Nearly four years ago, I was kicked out of my local uni club by two security guards for kissing another guy. When I asked why I had to leave, they simply said: ‘You can’t do that, here’. This happened less than two weeks after I first moved to London.
Since then, I’ve been harassed in bars and at festivals, chased through the streets of Piccadilly Circus, and been the target of every homophobic word under the sun. I still catch myself editing or changing my behaviour depending on where I am and who I’m with because I’m afraid of what might happen to me. All because I’m a feminine gay man.
However, the violence I’ve experienced is by no means unique to me. It’s something that’s shared with anyone who doesn’t conform to society’s norms about gender and sexuality.
Achieving same-sex marriage and equal parenting rights didn’t mean equal treatment was suddenly a reality for all LGBT people. In fact, hate crime in Britain is on the rise. One in five LGBT people have had a hate crime committed against them in the last year.
Just this past weekend, I read three different tweets from people talking about the homophobic abuse they experienced. One where a stranger’s reaction to seeing two men holding hands was to say: ‘I hope you die’.
If this kind of attitude shocks or surprises you, that’s okay. Even though laws have changed to make life better for LGBT people, there are still people out there who don’t like us and aren’t afraid to show it. Whether or not you hear or see it, LGBT people continue to be attacked and ostracised for who they are.
These stories are just examples of the everyday homophobia I’ve experienced. They are usually the moments that don’t make any headlines. It’s the scream of ‘disgusting faggot’ from a speeding car, the confused looks from strangers as you hold your partner’s hand in the park, and the constant use of the word ‘gay’ to describe something negative.
But just because it might not be at the top of your newsfeed, doesn’t make it any less significant. However, it’s important to recognise and understand that my story does not and cannot represent that of the wider community. As well, people who are lesbian, bi and/or trans will experience discrimination in ways that are distinct from what I have been talking about here. Their stories are just as crucial if we’re to fully appreciate the damage everyday discrimination can have.
It’s one of the main reasons why we still need Pride. Amidst so much hate and discrimination, it’s incredibly important our community and its allies can come together and celebrate who we are.
That’s why we’re inviting everyone, whether you are LGBT or an ally, to ‘Come Out for LGBT’ and take action to make life better for LGBT people everywhere. Just look at the overwhelmingly positive response to Alan Strickland’s tweet about his experience of homophobic abuse in London and how people have shown their solidarity with him.