical violence against a gay person, then of course this is discrimination – we’re all aware of this. So, I’m sure some of you are sitting there asking yourself why you’re being schooled on the basics. Well, sometimes it isn’t so obvious, and it can be rather unrecognisable to the ‘untrained’ eye – if you didn’t get that, the ‘untrained’ eye almost always belongs to a straight person. Sorry!
What I’m trying to say is that homophobia isn’t always specific; in fact, most of the time it’s under the radar and completely invisible to those it isn’t aimed at. In other words, if someone asks you not to hold your partner’s hand in front of their children, that is homophobic. If someone refers to you as ‘one of those’, you can bet your last pair of heels that they’re homophobic. And finally, that small dirty look that makes you question whether it even happened – yep, you got it – that’s homophobic too. If someone doesn’t like you or what you’re doing for no apparent reason other than it’s just who you are, they probably have a problem with exactly that.
Homophobia: The Effects
It’s no secret that homophobia can have serious lasting effects on those it’s aimed at. If you have suffered through a lot of homophobic abuse and have come out the other side with no lasting effects, that’s what we call ‘lucky’ in the LGBTQ community. However, many of us aren’t so ‘lucky’, and will have to live with certain ailments for the rest of our lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that gay males were far more at risk of developing depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety than straight males.
Yes, that’s right – the crippling fear of discrimination is enough to create such distress in the lives of gay males that these illnesses are far from uncommon. And it doesn’t stop there; Public Health England explored the outcome of discrimination against gay females, and unfortunately, it’s not looking any better. An increase in long-term neurological problems and even health-risk behaviours have been linked directly to lesbians and their exposure to discrimination.
Homophobia: A Rising Problem
Homophobia is on the rise, and we aren’t talking about a slow hike up the discriminatory mountain here. Oh no, we’re talking fully-fledged catapulting over the first mountain and straight to the top of the other (excuse the pun). There are so many potential reasons for this: The Trump Presidency saw a significant increase in the acceptance of many things that were thought indescribably unacceptable once upon a time; Brexit opened the door for more extremist opinions (again, pardon the pun), and the possibility of a coalition government saw Britain’s most left-wing supporters running for cover in the latest general election.
The amalgamation of these arguably apocalyptic events has seemingly been the last few nails in the community’s coffin. The past five years have seen homophobic hate crimes double in London (from 1156 to 2079) as reported by ITV this past month.
As a member of the LGBTQ community, this is both scary as hell, and absolutely unacceptable. For whatever reason, more and more people have taken the opportunity to target us individuals who identify as anything other than straight, and something needs to be done. Looking at those figures puts dread into the hearts of those who want nothing more than to love who we want, regardless of sex or gender. But, for those of you whom this doesn’t directly affect, I would hope it opens your eyes to the significance of the issue, and that we need help if we’re going to combat it.
There are so many questions to answer: what can be done? How can we do it? Will anything last? All of these questions are valid and have been asked time and time again, yet the answers have always stayed the same… Homophobia can be stopped, not by those it affects, but by those who use it. It can be targeted and removed from society by banding together and educating the world on what it means to be gay; for those of you who are wondering, it is no different to being straight. The love, the pain, the pleasure, the break-ups, and all of the in-betweens are the same, and it is up to us to show people this. Ignorance can be removed with information, hate can be removed by love, and ironically, homophobia can be removed by heterosexual people.
In closing, let it be said that we gays aren’t going anywhere. Homophobia has tried for decades to get rid of us, and yet here we are (as gay and flamboyant as ever). So, hear this, homophobes.
Grab your pitchforks and gay repellent spray, because we’re coming for your wigs. This is going to be one fabulous war.