“Homophobia encompasses a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).” – Wikipedia
I would be hard pushed to find someone who has never heard someone make a homophobic remark or read about some form of homophobic hate crime. But I imagine I could find someone who didn’t know that homophobia doesn’t just come from straight people. I’m not just talking about the misuse of words like Gay or queer within the LGBT community, I mean general prejudice aimed at someone that either doesn’t fit their idea of a lesbian or perhaps a lesbian who hates gay men.
Sadly I have encountered this form of homophobia several times in my life and it still confounds me each time it occurs. With all the changes we are seeing in regards to equality and acceptance of the LGBT community (as slow as this may be), it seems incredibly backwards to be discriminating within our own community.
Last year when exploring an events hashtag on Instagram, I noticed that someone who identified as a lesbian had stranger shamed two women on the train station platform she was stood on. She had taken a picture of two women she assumed to be lesbians and captioned it “these kind of lesbians give us a bad name”. Now from what I could tell, not only had she made an assumption that she was certain of their sexuality based on the way they looked, but she was also critising them for this as well. I am not sure who appointed her the voice of Lesbians, but in my opinion SHE was the one giving lesbians a bad name. Because I for one am not the fashion police, which is what I assumed she was implying. I feel she felt that what these two women were wearing didn’t meet her ideal lesbian outfit (btw my lesbian outfit changes everyday just like everybody elses outfits). What was sad to read was all the comments encouraging her behaviour. She wasn’t the only one making judgement.
From the comments she made it seemed as though she felt these women were breaking some kind of unspoken law. That all lesbians are not allowed to fit a stereotype, which by her standards if she feels the only way to dress is how she dresses, does that not mean we all suddenly meet a new stereotype? Many people I have met in my life make the assumption I am a lesbian, they note my hair and the fact I wear men’s clothes as an indication of my sexuality. But then you take my wife, who has encountered people who have asked her to prove she is a lesbian, because they note her hair and her clothes and feel she doesn’t meet their stereotype. So does this mean this girl or someone may one day stranger shame me for having a “lesbian” look in her eyes. I really hope things change and people start to be more accepting of everyone’s flavours, stereotype or no stereotype, we are all entitled to the same level of respect.
One of the most memorable times I have encountered homophobia within the LGBT community was when it was directed at Clara and myself. We still talk about it when remembering about the first few years we were together. A group of friends asked us to join them at our local Gay pub for a bit of bingo. I’m not a bingo fan, but I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to win a bit of drinking money whilst enjoying some time with Clara. When we arrived we took a table near the stage and noticed that the pubs regular drag queen was hosting and calling the numbers.
We were enjoying each others company and having a laugh with our friends, when the bingo calling began. I don’t recall what the exact words used towards us were or exactly how it begun, but suddenly the Drag Queen on stage began to target anti lesbian jokes at us. The pub was roaring with laughter as all eyes fell on us. At first we smiled awkwardly as we’d been to see comedy acts before and appreciate that a lot use their audience as material, but as time passed the smiles fell from our faces.
With each break in the calling of the numbers the jokes grew ruder, more personal and down right homophobic and the audience started to realise that it wasn’t funny any more. Our friends on the table looked really embarrassed for us and offered apologetic glances our way. At one point Clara won a line and stood to collect her money, I remember making a remark to the Drag Queen along the lines of, she should watch what she is saying, but it fell on deaf ears. The insults and crude jokes continued and the tension increased and one point the audience audibly responded uncomfortably, as though they finally appreciated that she had gone too far.
As the bingo finished and the hideous act came to an end the Drag Queen could see that all was not well at our table. She made a point to come over and apologise to us and remarked she didn’t want us lynching her in the car park afterwards. The apology was made very quietly and to be honest was said in such a way that it sounded as though we had made ourselves a target of the jokes. We were fuming and made a swift exit, we had every intention to complain, but we were so embarrassed and angry that we left and have only ever returned there a couple of times since.
If I was in my late teens and had only just come out and been the butt of those jokes, I can safely assume that I would have shot back into the closet through fear I was going to be met with those jokes wherever I went. Some reading this may remark that it was just good humoured fun, but making crude vulgar remarks at the expense of someones sexuality is not funny and if it is making your audience uncomfortable as well as the subject, you can bet that it isn’t right to be saying.
I am all for comedy and a lot of comedy is audience based, but if someone started making racist jokes at our local gay pub, I can imagine they would be shown the exit swiftly.
Identifying as gay, bi or lesbian does not give us the right to make homophobic remarks, we should work together to change perceptions and break taboos, because if we can’t do it, how can we expect other communities to be accepting.
Have you, a friend or family member encountered homophobia within the LGBT community?