Homophobia is unfortunately nothing new. From scared parents hoping for a magical ‘cure’, to religious and political leaders spreading propaganda for their own means, it is still a topic that causes anxiety, pain and anguish for millions of people every day.
Fear breeds the ability to control, control breeds power and in turn hatred. When dealing with the unknown, people can reach the darkest corners of morality and all too often with horrifying consequences.
The reasoning behind the phobia of sexuality can vary from a misunderstood ignorance to the twisted false beliefs of those in a position of power. For anyone who has recently seen Stephen Fry’s BBC documentary ‘Out There’ – in which Stephen talks to not only those who have suffered from homophobic behaviour, but those who hold the belief that anything other than heterosexuality is an abomination.
Fry speaks with religious and political leaders in Africa, the latter of which openly states that men raping young girls is still preferable to consenting partners of the same sex. And indeed the common denominator for those so virulently against gay and lesbian relationships is just that, sex.
Even those who offer therapy to ‘correct’ people revolves entirely around sexual thoughts and desires. Religious extremists speak of the ‘heinous act’ of sodomy and its supposed debilitating effects on the human body.
Nowhere do those with homophobic beliefs bother to think about the first and most basic emotion that all humans cherish, love.
I remember the first time a friend told me they were attracted to someone of the same sex. Nowhere in this raw and heartfelt conversation came descriptions of a sexual nature. He told me of the boy he met on holiday with sandy golden locks that were swept over his perfect brow as he ran along the beach playing cricket. He told me of his sweet, sweet smile that could light a thousand suns, and the kindness his first crush bestowed on others – with total disregard for their cruel taunts as they berated him with homophobic heckles. All from the safety of the cliff tops above their caravan park.
I remember the phone call I received four years later. Telling me that the very same friend, who smiled fondly upon memories of the blonde haired teenager he called his first love, had been found alone in his flat. An empty bottle of pills laid by his feet. This young man did not die because of his confusion about who he was. He died because he could no longer cope with the unrelenting abuse he received whilst helping local LGBT groups promote tolerance in their community.
He spoke to those also dealing with homophobia, not about being loud and proud, but about dealing with the cacophony of emotions as you realise you are ‘different’ to the majority. Such groups do not ‘promote’ a certain lifestyle, in fact all I have ever seen is unwavering support, including to those who eventually decided that they were indeed ‘straight’.
I have spoken to many who say that they are not homophobic but regard the openness of those in the LGBT community to be ‘unnecessary’. I have seen those who claim they are respectful of everyone regardless of religion, race or sexual orientation but turn their noses up at Gay Pride events, joking that they’d ‘have their back against the wall’. When one is subjected to such a history of violent reproach, the bravery to stand out in a peaceful manner is to be endlessly respected.
We abolished slavery because a man’s skin colour or race does not make him a lesser person. We fought together to banish Hitler because we believed in the freedom of all. Bigotry is still alive today, but homophobic beliefs have a way of creeping into even the most liberal of societies like a delusional fever.
Whatever you may believe, or indeed profess to not know about a sexuality or lifestyle choice that is not your own, please, let me offer you words of comfort, not condemnation. Sexual orientation is something you are born with. No one can ‘turn’ you or your children gay. Just as no one can turn someone straight. You can condition others to suppress their natural preferences, and in these cases it is usually the homophobic and not the homosexual that will try to do this, but you cannot change the core of someone’s preferences on who they love.
For those of you who are religious, let me tell you this as a practising Christian that spends her life researching her faith to become closer to God. Our faith promotes acceptance, peace, unity and love. If you are worried that a loved one will be rejected by your God or indeed Goddess because they are different from you, look deep within yourself, and remember that they are all loving. Remember that if we really had a maker that designed each and every one of us from an embryo, that said maker has a divine plan that is beyond all comprehension and it is not for us to try to change this.
You may be afraid that your child or loved one will face a life of great difficulty and persecution for their ‘choices’ and in turn ignore them or even try to talk them into changing their minds. In this you are right, standing out from the crowd is never easy, but denying who they are will not help them in any way, nor will it help you.
Communication, honesty and understanding are the vital things someone needs when facing a difficult time in their life, of which we all know to be true. ‘Coming out’ is one of the hardest things a lesbian, gay, bi sexual, transgender, transsexual or bi curious person will ever face, even without persecution from their peers and kin.
The next time you find yourself looking down upon those who do not fit your definition of ‘normal’, remember my friend that died trying to prevent others facing the same fate. Remember the families who grieve for their dearest that have been killed, raped, tortured and abused because of who they are.
Everyone has it in their nature to judge, we are fallible. But everyone has a conviction stronger than fear, the ability to love. We are but human.