This week launched LGBT Youth Scotland’s campaign to raise money for their education work in schools. This work enables LGBT young people to feel happy and confident in their lessons, and to successfully challenge homophobia.
Schools can be a horrible environment, and I’m sure there’s not a single LGBT person who doesn’t know someone who’s work at school suffered as a result of homophobia in or out of the classroom. It is up to every teacher, every parent, every pupil, every single person to make themselves personally responsibility for challenging homophobia, and stamping out bullying!
Watch the film (it’s slow to start, and if you’re having a sad day I would recommend fast-forwarding to 2 minutes 30 and starting from there) and join the campaign !
So at age twenty, after never having had experienced any personal homophobic attack in my life thus far, I always though ‘phew, I’ve passed the high school stage with no problems, what’s the worst that can happen now?!’… I held that thought until this morning. Never would I have thought that the first person ever to be homophobic towards me was a professional.
I recently reached that beautiful stage that I received a letter from my doctors and had all my male friends giggle and say ‘ahhh I bet it’s for a smear test!!’ So firstly that’s not very reassuring, in fact it’s terrifying. Do I really want a random woman sticking something up my vajayjay on first meeting, before noon on a weekday…not really, is the answer. However, I persevered and made an appointment as it’s my own health that’s in question after all. After days of thinking about how traumatic the experience was going to be (can you tell, I’m a bit of a drama queen), my male best friend said “don’t worry, she will have seen it all before”. Yeah thanks, I feel so much better after that. Really, I do.
As I walked into the room I was hit with so many questions I thought I was in a quick fire round of a game show:
“How old are you?” “Are you sexually active?” “Are you on the pill?!” “Have you had this test before?”
We certainly weren’t off to a good start on the ‘try not to freak out’ front. So after telling her I’m not on the pill, and watching her confused reaction when I told her I haven’t used contraception, I told her I don’t sleep with men. You’d have thought at this point that I’d told her I was sleeping with turtles as she looked so baffled. It could just be me, but it is normal to be a lesbian, yes?
Anyway, she let out a slight “ha!” and said that I wouldn’t need a test then as I hadn’t had sex with a man before….however, now comes the interesting part: she said that should the situation change within the next few years, that I should come back and get tested. Hold on a second…so she’s basically just told me that if soon enough I see the light, she’ll be happy to perform. I don’t think so, lady!
How does she think lesbians have sex, by kissing?! Surely she should have started with “Have you ever had penetrative sex before” then things would have been so much simpler.
So I left the surgery absolutely baffled, and also rather upset/frustrated. Why was I singled out as different? Why was I not entitled to this? All that working myself up for nothing. Although I have decided to go back and get a test, but not from that nurse again. I think I’d make a point of asking for a non-homophobic nurse to do the test on me this time, and see how they respond.
So a word of advice, if you’re going for a test, don’t let the nurse tell you you’re not eligible just because of your sexuality. Do try to tell them otherwise, and if that doesn’t work then I suggest putting in a complaint. It’s 2013, should a professional really be judging you on your sexuality?
Hello, rainbow friends!
As part of my summer holidays/travel shenanigans this year I went to Christopher Street Day Hamburg (or Pride for short) and I have lived to tell the tale! And show you lots of pictures, of course.
Let’s start with some stats: Hamburg is a city in Northern Germany and is known for having a big-ass harbour (one of the 20 biggest world-wide). Tourists tend to forget about Hamburg, because Berlin exists, even though it is Germany’s second biggest city as well as the biggest city in the EU that is not a capital. So yes, it does have a respectable gay scene. 😉
Another fun fact: Hamburg had a gay mayor from 2001 until 2010, Ole von Beust. He was outed in 2003 accidentally by his father, but he didn’t mind. And apparently it also didn’t harm his political career, as he was re-elected twice afterwards. He also participated in Hamburg Pride 2009!
But let’s move on to this year’s Pride, shall we?
This was actually the first proper Pride March I had ever been to! I have been to CSD Münster last year, buuut it was rather small affair, so I was pretty excited to see what a “real”, big Pride looks like. And what can I say… It was absolutely amazing! The weather was really nice (eventually), there were fantastic costumes, the music was great and people were dancing in the streets. I really don’t have much else to say, other than that I had a fantastic time and was really happy to see so many diverse, proud and politically active people.
So without further ado, why don’t you have a look at the pictures below to get a better impression? You could just scroll through them, but I also wrote some extra info in the captions and translated all the German signs and banners, so just click on the first photo to start a slideshow and learn a bit more about the event. Enjoy!
There is very little love lost between the LGBT community and the Christian Church. For every vitriolic, fire-and-brimstone preacher, there is someone like George Takei poking fun and holes in every biblical argument. It doesn’t help the Church’s cause when celibate priests have wandering hands and their gay-cure advocates clearly didn’t finish the whole course.
I grew up in a conservative Christian household – my mother still thinks Britney Spears is devil music – and homosexuality was never conversation fodder. Even in church, the minister rarely broached contentious topics. Then, one week, the vicar stood up to speak, and he opened with 1 Corinthians. The passage was essentially a list of sins that the apostle Paul deemed would inhibit entry into heaven. When he got to ‘sexually immoral’, the minister elaborated to include pornography. I was moments away from cheekily elbowing my suddenly quiet dad when I heard homosexuality being added. The elbow never happened.
For a whole week, my dad’s browser history was squeaky clean. The next Monday, a whole slew of interesting URLs cropped up. He’s human, but he made an effort, and I have no problem with that. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been exposed to some form of porn, willingly or in a Brazzers pop-up.
That still left me with the same problem. I couldn’t just make an effort and be straight for a week. When this sermon happened, I was 15 and had only recently accepted my gayness – as I was simply not nun-material, I desperately wanted someone, something to tell me I could be in a relationship and keep my faith without being a complete hypocrite.
My parents left me confident that if I ever came out, they’d pack my bags for me. Subsequent sermons by other church ministers were of the vitriolic variety, and most religious friends were edgy. The relevant bible passages were damning at best, and you need to think very late rally if you were to read anything condoning homosexuality in them.
Months went by, and life soldiered on while I struggled with my faith. One of my best friends, one of the strongest Christians I knew, told me she was bisexual and then promptly told me she didn’t believe in God anymore. I fell in love and into a relationship with my first and only girlfriend – ironically, a wonderful straight girl from a Catholic school. My religious conflict took the backseat for a while, but I never stopped praying.
It was summertime when the same vicar stood up again and delivered a sermon completely unrelated to homosexuality. While I’ve long forgotten what the sermon was actually about, one sound bite still resonates with me: the church isn’t full of hypocrites, because there’s always room for one more. No matter how much we preach, we all sin – as a result, we don’t have the right to judge. I am not proud to be gay, but neither am I ashamed. It’s a part of me that I cannot change and, while God can do things that we can only dream of, such a core part of us can only really be suppressed. My mother is lactose-intolerant; she is neither proud nor ashamed, and no amount of prayer is going to make her able to drink a pint of milk. But the best we can do is not to give up on our faith, simply because one aspect of ourselves isn’t up to scratch. Not being perfect is no excuse to dismiss Christianity as homophobic mumbo-jumbo.
A few weeks back I spotted the fun, new Twitter account ‘Straight Pride’ (they’ve even got a blog now). At first I thought it was genuinely some sort of misguided heterosexual just feeling jealous of the floats and glitter. But it did not take very long to realise that these folks were not-so-loosely veiled homophobes. The kind that deserve literally none of my thought processes.
So, that’s that. But I think that it does raise some important questions. I had never really questioned pride. Never wondered by there was a queer pride and not a straight pride. But then a friend’s mum asked me. She’s always been 100% supportive and lovely and so I knew it was a genuine question.
I think the problem is that people do see a ton of glitter, fabulous clothes and beautiful floats, and not a whole lot more. And sometimes it can be a bit unclear what Pride means to us. That as a queer community we are not simply ‘proud’. We are proud in the face of discrimination. We are proud in the face of adversity. And we are proud in the face of hate. And all for being who we are, and loving who we love. Something our heterosexual friends and family do not have to face. So, I want to talk a little bit about why I’m proud. Because I am proud. I’m super proud.
I’m proud because despite fear and nervousness I come out monthly, weekly, sometimes even daily to new people in new environments. Because I shouldn’t have to be afraid and nervous to be who I am. And if I make it easier for one other person to come out, then I’ve made a difference.
I’m proud to challenge the casual homophobia that we experience on a day-to-day basis. Because it’s that very low-level discrimination that allows for bullying, and harassment and eventually hate crimes.
And I’m proud because despite the headlines, the homophobic arguments made by ‘legitimate’ politicians in our ‘democratic’ parliament, the name-calling in the street, everyday I walk down the street holding the hand of the woman I love. Because I will not bow down to bigotry.
Last week I experienced lesbophobia in a space I had previously thought of as ‘safe’. Big deal, we’ve all been there. However, this was different. It wasn’t violent – they expressed their hatred in words and they were good enough to speak at a reasonable volume so that’s a plus. What was different about it is that this person didn’t think they were homophobic.
I’ll summarise this conversation for you briefly.
Her: yadada yada yada relationship chat.
Me: Oh yeah I live with my partner.
Her: Oh how long have you lived with your boyfriend.
Me: I’ve lived with my girlfriend for just over a year. Recently we moved together which felt like a bigger deal than moving in together or maybe it was just more stressful haha.
Her: Oh I didn’t like to presume *looks at me quizically with a face that says ‘but you don’t have horns – you look just like me!‘*
Her: *insert awkward rant about sin* followed by this line
I have lots of gay male friends. I get they can’t help being gay but you know it’s different with them *pointed look at me*
So I cut that down and paraphrased a lot but the gist was that it’s ok to be a gay man – they just can’t help themselves because, you know, men are pretty or unstoppable sex machines or something. On the other hand, women should know better. Lesbians are doubly deviant. They have the audacity to be women and always banging on about equal pay or some other awful fight for rights and they are lesbians always asking to get married. Married! ‘The nerve of them’ heteropatriarchal society says to me.
Well yes and no. I often use the term homophobia as a catch-all term for lesbophobia, transphobia, queerphobia and biphobia as well as the traditional use of the term for homophobic attitudes to gay men. However, using it as a catch-all term may not work when it is also used to refer to one group of gay men.
After experiencing this lesbophobic abuse I text my girlfriend to tell her I’d just experienced homophobia because my first thoughts were that’s what it was. I don’t believe this lesbophobe’s discussion of gay male friends was a simple ‘Oh I can’t be homophobic because I know this gay/met one once/saw one on TV and wasn’t repulsed’. It was much more disturbing. She was telling me that men have the freedom to love who they like but women should be grateful to be loved by men and stop messing things up for all the other women.
This got me thinking that maybe I shouldn’t use homophobia as a catch-all term because there are times when we aren’t all in this together. Don’t get me wrong, I love the inclusivity of the queer and LGBT communities but sometimes I experience specific lesbophobia and queerphobia. When I’m told I don’t need a smear test because I’m a lesbian, that isn’t homophobia. When I’m out with my trans friend and we need to find a different pub because there isn’t a bathroom they can use (or they get kicked out of one), that isn’t homophobia. When I hear for thousandth time that so-and-so is ‘actually’ gay but they think being bisexual is more socially acceptable, that isn’t homophobia. When I have to defend my definition of queer lesbian yet again because I’ve been too honest with someone that likes the gender binary more than real people, that isn’t homophobia.
Of course we should tackle homophobia but we should remember that there are situations that homophobia doesn’t always cover depending on your definition. There is also a bigger issue here that knowing that one gay person or being gay doesn’t mean you can’t be biphobic, lesbophoic, queerphobic, transphobic or homophobic. Although I love queer communities, I have found LGBT groups can be pretty biphobic, transphobic and queerphobic.