I’ll try to keep this brief and then leave it at that I think, because frankly I don’t really enjoy being told my life experiences don’t count because things were worse in the 80s, or (bizarrely) that people with severe learning disabilities have it harder(?!).
Firstly, whilst I never actually talked about feeling physically threatened, some have still tried to claim like it never happens anyway. And without wanting to drag this away from RL and into the murky realms of a politics thread, I feel I need to point out that studies even within the last year have shown that around half of all gay people in the UK fear holding hands in public because they worry about the reaction they’ll get, and LGBT+ related hate crime has risen for 2 years running. Tell the 15,000 victims of homophobic hate crime last year alone that it doesn’t matter because it rarely happens anyway, and it’s well within acceptable limits actually. You don’t have to worry that if you kiss your girlfriend or wife in public that you might just happen to do so in front of the 1 in 1000 who will decide to kick your head for it. I do. And so do many, many others.
Secondly, away from talk of assaults and actual hate crime, I specifically stated that I was talking about “low-level homophobia”. The sort of thing that many straight people won’t even notice, let alone do anything about. Such as words like poof, fag, queer, gay etc all being used as casual, catch-all insults and go completely unchallenged. As well as the regular jokes about gays and gay sex (some straight men seem absolutely obsessed with what we do to each other for some reason). You’ll notice I’m trying to personalise this whenever possible. Not that long since a teammate of mine, before I came out, was defending his use of homophobic language to me because he ‘knew’ that I wasn’t gay, so it didn’t matter. You go through that - someone justifying their intolerance straight to your face without even realising it. And leaving you feeling completely powerless to respond honestly. You go though that, and then tell me it’s not a problem anymore. You spend years hearing the same jokes, comments and attitudes repeated every week, knowing that they’re about you, and can’t tell anyone. Hearing the same implied message over and over again, that someone like you doesn’t fit in here. Again, most of the people who do this won’t even realise the potential impact they can have. It’s just banter, or no one here is gay anyway, so it doesn’t matter. Well, it matters to me. And although I would never claim to speak for all Queer people, I know several others who it felt the same way to the point they stopped playing.
Which brings me back to my original point: having more LGBT people involved at the top of the game feels significant to someone like me. Seeing Keegan Hirst talk about being gay was huge in my coming to terms with my sexuality a few years ago. Seeing someone, from West Yorkshire, similar accent to me, a middle unit player, like me, who looks and acts nothing like the stereotype, like me, talking about being gay, and a professional rugby player helped me to realise that it was OK, I was “allowed” to be gay. Because, whilst gay people are far more represented in the media than they used to be, seeing one who was anything like me, was very rare, and when they were it was often as a joke or in a “you didn’t expect that did you?” kind of way. Which still just reinforces stereotypes, just in a different way.
i know this has been a lot longer than I intended, so for anyone who has read all they way through, thanks. And all I ask is that anyone who’s immediate reaction to this story is to downplay it or question why it matters, just examine your own attitudes. Just question why you think that. You may know gay people, but have you ever talked to them about this sort of thing, about any micro-aggressions they face? Or do you just assume they don’t get them because they don’t mention them to you? Because evidence says they happen, people just don’t tend to talk about them often. We’re more likely to talk about them amongst ourselves than to our straight friends.
i think that will do. And....post.