Things that aren’t gay:
- When you get a bad mark on a paper. As difficult as it may be to process, that paper has not had homosexual relations. It is a piece of paper and therefore it is both genderless and sexless. Not gay.
- Long lines at nightclubs. Irritating? Yes. Inconvenient? Certainly. I mean, the line could be gay. Every single person in that line could be a homosexual. You could be queuing up to get in to Arq without realising and be the only person of hetero persuasion in that line and the line still wouldn’t be gay. Are you with me?
- Your phone battery running low. Funny enough, it’s not actually physically possible for a piece of machinery’s mechanism to have a sexual orientation.
- A referee making a call against your team. He’s not gay because he blew his whistle when you didn’t want him too. He’d be gay if he enjoyed blowing other things, but that’s neither here nor there. Ergo, not gay.
- The high price of car registration. Still one of the shittier aspects of life, but again, not actually a friend of Dorothy. You probably get where I’m going with this, and I’ll stop now because this is a list that could easily hit triple digits in the space of half an hour.
We’ve all been speaking for almost the entirety of our lives, yet so many people still fail to grasp the power that their very words can have. The process of accepting that your own sexuality is one that still exists outside the socially constructed vision of ‘normal’ is one of the most complex and difficult journeys to navigate, regardless of who you are or where you come from.
I’ve been open about my own orientation for going on three years now, and for the most part I’d like to consider myself relatively comfortable in my own skin. I don’t hide from anything, but make no mistake – if someone drops ‘Faggot’ or ‘Poofter’ around me, those alarm bells instantly start ringing. They start ringing because there was a time when the malice those words are laden with used to form the diatribe that ran through my head each day – when repression was a constant in your life, and the prayers for it to go away never really went far from your frame of mind. If it’s someone unfamiliar, then the walls go up. And this is coming from someone who had a relatively smooth transition out of the closet.
I was never beaten up. I was never kicked out to the curb. To be completely honest, I had an overwhelmingly supportive group of friends who have stuck by me every step of the way. In fact, it probably seems a little strange for me to even be writing this article, but that said, I feel like it’s an important one – because while I’ve been lucky, there are people I know very well that have not been. I can’t begin to imagine the effect such words would have on someone who might not have had such an easy road, but I can take a look around and see just how detrimental this culture of casual homophobia continues to be in a world that is trying its hardest to move forward.
Using such language doesn’t mean you’re a filthy, bigoted homophobe. It’s only natural that when we hear words around us they become absorbed within ones vocabulary, and they do emerge. It happens. And if you’re driving one day and the guy or girl in your passenger seat happens to be of a certain orientation, and someone cuts you off and you drop that F-bomb, don’t instantly pull over and pen a page-long apology. Maybe just take a moment to yourself to think about what that word means – to think about what that person has gone through.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the developed world, with a few exceptions, tends to be pretty okay with the whole gay thing now. Modern Family and Glee are two of the most popular shows currently on the air and in the last week alone they both aired episodes framed around the engagements of highly-prolific same-sex couples (even managing to warm the heart of this bitterly-single editor). It’s not cool to be homophobic any more.
So why does casual homophobia still form such an enormous part of our lexicon? It can be so easy to brush it off as innocent, as harmless – and I’m guilty of it too. It feels like a small thing, a tiny voice that’s irritating but not really that big a deal. Until you realise that those small voices can come together and become a much louder thing. For the 14 year old kid, feeling scared and alone because there are things happening in their head that don’t make any sense, it’s a deeply dangerous thing. It’s scary to hear that all the shitty things in life are synonymous with something that he or she has absolutely no control over. To be faced with it so constantly.
We’ve come a long way in recent years. It’s impossible to deny that. It’s also impossible to deny that there isn’t still an enormous way to go. For every pair of prom kings in progressive America, there’s a Russian teenager who is about to discover their country will do anything to keep them from rising. For every family that embraces their child whole-heartedly, there’s a kid whose hanging from the rafters. There are young lives being cut tragically short and we have the power to stop it.
I’l finish with this, a handy list of the things that actually are gay:
- When two people of the same gender fall in love/have sexual relations. That’s it. That’s literally all.
Think before you speak. You never know who might be listening.
Harrison Cartwright is a Sydney-based writer, and final year Communications and Creative Arts student. If you want to discuss anything that’s been mentioned above, please don’t hesitate to drop him a line on twitter.
If you need someone to talk to, you can contact Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. Other great resources include Twenty10, a community-based not-for-profit that provides a safe-space for gender-diverse teens, and the It Gets Better project. Don’t forget that you’re never alone in this.