Being called a ‘faggot’, ‘poof’ or any number of other disgusting names when you show that you’re gay in public is shocking. In that moment, the ground is swept from under you. How can this be happening in 2018, you ask yourself.
Your instinctive reaction – quite rightly – will be indignation. You’ll be furious. You may also be frightened. These insults – as puerile and unimaginative as they may be – stir complex reactions in gay people. They may remind us of the horror of the playground, or of the ‘straight’ society which we’ve been taught from year dot to treat with caution.
But before you react to homophobia, judge the situation carefully. Your safety needs to be your priority. Are you in an enclosed space? Is the imbecile hurling the abuse likely to attack you? Are there others who will come to your aid?
Yes, it’s the biggest cliché in the book, but before you do anything at all, take a deep breath. Keep your nerve. Yes, it’s tough, but resist the perfectly understandable inclination to respond with any untapped, infinitely witty vitriol.
Such vile eloquence will be entirely lost on your average homophobe anyhow, whose brain matter – and, most likely, appendage – could be encased in a small packet of cigarettes. Once you’ve gathered yourself and are in full possession of your decorum, you must now consider how to respond. Brace yourself – and then strike.
Stop homophobia in its tracks.
The level of your response will, of course, depend on the severity of the homophobic abuse. Respond firmly and in a measured tone. Nothing about your body language should suggest you are ashamed of who you are. You are perfectly entitled to be gay in public. But neither do you want to look like you’re about to launch a full-throttle attack.
Information is everything. This is your armour and your weapon. Maintain eye contact. Start with questions such as:
Such questions will flummox the idiot. Take a cool step back and observe the red-faced stammering as that most primitive of brains attempts the impossible: joined up thinking.
Yes, encountering homophobia when you’re gay in public is a deeply unpleasant experience. But it can also be your opportunity to re-educate and change attitudes.
Once you’ve disarmed your opponent, you challenge them. Give them some home truths. Whatever you choose will depend on the situation. Tailor accordingly.
You could start by explaining that being gay is not a matter of choice. That being gay in public is your prerogative. Would this person choose to abuse someone racially? Feign curiosity: what differences do they see in these types of abuse? What makes one acceptable and not the other? Why are they so threatened by two people being gay in public?
And then, of course, there’s the classic: “Do you perhaps have some insecurity about your own sexuality that’s prompting this hostility?” Watch him squirm like a maggot languishing at the bottom of a particularly fetid bin.
Now, this can be fun! Who hasn’t seen the wailing religious groups spouting their homophobia on the corner and thought how utterly loving and mentally well-adjusted they look?
Homophobia justified by religion is the gift that keeps on giving. All religions have their extremist sides. But that doesn’t mean that discrimination against gays is sanctioned in the core text; it rarely is. And therein lies your opening, that opportunity for a fascinating – and thoroughly entertaining - public debate. Nothing like a bit of street theatre on your Sunday afternoon stroll.
And here we have the crux of the matter. You should not feel threatened by being gay in public. You have every right to express who you are and show your feelings to those you love.
Homophobia is classed as a hate crime. In the UK this is being taken increasingly seriously. Only by reporting abuse can we stamp it out and make it easier for everyone to be gay in public.
Have you suffered homophobia in public? How did you deal with it? Let us know by commenting below.
Cover photo: Shutterstock.com
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