Monday, 22 May 2017

Homophobia Did Not End With Marriage Equality

Just the other day it was the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, a piece of legislation decriminalising sex between consenting men aged 21 or over. Just for a moment, especially if you’re straight and happen to be reading this, think about that. The state went from criminalising all sex acts between men at any age, to only criminalising sex acts to those under 21. This what is meant when someone throws about the phrase ‘policing our sex lives’. And yes, while you can make the case of state policing in all sex lives, it was not the heterosexual population which were held to a different standard, or discriminated against.

We’ve come quite a way since being judged criminals in the eyes of the law, but let’s not forget how we got here; those responsible for the rule of law did not have miraculous Damascene moments throughout their lives...It was only through the brave efforts of those who came before us, the drag queens, the people of colour, the camp queens, and the muscle Marys, all taking a stand, and a great risk, in demanding equality. The next time you scoff at the idea of a pride parade, pause and consider the riots and beatings of those who came before us, and have a little respect. We all know the parades of today are a different beast to those of the past, that happens, things change, and while it’s a commercialised day of drinking – the point is, for all the leather and boxer-briefs, 8 inch heels, and toned torsos contorting to Kylie, we are visible and we’re not going away.

The south of Ireland can get married, as can the rest of the UK, but the gays of Northern Ireland cannot – we’re forgotten by the Republic, and ignored by Westminster. This isn’t to say marriage equality is a panacea, far from it – if you can get married, that’s great, get down on one knee, but try falling asleep on a train while holding your husband’s hand, or resting your head on his shoulder. ( LGB people are twice as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual people, a quarter of homeless people are LGBT, and 80% of us have experienced bullying in school because of something we have no control over. The word ‘gay’ is still used as a pejorative. Nazi symbols are still spray painted on our bars. Marriage equality has not fixed that.

Those fortunate enough to live in bustling big cities can forget what it’s like, a cruel irony, given that most of us flock to those big cities to escape the everyday homophobia or ‘micro-aggressions’ that small town living can bring.

Let’s not forget that winning the right to marry was only one more milestone, another battle won, not the end of the war. We must continue to fight for the little things - being able to walk hand-in-hand without fear of abuse or embarrassment, to part ways with a kiss free from retribution, and for what we are to not be used as a playground insult. I am thankful we are in a position that these are the troubles we face, and I am saddened that our brothers are still being rounded up by states, tortured, and even killed.

We must continue to speak out and fight for equality, to exist as we are without conforming to what others deem acceptable, whether that’s from within or without. It is bad enough when the rest of the world rally against our existence, we do not need it from our own. That internalised homophobia only serves your oppressors, you can be as masculine as you like, but at the end of the day you still like dick. I’ve seen gay people say camp queens and effeminate men ‘give the rest of us a bad name’ - no, they don’t – you do. It was those queens that took a stand so that we may take for granted all that we’re afforded today. The effeminate guys have bigger balls than all those bro-for-bro fellas put together, they aren’t trying to blend in, they live their life as they like, with not an ounce of fear.

We must continue our fight for equality, and we must make sure that it is equality, not assimilation.  

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