Comment: The bullied become the bullies: Bullying within the LGBT community
I think that I might be unusual amongst my fellow gay contemporaries in that most of my friends, all of my best friends, and those with whom I socialise the most are straight guys; real “blokes”, “lads’ lads”.
We watch football together, drink beer, and generally just lark about like the free, young men we are and as much as I personally cannot stand stereotyping, I can’t but acknowledge that this does go against a certain gay stereotype. Or, at least, a popularly held view of what ‘gay’ is.
And all this lies at the heart of, what one might call an identity crisis, which I have struggled with for many years since that first dawning realisation, as a young fourteen year old, that I was not as other boys. I just don’t feel gay.
I know how lucky I have been as an individual who survived high school with only minor damage (there’s some scars still here, for sure; but nothing, I think, beyond the norm), and as a young man who was accepted by my peers for who and what I was and am. For me, and this is the problem, the bullying didn’t start until I’d left school, and came from within the gay community itself.
Since it seems to be those who were bullied themselves that, in turn, become the bullies; my greatest fear is that internal bullying from within the gay community is rife and is an issue that is sadly, blindly, being ignored. My opinions present a dichotomy of ideas I think best articulated by comparison between gay and straight nightlife.
From my own personal experience, straight clubs have presented no uncomfortable situations and no hostility. Even when I’ve been in a straight club or bar with my partner, I’ve never felt threatened or judged. Yet, on the other hand, in gay clubs and bars I have felt that constantly, everything; my clothes, my appearance, my attractiveness (or lack thereof), my speech, the way I carry myself, and who I’m with, are being cruelly picked apart.
Anywhere else I can feel safe and just be myself; in gay clubs, generally, I feel like a piece of meat, judged, scrutinised and made to feel horribly uncomfortable. It is true that I feel more welcome and more at home on a football stand – even with my partner – than anywhere near a gay bar.
It is a sad state of affairs indeed when I can’t consider my own community, which I want desperately to identify with, as a friendly, safe place to be. And I know I’m not alone – there is a whole culture of snobbish judgement and often vicious criticism in the gay community and it is simply not being addressed: it is a threat to its overall health, to the way in which it is viewed by society at large, and to the mental well-being of all us LGBT people everywhere.
I know that these opinions may be unpopular but they are my experience, and experiences which I know are shared with a great many others.
But there is a solution, I believe, and it lies with a change in attitudes towards homophobia – or what more accurately may be described as merely supposed homophobia.
There must be an end to this culture of pseudo paranoia that everywhere we look lurks homophobic attitudes. This is not true and it is incredibly damaging.
It is not healthy, nor is it very mature, to read into so much of our common language usage the motives of a person who is bigoted against the LGBT community; it is twee and frankly it is a bit irresponsible, for example, that a schoolboy calling something maybe a bit crap, or rubbish as something “gay” is evidence of homophobia.
Saying “that is so gay”, or “you’ are so gay” is not homophobic; gay doesn’t mean crap any more than it actually means homosexual. Every generation as it grows up appropriates the language for itself and builds it into new shapes and forms, it is how language evolves and must be something we cease to criticise.
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Constant picking away at the language used by others and seeing homophobia all the way through it is dangerous because it clouds up our eyes and will, if it continues, dilute the real, scary, proper forms of homophobia that do, sadly, exist.
It is damaging also, because it deludes us into thinking that we are surrounded by hostility – this breeds a defensive, walled-in attitude which has become, In my opinion, the nature behind the gay community’s own hostility, its judgemental airs and its culture of often scathing scrutiny. And it must stop.
To me there is the world of difference between “gay” and “gay”, even more still with “Gay!” or even “Gay bastard!” we all know when we’re being attacked because we know that context is key – it is context that tells us what is racist, anti-Semitic or, indeed, homophobic: context, not the words themselves.
A more moderated, mature approach will, I believe, help alleviate the problems arising right now because of internal bullying from within the gay scenes up and down the country. It will help refocus our efforts away from those who have the word “poof” in their vocabulary to those who have “disordered”, “immoral” and “vile” in theirs – the real homophobes.
In short, I hope for a greatly altered attitude towards perceived homophobia, a great lessening of hostile behaviour from within the gay community and, hopefully, see as many straight friendly, or even just ‘friendly’ gay bars and clubs as there are gay friendly straight bars.
Stuart McAlpine is a student at the University of Edinburgh.