Saturday June 18, 2011
Sometimes when we push for equality, we get criticised for drawing attention to ourselves, banging on about the same old thing (aren't-things-better-for-you-lot-now-anyway), flying flags, being trouble makers or worst of all, pushing the gay agenda.
Recently I was accused by a teacher of having an 'ulterior motive' for talking to primary school children about different families. Seeing as I had clearly stated my obvious motive; ensuring that children who had LGBT family members felt safe to talk about them at school, I had to consider what this hidden agenda might be. There is only one answer to this question: I was evidently going to use some secret coded language or subliminal messaging in my choice of clothing to convert wide-eyed six year olds to 'gayness'. While I was initially offended by this, I realised that such an irrational statement could only be driven by fear and miseducation. What good would it do me to recruit extra children to our (non-existent) club? They aren't old enough to go 'gay clubbing' (clubbing being a noun in that context…), nor do they have enough pocket money to drink soy frappuccinos in Soho Square. Even if it were possible to convert children just by providing education about an aspect of society (I don't recall a sudden upsurge of religious fervour when I taught Buddhism or Christianity in R.E), what purpose would it serve? Maybe we could take over the world! Convert absolutely everybody until we…well, die out, as the case would inevitably be.
I don't want more LGBT people, I quite frankly don't care how many there are. I just want those who are LGBT, to feel as safe as any other adult on the street, regardless of whose hand they're holding. I want the same rights for black people, disabled people, Muslim people and one-eyed, purple-mohawked people. At some point we'll reach that utopia where Western society looks back at our homophobic history, shake their heads in shame and wonder what all the fuss was about. At which point DRM will either set up in Uganda or retire to an island. Tough choice.
And as we continue to be a bit more open about sexuality and gender, other slightly disturbing trends emerge. There are muttered questions as to why a lesbian can't just 'present herself a little better and at least put on some make up' and why gay men have to lisp or walk effeminately. Sometimes these questions come from lesbians and gay men who wish to distance themselves from those who might, god forbid, actually LOOK gay or lesbian. Of course these questions occasionally come from well-wishers who are concerned about the health or safety of the people their query is aimed at. Occasionally, as in 1% of the time. There is often a certain amount of fear of being associated with 'proper lesbians' or camp gay men, by those who can pass as straight. This is understandable and somewhat natural; one only needs to look at the behaviour of animals to know that the pack will usually leave a weak and injured member behind to die, rather than risk their lives staying to protect. It's survival of the fittest and for some LGB (the 'T' is left out as I suspect they don't have comfortable perches from which to deride others) people who lived through hellish Section 28 school days in the UK, survival means not only 'fitting in', but distancing themselves even further by ridiculing people who express themselves in a different way.
Sometimes on nature shows, we see animals who break the mould, the ones who make our eyes well up with tears as they stand guard over a dying playmate or deliver food to the runt of the litter. We all have it in us to play that role, often dependent on how much love we received in our own upbringing; our job at DRM is to coax that nurturing side of less sympathetic young people to life. The side that will stop them from making cruel comments about gay classmates to hide their own fear of being gay, dissuade them from laughing at disabled people on the streets and most importantly, prevent them from being bystanders to bullying. And all this might help the next generation of LGBT people to be less defensive and more accepting of difference within their own community. Of course, it's not as simplistic as that, but as one of my teachers once proclaimed 'you can't change the world, but you can give it a damn good shot!'.