This week, Jess from The Legacy of Leo has shared her thoughts on casual homophobia – something that is all too prevalent in today’s society – especially in schools – for LGBT History Month.
I’ve been following ‘The Legacy of Leo’ for quite some time, not just because they’re a rainbow family, but because they talk so openly and honestly about Miscarriage and Stillbirth – something which they have sadly experienced first hand. They also talk quite frankly about loss as a member of the LGBT Community, which they would describe as “being part of a small pond within a pond”.
Here’s their story, if you would like to read last weeks post, you can do so here.
The Problem with Casual Homophobia
“That’s well gay”
“You’re a right homo”
“Cats are benders. No one likes cats”
The above are examples of casual homophobia heard in a workplace. Some are probably more common place than others. Nonetheless, they all have an impact.
Generally, casual homophobia isn’t really happening from those who are actually homophobic. That tends to be the thing that makes it even more frustrating. An actual homophobe, shouting homophobic BS, can be parked under the ‘Not got time for your crap’ heading.
Yet online, or in certain company, they start calling cats ‘benders’ and you’re left in a place of emotional confusion.
Calling out casual homophobia often leads to two responses 1) you’re a snowflake 2) I’m not homophobic, I have you as a friend. You tend to come across as a bit of nuisance for calling out poor language. But translate the above words with racist language – would it be allowed, accepted and copied in your workplace? (If the answer is yes here, you might want to question your choice of employment).
What’s the issue, I hear you ask? I do think you’re being a bit of a snowflake actually!
The issue lies in cultural norms. By allowing such language, the culture accepts not just the use of language but also the undertone that it perpetuates. That gay is bad. That gay is embarrassing. That gay is shameful. That no one likes you.
Being gay and being around such language is akin to someone constantly poking you all day long going “you’re gay, by the way” over and over, and now and then throwing in “we don’t like you, because your gay – just so you know”. It’s relentless and exhausting. And it isn’t just in the boys locker room. It’s in more workplaces than you’d imagine. In school playgrounds. In the pub. In the supermarket. Every time the word “gay” is said in a tone of mild disgust – your ears prick and your on edge, again. I go to work to work, not to sit in a cloud of homophobia.
Still sounding like a snowflake? The issue we have with it – is not me, or us, it’s them. The others that can hear it. The children of gay parents. My child. The friends of that child. My niece and nephew. The gay child who doesn’t know that they are gay. The teenager who thinks that they are. The just-out adult. The not-out forty something. The grandparent of the just-out adult. The person already struggling with his mental health. The teacher. The doctor. The whoever.
Because gay people are everywhere and this constant culture of gay slur is heard widely. And it’s felt deeply.
We are all meant to sit and be happy with our ‘equality’. Put away our flags and stop marching because we’ve achieved so much. Which we have. But I refuse to be complacent. In a world where rights can be taken just as easily as they are given (see: Trump and trans military rights, for example) our flags still have work to do. And legal rights do little to change the casual homophobia that we’ve both felt in our respective workplaces over the past decade.
By allowing this culture, the younger generation starts to hear the word “gay” alongside the only meaning of the word that they know – that it’s bad, that it’s disgusting, that it’s shameful. Not the true meaning of the word. Which is not bad, disgusting or shameful. And when they do know the true meaning of the word – they’ll match it with the “this is shameful” meaning. From such a young age, children have the potential to absorb homophobia, and without learning opportunities, potential develop into homophobes. Is this really what we want for the next generation? Are we really going to accept homophobia continuing? It has to be tackled on a cultural level – remove the casual homophobia and the notion that gay people can be ridiculed, mocked and attacked will hopefully reduce. Of course, it’s never that easy – but in our day to day, it’s all has a big impact.
As a parent, as an aunt, as a friend – I’ll always vow to challenge inappropriate language. Yes, half the time people probably only modify their use of it in future when I’m in earshot – but that’s at least half the battle won. I refuse to live in a world where my son could hear others say “you’re so gay” in a derogatory manner, whilst also understanding that his parents are gay. How is a child meant to process that message to the world? That what his loving parents are, is an insult? How would you feel if that was you and your child?
So, what I would ask you this LGBT History Month, is to recognise the huge progress in recent decades but never get complacent and never be a bystander. I challenge you to listen to the culture around you, and question it. Gay, straight or whatever. Are you happy with the undertone here? Is the use of the word relevant? Does it even make logical sense? Is it casually homophobic? Check your own language. Then check others. Please. For my son, for everyone else’s child, don’t be a bystander.