The Orlando Shootings

My dear readers, we have been alive to hear of the latest and most horrific mark on the honour of the United States, the worst mass shooting in all of American history in terms of sheer numbers. 50 dead, 53 injured. If you are still unaware of this story, in the early hours of Sunday (2:00AM local time), a gunman opened fire in a gay club in Orlando, Florida. The man was armed with an assault rifle and opened fire on a venue said to be hosting more than 300 people inside as part of a Latin themed event. At 2:09AM, the official Facebook page of the club instructed everyone to run away and keep running. The man took hostages and holed himself up inside the club, before police resorted to using explosives to create a hole in the wall of the building and storm inside. The gunman was shot and killed, though not before apparently declaring his allegiance to IS. Make no mistake, this story must not fade from our memories, this must be remembered as both a human tragedy and an LGBT tragedy.

The news have been eager to deflect on the LGBT angle, calling this a tragedy committed against people as a whole, rather than against a community but that is unfair. If a gunman shot down 50 Jewish people, we’d call them anti-semitic. If a gunman shot down 50 church-goers, we’d call them an antitheist. If you are considering a tragedy such as this, it is important we know who committed it and against whom and in this scenario, this man opened fire on a known LGBT venue – this is hate crime. You could try and argue that it being a gay bar, as opposed to a normal bar, doesn’t give it any extra weight to the story but the difference is more palpable than many of us can relate to. A gay bar is not just a watering hole for a community, it’s a sanctuary, it’s a place where you are the norm. As straight white people, you can walk into almost anywhere in the Western hemisphere and feel that you are the social default, the definition of ‘normal’. Gay bars, black churches, Muslim neighbourhoods, you might feel walking into such places as a straight white person puts you ill-at-ease but that is because you are walking into a different community, a community of people who adhere to different ways of life or look different to you but have banded together with those like themselves to look out for each other. In a world where there have been attacks on Sikhs just for wearing turbans and thus, being assaulted as ‘terrorists’, many of us want to be in a safe familiar setting where the man sat opposite us looks like us or thinks like us. A gay bar is just that, a place to deviate from the expected-heteronormative and not be judged for it.

IS have claimed they were behind this, whilst groups such as Westboro Baptist Church call this the wrath of God. Me, I call bullshit, I think IS wants to label any act of hatred or destruction as their work to make us scared and ignorant, to make us think they have power over us when in fact, they are nothing more than rag-tag thugs exploiting opportunities as they arise for lack of a better strategy, a cult of twisted madmen playing themselves up as the heralds of the apocalypse. Still, we expect this of them, they are profiteering hate-mongers wanting us to cast out our Islamic brothers and sisters into their receiving arms, that they might manipulate their resentments into weaponised anger. This gunman claims his allegiance to them but the FBI themselves have found no link, this is more than likely a blame-shift to the IS because you hear IS, your racist buddy hears “Syrian immigrant”. If you ask me, this is one man, one twisted man, using the assault rifle his country’s laughable laws allow him access to, as a means of executing a vendetta he has against those different to him. Also, funny coincidence, funny being extremely facetious, that the worst mass shootings in recent memory were against a gay bar, a planned parenthood clinic and an all-black church service, these seem like the communities another cult of hatred would like to see gone and I don’t mean IS.

Worst of all, in reaction to this, even worse than the news channels saying “This isn’t an LGBT tragedy, don’t politicise this (which I’ll address next)”, was Trump. Donald Trump, the pile of human excrement, has said this is what should lead Obama to resign for refusing to admit that this was the work of Islam and has decided to resort to “I told you so”, saying had the US tightened its borders, this wouldn’t have happened. First of all Trump, you sputum-sucking sack of horse shit, the gunman was an American-born man so that doesn’t work and secondly, he was not indoctrinated by some foreigner coming in and egging him on, he was inspired by online content and his own personal disgust for the LGBT community, his own father said so. I cannot be civil when it comes to Trump, the man is a buffoon to say the very least but to take a tragedy and use it as a moment to boast that you were the prophet of this, he is not only a buffoon but an amoral pus-filled sore on the face of the United States of America.

Politicise this, I said this of Paris attacks, I will say it of this, this is a matter to get worked up about. Be angry that the media is overlooking what this venue once meant to the LGBT community, be angry that the far-right feels the victims were struck down by God, be angry that the US is so backwards, an assault rifle is fine but an abortion is murder. Our modern world forgets things fast, we digest what we can and leave things behind, be it memes, memories or stories of tragedy but not this one. Almost twice as many people died in this attack as in the Sandy Hook shootings, more than twelve times as many people were injured in this attack as in the Binghamton shootings, this is not some bullshit story about a Kardashian or a Game of Thrones twist nobody saw coming, we are not going to just talk about this for a week and then move on to the uplifting story of a pug that rescued a drowning kitten or whatever, we are going to demand justice.

Now that I have you riled up or afraid, let me end on this note that I want all of you to remember, especially those of the LGBT community. In the wake of this, you may find yourself scared and uncertain of the future, you may want answers or vengeance or security. Firstly remember that your enemy is never a religion or a race, all religions and races are capable of good and bad. You may have friends or neighbours who are Muslim and feeling vulnerable so I implore you to reach out to them. Secondly, do not let this fear rule you. The LGBT flag is a rainbow, reflecting all the colours of the sexual spectrum, a world beyond the black and white of the gender and sexual binary but the colours stand for more than that, they stand for hope, pride and freedom. If you let this tragedy scare you into being someone different, terrorism has defeated you. Don’t shy away from going out. Go out more. Have some fucking sensational parties and drink to those who aren’t there to share the drinks with you, to the siblings you never met or the siblings that the hate in this world stole from you. Be louder, be prouder, be especially queer and never let hatred win.

That’s So Gay!

I’m taking a break from the blog until December to reconsider a few things, the dwindling interest from my reader base and lack of feedback has had me really down in the dumps as I’ve considered my latest material my best work yet and somehow it is completely overlooked, even by people I know personally. I won’t bitch about it much more beyond that but just letting you all know; I will be back for Christmas to upload some festive posts and the Facebook page will be getting another game playthrough in the spirit of the season but after today, no more stuff for this month, unless I think of something I just have to blog about.

Growing up in a state school environment, there was one word that was something of a slur to use and even those perfectly okay with the intended meaning of the word still used this word as a synonym for crappy or rubbish. Yes, the word ‘gay’, an archaic term for being happy now applied as a label chosen by homosexuals as a means of identification and yet at the same time, a word used by people to mean something that is the opposite of good. Someone won’t come clubbing tonight? Gay! Trod in dog muck? Gay! Hideous pair of shoes? Gay! I want to talk about where this use of the term perhaps stems from and why we need to work on our fixation with using the word as a means of calling something shitty.

Well, obvious conclusion could be that the use of the term is homophobic, which in some cases is true – there are misconceptions some cling to that being gay is somehow being lesser, being weaker (especially in the case of being a gay man) so the use of the word gay to mean bad is likely rooted in that. However, I know people who are not homophobic and yet use the word gay constantly in an inappropriate context and whilst some modify their behaviour when I point out to them “I don’t see why the fact that 50% off sale ended is all that homosexual”, some cling to their use of the term, calling me a PC arsehole and saying that it’s just a habit they can’t break out of and I should cut them some slack. Well, slack shan’t be cut, not now, not ever because whilst the use of the word might not be rooted in homophobia, it suggests ignorance and a failure to consider the feelings of others. Let me bust some of the reasons people think it is okay to say gay in this way wide open.

1. It’s just a habit

It was a habit for me in my school days, I’ll admit it, I heard it used that way and you soak up your idiolect from your peers. I used it to mean something that wasn’t very masculine (A pink shirt on a guy? Bit gay isn’t it?) or something that displeased me (Extra maths homework? Gay!) but when I came to realise it wasn’t fair, considering I had gay siblings for starters who didn’t much like me using the word that way, I snapped out of it. Any habit can be broken by willpower, just shrugging and saying “Eh, it’s a habit” is no excuse, we modify our habits when they are bad for us or others, that’s how we grow as people. You were a baby once, you had a habit for sucking your thumb and chewing on plastic dinosaurs, you stopped at some point because you thought you had to stop doing it and you did, this is no different. If you feel yourself about to say ‘gay’ and not in reference to a homosexual, pause, think of a different word. Here’s a few:

That’s rubbish/crap/shitty/pants/stupid/ridiculous/cack/dumb

And that’s only a few! There are so many words that can mean rubbish and you choose the word ‘gay’? That, to me, suggests a lack of effort in your vocabulary, especially if it was a habit you picked up when you were twelve and didn’t fix in the years afterwards – I’m pretty sure I sound very different to my twelve year old self!

2. I have gay friends, it’s ok!

This is the logic people use when they say the n-word in casual conversation, claiming they have black friends so all cool right? No, not cool, if the word doesn’t have hurtful connotations to you, it is not okay when you use it – you don’t have the right to use the n-word because it was never applied to you, you don’t have to rob it of its power over you, you were never offended by it. If you think you can get away with using a word as a slur just because of your association with someone who is gay or black or whatever, try asking them, try asking ten people like them and see how they feel. If you’re unprepared to modify your behaviour even then, that’s just not fair on them and I’d be concerned as to how good a friend you are to people like that. One gay friend isn’t a free ticket to say whatever you want about the LGBT+ community in the same way one black friend doesn’t exempt you from being called a racist if you start calling people n-words.

3. People shouldn’t get so upset about this

Maybe not but they do, it is not your place to decide who should get offended by what and when. If what you’re doing offends someone and they tell you that, talk to them about it and figure out what is fair – sometimes there is a compromise, sometimes there is a guilty party who needs to shape up and sometimes, sadly, maybe you’re better off apart. I find the only people strongly complaining about a politically correct world are those who are used to getting away with saying anything. Change with the times, some words are okay to use now and some aren’t, if you refuse to adapt and use fair language, you’re on the same side as people who still black people ‘darn negroes’ or call Mexicans ‘beaners’, society evolves and as such, so should people functioning within it. People who refuse are almost always on the wrong side – the people who called women dumb broads got to see a world in which they could vote, the people who called black people sub-human saw one become President of the USA and the people who call gay people faggots will one day see a world in which sexuality is no longer a topic for crude comedy and discrimination. You have no right to tell people what they shouldn’t be offended by, I’ve criticised the offense over the Starbucks cups here but I did so with reasoning, it wasn’t as dismissive as “Suck it up, you know I don’t mean any harm”

4. FREE SPEECH!

Ah yes, this inevitable gem. Free speech, free country, yadda yadda yadda, does anyone ever cite this argument in a positive context? Personally I only hear the mention of it being a free country when someone wants to do something really shitty. Free speech, as a right, means you cannot be arrested for saying something out of place, usually as in criticising one’s government. For example, free speech is not a right in North Korea, the people there are fed a modified version of history wrongly attributing many historical deeds to Kim Jong Un and his forefathers and if someone says “This is a load of crock!”, they get bunged in a van and hit with sticks or something worse. Free speech means you’re allowed to speak freely but your words still have consequences – if you call a surly biker gang “a bunch of shit-stained pansies”, you can expect a rightfully deserved punch in the chops, no matter how often you cite your right to speak freely. Offensive material can be censored, apologies can be demanded for thoughtless comments and the right to speak doesn’t mean people have to listen to you and tolerate your nonsense if they don’t want to. Just as it is your right to shout out that perhaps, say, bananas are the best fruit in the world, I’d be within my rights to suggest that apples are better and everyone else would be within their rights to either agree, disagree or tell us both to shut up.

5. Oh come on, it’s a harmless laugh

Harmless to you, perhaps, harmless to others? Less so. Comedy shouldn’t be lazy and reliant on stereotypes and tropes, the only reason there have been a large number of comedians lamenting a PC world is swathes of their material has been based on these tired old jokes about gay people or whatever. Sure, you can’t avoid offending people, whatever you do will cause upset but is that an excuse for not trying to think of more inclusive material? No. With new information and new views as a society, we have to change and adapt and try out new things. Some of you may be old enough to remember a time when Eddie Murphy’s stand-up routines included jokes poking fun at homosexuals for checking him out and possibly giving people AIDS by kissing them and passing it on, “suddenly, your gay friend gives your wife a kiss, you kiss her, got AIDS on your lips, you’re a straight man who got AIDS”. Turns out, at the time, hilarious for people but looking back we can see how crude and misinformed the performer and his crowd were and Eddie Murphy doesn’t much venture down the whole poke-fun-at-gays avenue of comedy anymore and more the animated donkeys and being a tiny space adventurer inside a giant robot version of himself avenues. If you can’t think of good jokes that don’t rely on a racist or homophobic or discriminatory punchline of some nature, I’m sorry, you need help if you think comedy is your shtick. You can be so much better if you try, comedy should be an observation of life retold with humour and understanding, not a put down of the minority to appeal to the majority – that is called bullying.

CONCLUSION

I realise this has been a bit long but these things need to be said. What I hope you’ll take away from this is not that I’m calling you homophobic, I’m just suggesting that your comments are rooted in an ignorance of the past I know you are capable of leaving behind. If you’ve read thus far, you’ve clearly got intelligence, patience and understanding, is it such a hard concept to grasp that maybe using a label some proudly identify with as your word for calling something a pile of shit is unkind? I know people fear the PC world, so far as to tell people to stop holding out hope for it but it’ll never happen if we’re not prepared to change and we’ve made many changes thus far, imagine where we could be in ten or twenty years if we tried our hardest! Please, there are so many better words for rubbish than ‘gay’, better words for an idiot than ‘retard’ and better words for a weakling than a ‘pussy’ – such words only promote their further usage and hold back the hopes of a better world. How will we ever have a fair society if we insist on teaching people that weak people should be called vaginas and things that are ridiculous and crap are ‘gay’? It needs to stop and that starts with you, please, I know you can do it.

The Letter ‘T’

Disturbingly, a petition online of about 600 signatures has been circled around the internet by gay men and women calling for the T in LGBT to be erased from all media concerning them, might not sound like much but in the same year we’ve had Germaine Greer say trans women are just demented cockless men, announcements of a thriller action movie using gender reassignment as a gimmick and the movie Stonewall turned a black trans character into a white gay character. Basically then, this petition is summing up the increasingly dark treatment we as a species are giving the trans community – urging them to disappear.

Straight off the bat, let’s make it clear that even within feminism and LGBT movements there are poisonous individuals, spoiler alert, defending equal marriage rights doesn’t exempt one from being a total asshat. Germaine Greer, case in point, equated being trans as having ear extensions and fur added to your body and calling yourself a dog – because you know, one of those experiences is a harrowing journey of self-exploration and the other is a hilariously misguided use of medical resources, please don’t make me point out which is which. There is apparently no malice intended by this petition, it isn’t saying they want the trans community to be brutally killed off but apparently these individuals feel that the T in LGBT is what is holding them back from achieving fair treatment. Funny, I remember the issue being a modern society objecting to the concept of love being love because of a book written two-thousand years ago but whaddaya know, it was those darn transitioning twatmonkeys holding back the human race, go figure.

So what other criticisms do we have of the trans community here? Oh, this old gem, the “I can pretend to be a trans woman and still be a straight cis male and thus get free looks at boobs!”. I have many qualms with this transphobic trope – one being there are zero recorded incidents of that happening and whilst that doesn’t mean it has never happened, it certainly doesn’t happen as often as other invasions of privacy such as men molesting women on trains or inappropriate same-gender interaction in a changing room (I’ve been in a changing room and had other men comment on my underwear/penis, it is not just banter, it is fucking terrifying and weird and unless I invite you to look at my dick, do not discuss it). Secondly, it’s pretty fucking noticeable when someone is sexually aroused in a changing room, if this is someone’s master plan to watch women undress, please take this person and introduce them to porn, I beg of you, it will make their life so much easier. Trans people want to use the changing room or toilet they ask to use because that is what feels right to them, they aren’t there for a cheeky nose around in the same sense you aren’t. If you see someone wanting to use a different changing room and your first response is “Ohhhh so you can stare at other people getting changed?” then what does that say about you? Is that what you’d do? Heck, stick me in a women’s changing room, I’d just get changed, I’m waaaaaaaaay too self-conscious to spend my time oggling (That and y’know, I fucking respect their right to not be stared at)

The petitioners fear a promotion of trans equality alongside gay equality gives them a bad name, like they had an easy ride to begin with, the only difference between your struggles is one group got called sinners and abominations and then became popular and trendy on television in bit parts of stereotyped characters, the other got all that plus being used as a comedic trope and being confused with drag queens and psychotic perverts by even the people supposedly looking out for them. Apparently teaching children as young as four its okay to be trans will encourage them to be trans is another issue, to which I say “Why is that an issue?” and also “Kids experiment, that’s part of growing up, they will decide who they are when they’re done undressing their dolls and poking parts of the anatomy curiously”. Seriously, we need to get over this idea that this stuff is too complex for children when kids are actually pretty on the ball, why do we treat our children like impressionable morons? If your child is going to do something dumb, that is your problem, not the media’s, parent your goddamn child but love that child whatever they want to be – be that straight, gay, asexual, pansexual, genderqueer, gender re-assignment surgery – and if they ask a question, answer it, because if you don’t then it will eat away at your child and confuse them for years on end until they get the wrong idea from a film or a reddit post or whatever. All children experiment with their gender and sexual identity in some way, we have to allow for that and realise they will decide what is right in their own time and we have to show them love and support, not shame and resentment. I had ‘girly’ interests at different stages in life – Powerpuff Girls, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, some of my imaginary roles I played were female – I’m ‘fine’, I’m not a deviant, the same is true of so many others, I merely use myself because I know myself best for an example but experimentation leads to the discovery of a true inner identity, without that chance to learn we repress ourselves and THAT creates deviants.

Lastly, tieing in with Stonewall, the petitioners felt the film appropriated their culture and tried to pander to trans audiences by including trans characters arbitrarily, which is odd because y’know, I’m fairly sure trans people were there (Miss Major-Griffin Gracy ringing bells anyone? Google it). The film is a terrible whitewashing of an event at which only a third of the people there were gay/lesbian white folk, the rest were drag queens, genderqueer, trans and a veritable assortment of ethnic origins, Stonewall was the definitive bar for that community, it was not just a gay bar but a secret sanctuary for anyone who didn’t fit the straight-white guideline. The film, if anything, did too much to make it white and gay, to make a friendlier and less diverse portrayal of the events, possibly for fear of being too far out there to attract an audience or get a positive response in the media. To want less trans people and people of colour in the film and in the media portrayal of the community in general suggests a fundamental lack of understanding of what the community is – a genderfluid asexual black woman deserves as much media attention as a cisgender gay man because both of those people are being denied fair treatment in some sense or another, both are called abominations and both of them, as if this needed pointing out, are human beings.

Division within the LGBT+ community only serves to harm those within it and whilst there are some issues in which you can’t lump the L,G,B and T in the same discussion (For starters, T isn’t a sexual orientation, it’s a gender identity) the problems faced are shared and are best faced united. I’m certain that the overwhelming majority of the community won’t buckle to this transphobic way of thinking but if you have, I urge you to take up your beef with someone else because it is not the fight for trans equality you need to be worried about ruining your life and your chances of being respected by your peers – it is the crackpot zealots in government jobs saying you cause floods and plagues, it is the misconceptions that AIDS was the fault of people like you, it is the educational system that refuses to teach children why you are not a freak – those are the problems the LGBT+ movement have to face and they must face them together because a house divided is a house that falls! Trans people are human, just like you and they deserve to be fought for, why are you exempt from that fight?

It’s Not Unusual

One thing you always have to account for is the shifting attitudes of the times – what was once normal and acceptable within society can become frowned upon or even illegal and similarly what was once thought unnatural or immoral can find acceptance in a more enlightened society. With that in mind, I present to you the case of Tom Jones, yes the famous singer, has come under fire from social media users for revealing that when he first broke into the music industry, his first producer was homosexual and this made him uncomfortable at that time. The responses to this news have been polarised and whilst it might not make headlines, it has generated some hype around it so I’m going to weigh in on the issue, if only for an excuse to use the title “It’s Not Unusual”

In an interview with The Big Issue, he said: “I was ready for most aspects of the music industry but when I met the producer Joe Meek, that threw me off a bit. Because he was a homosexual. I thought, wait a minute, is the London scene, the people who run British show business – are there a lot of homosexuals involved here? Because if so, I’m going back to Cardiff.” Apparently he continues, his first manager wanting to talk to Tom in private and Tom fearing that he was being solicited for sex in order to get a record deal and then realised, no, that’s not the case – this is a legit record deal, no sexual payments required, his manager just happens to be gay. Tom Jones admitted to a paranoia he held onto at the time and since then, he’s grown up and moved past it, accepting homosexuality and homosexuals in general as being just like everyone else, not a creepy cult conspiracy forcing people into sex through misdirection. Good on you Tom, good on you.

However, the backlash came from his tweet in which he said he realised “most people were normal. Well, I shouldn’t put it like that. Homosexuals are normal, it’s not that they aren’t normal. It’s just that they are what they are.” Ok, so not the best wording ever and I’d wager he probably still has a lot to learn about sexuality and the diverse range of sexual identities people class themselves as but Tom Jones got unfairly savaged by someone for his ‘outdated ideals’. He KNOWS they’re outdated, bear in mind he was establishing his fame in the 50s/60s, homosexuality was still illegal in some places and regarded as a mental health disorder in many psychological and professional circles, there wasn’t as much of an LGBTQIA community presence then as there is now. Jones didn’t have much information available to him to learn better, the media stereotype of the gay man was of an overly flirtatious weirdo that needed to be steered clear of and with doctors and preachers and news coverage calling homosexuality abhorable, it’s understandable he had a paranoia about them, the media image was not positive. Today, Tom Jones realises that these people are no different from him and that’s something he deserves commendation for.

Now, bear with me, the liberal minded of you out there might go “Well duh, of course gay people are just like us, why does he deserve credit for realising that?”. I’ll tell you, he deserves it because he had the gall to put up in the public space an admission that he WAS a homophobe and since then, he learned better through interacting with actual homosexuals and respecting them. Well done to him for that, it is not easy to admit to having held onto wrong belief systems and I stand by him – truth be told, when I was much younger my own belief of homosexuality was “I don’t mind them as long as they aren’t doing it where I have to deal with it or to me”, as if I had to lay down some ground rules with the LGBTQIA community or else be swamped with gay sex pests. I’ve changed, he’s changed, nobody is perfect from the start. For him to expose himself like that takes guts. Furthermore, it is an important realisation, sure it might only seem like a start to some but a starting point is something. You would say well done to a friend if they even committed to taking part in a marathon wouldn’t you? If people hold beliefs like “being gay is unnatural and immoral”, we have to give them credit when they get as far as “Okay, it’s not immoral, I can see that… but I’m still uncomfortable”. Fine, that’s okay, we can work with that – what we can’t do is shout people down for any misconception they have or they just won’t learn.

The pressure to be politically correct, such as it were, I can actually understand. I of course encourage everyone to keep trying to learn to be more acceptant of others but that works both ways, we have to be acceptant of those that are learning. I had a friend, who will remain nameless, but they accepted that people could be gay and that’s not inherently bad but they still thought it weird and gross. Now, I could have told them to not be such a privileged twat and many would have laughed and applauded me but I’d have just embarrassed someone who could have potentially become an ally in the fight for equal rights, someone who was at least trying to learn. So instead, of course, it was a matter of explaining why it isn’t all that gross and even if it were, how is it any more gross than straight sex? Outside of the fun of being a part of it, sex is really pretty frickin’ gross, a hot sweaty mess of stains and genitalia smashing together, what does it matter what goes where as long as those involved are okay with it? We have to accept that changing your views on things such as sexuality, politics or feminism are slow processes of constant learning and if you want to win someone round, you’ll catch more flies with honey over vinegar. So let me finish by saluting the Welsh legend, you did a brave thing indeed Sir Jones!

On Coming Out

Two days on from the National Coming Out Day you might argue I have missed the boat on this subject but you know, it’s a relevant topic every day of the year and even so, the event is also regarded as Coming Out Week in some circles so the nature of these things are fluid… as is gender. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Now you might think I’m here to announce my previously unannounced secret sexual tastes but I’m afraid you’re mistaken, I’m comfortable where I stand. Straight, for those who are uncertain, I’m pretty certain I’ve mentioned it before but elucidating it in case, not out of a “Ugh don’t mistake me for being gay!” knee-jerk reaction but literally just so the topic of my sexual orientation is settled right from the start. I never had to come out in my life, I know in certain parts of the world you have to come out as an Atheist and though I was raised a Christian by my mother, once my Dad took charge in her passing he supported my brothers and I in supporting any belief system, seeing as he’d been biting his tongue on how he’s a Buddhist for her sake. For me though, on a serious note, I never had to have the courage to admit to being who I am, I never faced those pressures or inner conflicts outside of the usual straying of the imagination we all experience. So, you might now argue I am not the person to talk to about coming out and you’d be right really, I don’t have that history to recall but I know about so many different people who went through it and I want to say my piece. You don’t have to be directly affected by an issue to see how it affects others so with that said, here I am.

In a broad sense, we as a society have come a long way with regards to sexuality and gender identity, though obviously there is further to go with China still ‘treating’ homosexuality through shock therapy and trans violence being shrugged off as “The assailant panicked because they were confused, of course you’re going to beat some stone dead with your bare hands when you’re confused!”. Whilst once upon a time it was largely an underground society, the LGBTQIA community now holds pride marches and legal victories have been won left, right and centre against the bigoted traditions of old. The community isn’t perfect, things like asexuality and pansexuality get sidelined as weird or made-up, bisexuality is still largely seen as a phase more than the other two like it’s the part of the game of life where you’re still deciding between Charmander or Squirtle, terms like genderfluid are largely seen as wanting to be ‘special’ rather than someone finding a true identity, these are acts of ignorance and discrimination that occur within that same community of those once oppressed (or in some cases, still are). I’m not here to poo-poo the progress thus far by pointing out the road is still a long one, not at all, great job to us for all that, but I am merely providing context because whilst there are so many of us comfortable to proudly announce who we are, there are still so many who aren’t.

National Coming Out Day or Week then, is the chance for people to stand together and encourage their closeted colleagues to embrace who they truly are and let the world love them for it. A noble cause and if you’re taking this opportunity to share the truth, good for you, seriously, you deserve credit for that. On the other hand, the reverse side of this coin is an implied pressure to make the big announcement, to come out and shout from the rooftops that you are in fact not what assumptions make you out to be. At a time like this, we can perhaps be a little expectant of people to tell the naked truth, for better or for worse. Individual circumstance can make these things so much more complicated for so many reasons but I’ll try to explain as best I can.

A friend of mine said that you don’t come out once, it’s nonsense to think that there is one pivotal moment in your life where you gather every single person you know in one room and make the truth known to all. I can understand that, I know people who are out to some groups and not to other, my own youngest brother came out to the immediate family first and then slowly let it slip in school once he felt comfortable people wouldn’t react by beating the snot out of him. Coming out is something people go through time and time again – to the family, to friends, to schoolmates, to work colleagues and so on and so on, each experience is difficult and there’s no guarantee how people will react. We tend to see cisgender heterosexuals as the default sexuality setting, straight until proven otherwise as it were, so we don’t always look at our peers with a neutral judgment of them. Admit it, you’ve seen people in the street and sorted them into straight, gay and lesbian in your head right? You don’t usually look at someone and think “I bet they’re a genderfluid aromantic… they just look like they are” but we still seem to associate certain visual traits with being gay or hetero. As a result of this, most people who came out the closet even as young as say, fifteen, still find themselves ‘revealing’ they are a homosexual at thirty and that’s going to be a thing until society as a whole stops making assumptions that everyone is straight and cisgender before changing their mind somewhere along the line.

So coming out, as we all know it with the family in the living room and teen angst kid Johnny having to reveal his secret desire to sleep with men to startled parents is perhaps untrue. However, just because it isn’t a big “all will be revealed” affair like we imagine it, it doesn’t make it less daunting for those involved, nor does it guarantee it will be safe. Sexuality and gender identity are topics that can polarise people to one camp or the other and even within the same family, it can be hard to deal with. A friend who shall remain nameless is out to their close family and pretty much everyone they know but still has a grandparent in the dark, said grandparent not having social media to see the truth. Why? Well, they’re of the belief it’s unnatural to feel same sex attraction or to want to be a different gender to the one you were assigned at birth and this friend of mine doesn’t want to compromise their relationship with their grandparent by saying “Guess what? I’m one of those unholy abominations you mouth off about!”, so they endure the flak and pretend to be ‘normal’. Sounds unfair but this isn’t even the worst, that’s someone doing something by choice, not to protect themselves, some people keep their sexuality or gender identity under wraps for fear of their life. Who can blame them? Many US states still stand by the panic defense that attacking someone who is trans or homosexual is forgivable if you claim you were scared they were going to make a pass at you. Like, homophobia being an actual fear of homosexuals in such an instance, which is ludicrous and credit to California for calling that legal defence bullcrap. In a world where people are disowned, beaten, electrocuted, sexually assaulted and just plain humiliated for being outside of the expected norm, can we really shame them for hiding in safety? Let me tell you, if being straight got me forced into having sex with men against my will or locked away in a correctional camp to brainwash me into suppressing who I am, I’d need some serious chutzpah to say I am straight.

In summary, if you can come out and you feel safe to do so, go for it, I hope we will one day live in a world where everyone can feel okay to be who they are and ‘coming out’ becomes a thing of the past. However, if you’re choosing not to open that door, be it for self-preservation, uncertainty or just not feeling up to it, I say go for that too, what matters most is your well-being, if that’s better preserved by not saying anything, so be it, though obviously I wish that wasn’t the case. Don’t pressure people to come out if you know they’re still in their closet, it’s not encouraging or inspiring, it’s terrifying, it’s telling them to strip off and jump in the shark pool because hey, if they survive it, won’t it be cool to say they did that? Most importantly, DO NOT OUT SOMEONE ELSE! I can’t stress that enough, only thing worse than trying to make someone step out, is to shove them out. You aren’t risking anything yourself in doing that, that is pushing someone else in the pool and saying “Aren’t I brave? Am I not a great friend? Isn’t this so much better than just watching the sharks?”. So to everyone, take your time, come to terms with who you are and let the world know when you feel ready, there is absolutely no rush.