A Brief Introduction To Homophobia

By Ellis Bowers

Homophobia: (Noun) ‘A fear or dislike of gay people’ – Cambridge dictionary.

It is ingrained into our society: the assumption that everyone is heterosexual and cisgender, and that those who are not are ‘different’ and ‘delusional’. LGBTQ+ people have been assailed by claims of abnormality despite residing in our culture for thousands of years – it’s just that no one has shone a light onto it. Statistics about the percentage of the population who identify as LGBTQ+ change from source to source, fluctuating between as little as a few percentage points or up to around 8 million Americans with little to no information on those who identify as queer, non-binary, gender fluid, pansexual or asexual amongst many other identities and orientations. This can cause members of the community to feel isolated and alone especially in countries where identifying as not straight can land you in prison, executed or without support from the people around you. In 72 countries, being LGBTQ+ is a criminal offence and is punishable by death in at least 10 of those, meaning these marginalised groups are forced to enter into relationships with people of a gender they are not attracted to in order to conceal their illegal identity.

When a child is born – and even before – their binary gender is declared ‘boy or girl’ and, just by walking into the hospital suite strewn with congratulations cards, balloons and gifts, you can tell which gender was assigned to the baby. A pale pink or baby blue seem appropriately pastel and innocent for the birth but also enforce gender roles before the child even opens their eyes and, most likely, they will continue to feel pushed by these norms and will know no different until they’re throwing the word ‘gay’ around like an insult. As a child, you base your perception of relationships on those you see around you. Being raised in a more rural area can leave stereotypes and the media to push assumptions about different orientations and identities onto young people. This leaves members of the LGBTQ+ community to become alienated from the world around them and feel like they are alone in their school, town or area but it’s simply not true; it is statistically incorrect. Once you reach secondary school, this kind of negative behaviour towards openly queer students is often not tolerated and open homophobia is taken seriously. Yet there are politicians, parents, family members and media outlets who trivialise the idea and belittle the community as if minorities are a form of entertainment – when they make up our NHS, Police forces, Fire Services, Public Transport Services and infrastructure which is the foundation of many modern countries like the UK.

The adjective ‘gay’ means happy, excited and merry- chosen originally by gay men as identification because it has positive connotations so why has it become an insult? Why do people get defensive? Why is it treated like a malicious verbal attack when it is just an identity, an emotion? It is difficult to know why but years of social outcry against something regarded as ‘different’ has stunned some traditionalists into a state of denial. This, in turn, has caused generations of insult-flinging kids to use the word before they know what it means as a ticket to affirm their normality. You can claim the issue doesn’t affect you, that you don’t use the word negatively, that you don’t attach its meaning to a social justice crusade but the acceptance of minorities is vital for the diversity of the UK. That doesn’t change that the vast majority of people -including people harmed by this – have heard ‘that sounds/looks/is gay’ erupt from the midst of a bustling crowd. There are massive steps being taken to ensure the queer community is protected and given the resources to thrive in the 21st century but, despite millions of years of social progress, we still can’t globally agree that people are worthy of personhood despite the differences that separate us and that we are all evolutions of the same creatures.

Change is social and the world isn’t going to evolve to equality in a day but, as we take steps towards equality and a better future, the past and the people who fought hard for the right to marry, vote, live freely, adopt and much more will be remembered as having shaped the society we all live in today.

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