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De Profundis - Homophobia In 21st Century Britain

25/10/2016 12:12 BST | Updated 23/10/2017 10:12 BST

As a rule, I tend to the nitty-gritty of my daily life separate from my writing. But, a recent experience reminded me of an issue that doesn't really make it into the mainstream media nowadays - Brexit, Trump and Putin in Syria leave very little space for anything else. The issue is LGBT rights in immigrant and ethnic minority communities.

You could say that there isn't much to talk about, since it's no longer an issue. David Cameron settled it once and for all with his marriage equality bill. Sure if you were born to white university-educated parents, this is probably the case. But for some people homophobia is a daily experience. Especially, if you were born into an ethnic minority family, who happen to hold dear their conservative social values.

What makes it worse is the blindness - or indifference - of the white British institutions and media. It is one thing to pass laws and make statements affirming equality for all. Enforcing it is something entirely different. As I found out, even at university - an open and safe environment in principle - we are bound to be confronted by homophobia. That is, unless we want to sever the ties with our cultural roots completely.

I accept that it might be a little far-fetched to expect a positive response to your coming out from every single student - not that this should stop you. What I do not accept is being singled out by someone in a position of power at a union society.

This is exactly what happened to me as I stood waiting for someone outside a language class of the society in question. One of the student-teachers walked out with a group of students and, standing not too far from me, remarked: "Yes, that is the gay guy". Had I seriously thought that homophobia in that country would translate to homophobia in the language classroom, I would have stuck to French.

Now, I don't make a secret out my orientation, but my relationship with him was professional to the point of non-existence. He only knew because he once saw me talk with his gay course mate - apparently talking to a gay person means you are one too.

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If this happened to somebody else of an ethnic minority background - as it often does - the abuse would have been lost in the vicious circle of silence. The fear of being outed prevents most ethnic minority LGBT+ from seeking help through official channels.

Most silently hope that these attitudes will change with time. Not that it seems likely, given that more than 50% of British Muslims currently support criminalising homosexuality. Greater media coverage would be a step in the right direction. All the projects that engage with homophobia in ethnic-minority and migrant communities now suffer from a lack of funding. They also receive little coverage in the mainstream press, as was the case with My Brother the Devil - a brilliant film by the British-Arab director Sally El-Hosaini.

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UN Human Rights High Commission poster urging the LGBT+ community to speak out about their rights