The recent stories we’ve heard from around the world about the LGBT rights struggle sound a million miles away from the realities here. Abuse, violation of human rights and homophobic violence just seem like they are not such a problem here.
In Russia, it’s now illegal to promote ‘homosexual propoganda’ which effectively silences the LGBT voice and people are being jailed for supporting LGBT rights. The new film documentary Call Me Kuchu highlighted how gay people face the death penalty in Africa. In America, equal marriage is at the forefront of politics with only 9 states legalising same-sex marriage, and many more where all things LGBT are condemned. However, in the UK, we are considering introducing equal marriage and facing little opposition, an opposition which is mostly made up of ultra-religious leaders.
We are a lifetime ahead of many other countries and, honestly, I used to believe that the only real homophobia we saw here (apart from a few select extremists) was just ignorance. Many people haven’t been confronted with anyone LGBT before so don’t know how to act which, while it can make things awkward, is not exactly the same as hate crime. Where I live, in a beautifully generic southern semi-rural area, people tend to just need to accustom to different people. I remember my Granny announcing at Christmas that there were now three gay men (who apparently were all very nice men) living in her village, as if it was big, exciting news. In my area, people don’t mean any harm, even if they are a bit ignorant.
However, the reality is that homophobia is still present in the UK. Because it is not necessarily newsworthy in comparison with the extreme cases abroad, I tend to notice it the more I integrate myself into the LGBT community. There is still a great opposition to equal marriage here, and not just by people we would call extremists. One of my own friends was shook up after a gay bashing incident and a group of others beaten up on their way home for ‘looking gay’. I’ve heard people comment that all gays will go to hell or that being gay, bisexual or transgender is just a ‘phase’, I have experienced cases of sexual harassment but also know that it’s prevalent with both men and women, and always there is news of gay relationships not being taken seriously.
Maybe we won’t be hanged, or receive abuse on the streets to the same extent as in some other parts of the world, but that doesn’t mean we should put up with the homophobia and prejudices that remain here. I’m sure many people will see this article and think, ‘I don’t want to read that, it sounds gay.’