It’s odd that so many people still think that lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality has been won. Homophobic hate crimes are on the rise, trans people still face legal barriers that prevent them from being able to fully be themselves and more than 75,000 young people experienced bullying last year for “being gay”.
But discrimination comes in many forms. It’s not always in the shape of a law, a physical attack or targeted bullying. Sometimes it’s a matter of throwaway words that go unnoticed by everyone but the person they’re directed at – unless, of course, they’re captured on camera in front of millions of viewers.
This is a classic example of the kind of comments that are still so commonplace in everyday conversations and which continue to polarise gay and bi people and erase them from mainstream society. How many times have you heard the word “gay” used as an adjective to describe anything that isn’t good? Ever caught the disapproving glimpse of someone walking towards you down the street, and made the decision to stop holding your partner’s hand? Or have you been asked if you meant to book a double bed, rather than two singles, when booking a B&B in you and your partner’s name?
I know I have – and plenty of other people from the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community have too. A doctor once told me that it’s “just the gays” who tend to test positive for STIs at her health centre. I wonder if she knew that I had boyfriend.
What’s worse is that it’s not just the ignorant or the bigoted that use this sort of language and act in this sort of way. In fact, it’s pretty rife within the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community too. When a group of gay men say they “can’t stand lesbians”, they are being just as homophobic as a group of straight men that say they “can’t stand gays”.
Regardless of your own identity, everyday homophobia is wrong, whether it comes in the form of erasure, exclusion, contempt or a combination of all three. And homophobia can happen in the most unsuspecting spaces – even when you’re doing your weekly shop. We all have a role to play in calling this kind of behaviour out and offering support to those we witness experiencing it.
We’ve learned this week, with both the BBC and Sainsbury’s, that corporations can get it wrong too. Trusted brands that employ LGBT people and have LGBT customers must not be complacent. That’s the only way we continue working toward a world where everyone, everywhere is accepted without exception.
Matt Horwood is a senior communications officer at the LGBT rights charity Stonewall
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