J.K. Rowling and the Guileful Intolerance

We live in an age of absolutism. Everything is binary: right or wrong, black or white.

There are times when this approach is helpful. Necessary, even. My ‘never fuck a Tory’ policy, for example, has served me well for many a long year and will no doubt do so for many years to come.

But when we try to apply this way of thinking to bigotry, or rather, to judging whether a person is or is not a bigot, it all starts to unravel. There seems to be a popular, and arguably deliberate, misconception that a person may only be considered to be intolerant of a particular group if they have a history of screaming epithets in their faces and/or committing acts of physical violence.

Modern bigotry, however, is altogether more subtle than this. It’s a suggestion, a nudge, a nod or a wink. Nigel Farage doesn’t go dropping the N-bomb on Question Time, as much as we all know he’d love to. He’s fucking thinking it, of course, but he never says it out loud. At least, not on the telly. Instead, he couches his racism in phrases like ‘illegal immigration’ and ‘protecting our borders’, like the worst kind of Pavlovian shithouse. And obviously, the stench of racism wafts off him like the smell of stale chip fat (along with, almost certainly, the actual smell of stale chip fat), but his supporters will argue to their dying breath that he’s ‘not racist’, purely on the basis that they’ve never heard him say the P-word.

That’s not to say there aren’t bigots who are rather more explicit in their intolerance. One of them, weirdly, for such a famously non-racist country, actually managed to get himself elected to the office of Prime Minister, but for the most part, they’re a little more sophisticated. Some are so sophisticated that they get to utilise their massive celebrity status and huge social media platforms to target hate at one of the most vulnerable minorities in the world, and still, somehow, manage to emerge looking like the victim.

Step forward, J.K. Rowling.

The piece published by Rowling on 10 June was an absolute masterclass in the art of manipulating the narrative to suit a particular agenda, while maintaining plausible deniability for the damage that would inevitably ensue. This is unsurprising given that she’s amassed a billion-pound fortune from her use of language. She knows better than most how to tell a tale in a way that will elicit the desired emotional response in the reader, and that’s what makes the piece – and its author – so extremely dangerous.

If you’re not familiar with the cases she cites, if you don’t know the pressure points transphobes routinely exploit to demonise their targets, if you haven’t heard these same, tired arguments recycled and reheated time and time again over a period of 30-odd years, you might come away from Rowling’s essay thinking it all sounded perfectly reasonable. That was certainly the intention, and in a great many cases, it worked like a charm.

She begins, of course, like any halfway competent bigot would, by painting herself as the victim. The first couple of paragraphs are all about her being abused, threatened or ‘cancelled’ by those who object to her harmful rhetoric.

Now, to be clear, threats are always unacceptable. And I would never condone a man calling any woman – not even Katie Hopkins – a ‘bitch’ or a ‘cunt’. It’s misogynistic, unhelpful, and provides easy ammunition for anyone seeking to promote a narrative of victimhood. That said, it’s not for me to judge women who use those terms in anger, or for me to police the tone of the victims’ responses to the abuse they face.

We have a big problem in this country with ignoring the content and the intent of what a person says, and focusing instead on the language used.

For example, if someone said to me, “Respectfully, sir, I believe that all homosexuals are an abomination unto the Lord and destined for Hell,” and I responded with, “Go take a flying fuck at the moon, you Bible-shagging twat,” there are a great many people who would think I was the one who should be censured.

The same applies here. Rowling tweets out barely disguised transphobic bigotry to 14.5 million followers, but because she does so ‘politely’ and some of the responses are, to say the least, extremely impolite, she somehow gets to occupy the moral high ground, and in doing so, tar an entire group with the same brush as its most abusive members. She must accept, however, that if she’s going to take that approach, she must assume responsibility for all the truly appalling vitriol directed at the trans community as a result of her interventions.

So with the victim narrative firmly established, she goes on to profess her undying love for the trans community, and all her many trans friends, like an infinitely more articulate Donald Trump pointing to the African-American guy he’s just appointed to some role or other as proof that he’s definitely not racist.

Then come the tropes:

Any cis man can readily obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate to access women’s spaces for who knows what nefarious purposes, trans teens are simply confused gays or lesbians, children are being rushed into irreversible treatment options that will destroy their lives, ‘trans rights activists’ deny that biological sex is ‘real’, veiled ridicule of trans suicide rates, and, most insidiously of all, the mischaracterisation of trans women as sexual predators.

This last one, as ought to be obvious to anyone who lived through that time, has its roots firmly in the homophobia of the 70s, 80s and 90s. This is hardly surprising given Rowling’s proximity to noted homophobes, and her selection of a pen name that matches the actual name of a high-profile proponent of gay conversion therapy. It’s also, it should be noted, absolute fucking bollocks.

Rowling even introduces her own experience of domestic abuse and sexual assault to underline the idea that trans women are a threat to cis women and girls, despite the fact that her abuse took place at the hands of cis men. I can only imagine the pain that such traumatic experiences must still bring her, and my heart goes out to her and any woman who has had to live through this ordeal. There is absolutely no reason, however, to mention this in a piece about trans people, unless you’re trying to promote a very particular idea.

The fact is that men have been raping, abusing and sexually assaulting women for millennia, and it’s extremely rare that they’ve ever felt the need to pretend to be women to carry out these despicable acts. Does she really think that a man hell bent on forcing himself on a woman will refrain from doing so because they’re not supposed to be in the women’s toilets? Or that they’ll go to all the ultimately pointless trouble of obtaining a GRC, which they don’t legally require to access those spaces?

The vast, overwhelming majority of trans women just want to get changed after their swim, or go for a piss at the shopping centre, then quietly go about their day. They’re not lurking in darkened corners waiting to catch a look at your genitals, or to show you theirs. Trans people have had the legal right to use the facilities of their choosing for well over a decade, and there have been very few reported incidents involving trans women during that time. Countries that have already introduced Self ID have had no reported increase in sexual offences as a result. Of course, that’s not to say no trans woman is capable of being a sexual predator, just that they’re no more likely to be than an equivalent sample of cis women.

But still this narrative persists. The subtle nods, the plays to our primal fears, the gentle, persistent reinforcement of the idea that our wives and daughters will be forced to undress in front of ‘male-bodied’ individuals intent on causing them harm. And this is where so much of the the anger towards Rowling and other transphobes is rooted. I know, because I felt (and still feel) the same anger every time the ‘gay men are paedophiles’ trope rears its head.

The fact is, we have to get better at spotting the falsehoods, the dog-whistles, the misdirections and the fear-mongering, and highlighting them to those who remain blinded by the ostensibly reasonable tone of the ‘legitimate concerns’ crew. Rowling herself would no doubt ridicule the idea that all Muslims are part of some ‘rape gang’ or other, but yet she’s happy to point her readers toward the conclusion that trans people – trans women in particular – present a threat to the safety, and indeed, the very identities, of cis women and girls.

By hiding the iron fist of her transphobic attacks in the velvet glove of her professed ‘love’ for trans people, she has managed to pull off a great deception, and it’s one that will inflict untold and widespread damage on a community that was already at breaking point.

Pride 2020: The loss of a lifeline

This year will be the first year since the 1970s when, in all likelihood, there will be no Pride events taking place anywhere in the UK.

You might think this is a relatively minor consideration, and I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, it is. Somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 people have already died, and many thousands more will die before this is over. Millions have been plunged even further into poverty as this crisis gives them an additional kicking after ten years of Tory austerity, and yet more people will die as a result of this secondary impact of the virus. The mental health toll of the lockdown – being separated from friends and family, being forced to isolate with an abusive partner or family member, worrying whether you’ll keep your home or your livelihood when this is all over (if you survive at all) – is now beginning to bite, and will only get worse as this situation drags on.

So for those of you outside of the LGBTQ community, whether or not Pride events are held as planned is probably so far down your list of priorities that it doesn’t even begin to register. Pride is, I think, largely viewed by straight people as little more than a party. A day out. A piss-up. A colourful parade. A Britney concert.

And yes, for better or for worse, it is all of those things. But for many of us, it’s so much more than that.

Even now, in 2020, in the post-equal-marriage era, we still face a relentless tide of homophobia. Those of you who follow my Twitter account will know that I regularly receive responses calling me a ‘faggot’ or a ‘puff’ (literacy was never their strong point), or encouraging me to ‘slit my throat’. Some of the more considerate ones even offer to slit it on my behalf, which, I think we can all agree, shows a selfless commitment on their part to ridding the world of the scourge of The Gay.

Sadly, though, it’s not just online that we face intolerance. Thousands of young queer people still live in households where they are not accepted for who they are, where they face the choice of continuing to reside with those who despise their very nature, or joining the disproportionately large number of young LGBTQ people sleeping on the streets.

Trans people are now routinely vilified in the press, in public and on social media. This has become as ubiquitous and predictable the seemingly proud betrayal of sociopathic tendencies in a Donald Trump press conference. Transphobia is the acceptable face of 21st century bigotry. It’s not subtle or hidden, it’s just relentless and pervasive and viciously fucking unpleasant. You could justifiably speculate that an existential crisis like a global pandemic might have given these vindictive arseholes cause to think, “Maybe I’ll take a day off from being an unremitting shit while vast numbers of people are dying,” but sadly, such ostensibly reasonable thoughts never seem to enter their heads. Their dehumanising bandwagon rolls ever-onwards, unencumbered as it is by unwelcome and unnecessary considerations like ‘decency’, ‘compassion’, and ‘not being a cunt for five minutes’.

None of these problems are new, of course. They’ve existed in some form since the moment at which bronze age homophobes decided to attribute their anti-queer bigotry to the god they’d recently created. But in these most difficult of times, when LGBTQ people are facing all of the physical, emotional and financial issues cis-het people are facing, they present an added burden to people who, like the rest of you, are already fast-approaching breaking point.

Even those of us who have it comparatively easy, who don’t face homelessness or rejection by our immediate families, still face difficulties that simply wouldn’t occur to most straight, cis people: abuse and prejudice continuing unabated while we’re struggling with the day-to-day worry of all this, further delays to already indefensibly long waiting times for life-saving transition treatment, being cut off, not just from our immediate communities, but from those with whom we are able to truly be ourselves in a way that’s often impossible in any other scenario.

From a purely personal perspective, I know I’m very fortunate. I came out to amazing support from most of my friends, my wife and my son. My housing situation, though not entirely without risk given the perilous economic situation in which we find ourselves, is reasonably secure.

That said, I live in an area with a relatively small LGBTQ population, and with no recognised ‘gay area’ like you might find in London, Brighton or Manchester. So the opportunities to be around others like myself, to mix with people who are less likely to judge me for who I am, are quite limited, even in normal times. I attended Pride in London with some friends last year, one of whom observed that the ‘safe zone’ – that little cocoon in the heart of Soho where you’re less likely to face physical violence for public displays of same-sex affection – had been extended for a day. This was sharply observed, but it’s worth noting that, for many of us in towns and cities outside of London, there is no ‘safe zone’. It simply doesn’t exist.

I’m also, of course, still in a ‘straight’ marriage, and whilst I recognise that this is completely my choice, it brings with it its own unique set of challenges. My circumstances lead those who don’t know me to routinely assume – understandably, I suppose – that I am straight. I’m then faced with two equally poor options: play along and hide my true self as I have done for most of my life, or come out yet again and face the barrage of intrusive questions, raised eyebrows and disingenuous ‘sympathy’ for my poor, put-upon wife.

More often than not, I choose the former option because it’s just easier than fielding enquiries like, “How does that work?” and “Do you still sleep in the same bed?” and the never-not-tiresome, “Is she allowed to see other guys?” But having to make this decision over and over again, and having to deal with whichever shitty set of consequences that decision engenders, is utterly fucking exhausting.

I say all this not to garner pity – as I said, I know I have it better than most – but simply to paint a picture of some of the additional challenges LGBTQ people face, and to underscore why Pride events are so much more than a just ‘nice day out’. For most, they form a vitally important element of our community’s often precarious sense of mental wellbeing.

For me personally, my annual pilgrimage to Pride in London is one of the highlights of my year. It is a time when I can cast off the shackles of my half in-half out, northern existence and allow the real me to dominate, front and centre, without the questioning looks and the whispered, badly disguised speculations like, “Do you reckon his wife knows he’s bent?”

More broadly, it is a time when we can all be who we were born to be, who we’ve always known we are, but for whom we have never felt fully accepted. It is a time when we can hold hands or kiss each other in public without being spat upon or abused. It is a time when we can be unashamedly camp or flamboyant, without having to make a thousand real-time calculations as to whether that’s likely to jeopardise our safety. It’s a time when we can just be, without having to worry about ‘passing’ or ‘fitting in’ with people who don’t mind us being gay, as long as we do so in the very particular, strictly defined and understated manner they have deemed acceptable. It’s a time when, for just a few short, sweet hours of the year, we can be free.

I’ve read a lot recently about how straight people are missing pubs and restaurants and cafes. This is entirely understandable, and I do sympathise, but imagine if your pubs were the only places in which you could safely relax your mannerisms, speak freely about your home life, or hold your partner’s hand. Then imagine that you lived in a city that only had one pub. Maybe go on to imagine that this single establishment only opened two nights a week, from 10 pm until 6 am, when the majority of old bastards like me are tucked up in bed. One place in the entire locality where, if you don’t like sticky floors, banging music and drinking until it’s light, you’re basically excluded anyway. That is the reality for huge numbers of LGBTQ people in the UK, and Pride is one of the few precious moments of relief we are allowed from this frustrating, constrained existence.

The absence of Pride represents so much more than the cancellation of the queers’ annual road-closing, attention-seeking carnival. For many of us, it represents a real and tangible loss that will be keenly felt and difficult to quantify. In normal times, Pride provides some brief respite from the othering, the mistreatment and the denigration that punctuates our daily lives. It provides hope for a brighter tomorrow, and a chance, for one day, to experience what it might be like should we ever finally achieve true equality. It provides an essential mental boost to help us weather the darker times that will inevitably follow this priceless moment of optimism when reality comes crashing back down around us.

This crisis has, distressingly, not even begun to put an end to the attacks our community is so often forced to endure, but what it has achieved is to rob us of one of our most vital coping mechanisms in the face of those attacks. And for that, I will unashamedly mourn its loss.

Straight Pride event a roaring success, insist sweaty virgins

Attendees of Boston’s first annual Straight Pride parade have declared the event a resounding success, as up to three dozen rat-bearded, sexually inactive basement-dwellers took to the streets to exercise their constitutional right to parade their toxic white masculinity in front of a bemused and much larger crowd of non-dickheads.

The tragic cockfest unfolded before a heavy police presence, and featured some lamentable tosser with his mobile phone in a belt holster, and that bloated Nazi cunt off YouTube. Not a single woman was in attendance, however, with ladies having been excluded from participating on the grounds that ‘they’re all prick-teasing bitches’.

Drab, colourless floats and thinly disguised racism were the official themes of this year’s event, and were so well-received by the assembled pasty-faced cry-wankers that organisers are considering making this a permanent fixture in future years.

Harold, a 36-year-old sex pest who wished to be known as ‘truthspeaker365’, said,

“My mom told me this would be a pointless mound of shit, and that my time would be better spent looking for a job so I can get my own apartment, but I’m glad I came. The fags get everything these days: parades, marriage, sex…lots of sex, and it’s about time we made a return to the days where twelve of us could kick the shit out of one guy for looking a bit mincey, without fear of persecution.”

When asked to respond to allegations that this was little more than a rally for white supremacists who were cynically using sexuality as a vehicle for their twatty, poptart-fuelled hate, Paul, a prolific masturbator with a misspelled tattoo and actual full-sized tits, insisted,

“It’s not about race, and those who say those things are simply proving our point. Just because I’m wearing a MAGA hat, waving a ‘Trump 2020’ flag and standing on a float bearing the slogan ‘BUILD THAT WALL’, doesn’t mean I’m a raging fascist. The guy who works at my local 7-11 is some kind of ethnic, and I don’t even ask to be served by someone else. At least not when it’s busy.”

Many of those lining the route, however, were less than enamoured with the proceedings. Jane, a woman with self-respect and a functioning brain, observed,

“Look at the sad bastards. It’s like someone put racial intolerance, sexual frustration and petty jealousy in a big fucking blender with some improbably dense shit, and moulded the resulting woman-repelling sludge into these cunts. They’re never getting laid, ever. I wish they’d fuck off back to their sticky-carpeted bedsits so I can pick up my dry cleaning in under two hours without the stench of B.O. burning my fucking nostrils.”

The incel brigade remained stubbornly undeterred by this intervention, labelling Jane a ‘stupid fucking whore’, before heading home to rest up their overactive rage glands in time for Black History Month.

When Pride Month Is Over: How To Be An Effective Ally

Pride Month has drawn to a close. Corporations prepare to take down their rainbow flags, secretly pleased that they can stop pretending to give a shit about the queers for another year. The Home Office looks forward to removing any trace of inclusivity from its Twitter profile, relieved to be able to return to telling asylum seekers facing torture or death to ‘act less gay’. Pitifully inadequate cis-het dickholes will temporarily cease their incessant, pant-pissing whining about not having a Straight Pride month, and begin laying the all-important groundwork for ‘WHEN IS WHITE HISTORY MONTH?’ month.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I mean, for them it does, obviously, because they’re…just…frightful fucking arseholes, but for you, there’s no reason not to be an effective LGBT+ ally all year round.

Here’s how you can support the queer community throughout the calendar, in the hope that, one day, Barry from Chigwell won’t have to worry about his penis falling off because he encountered a handsome, muscular gentleman in a glittery belly top.

Be visible. Be vocal.

You don’t use the word ‘gay’ to mean ‘a bit shit’? Thanks. You manage to avoid involuntarily shrieking in terror when a butch lesbian enters a public toilet? Awesome. Showing the level of self-discipline necessary not to spend a twelfth of the year standing up in pubs and yelling ‘CHEAP LOUSY FAGGOT’ in time with a lot of other pissed-up straight people? Go you. But maybe you could do more.

Quietly accepting our right to exist is fine, I guess, but in practical terms, it’s not a lot more useful than low-level homophobia. To really make a difference, you need to be seen. You need to be heard.

It’s more or less certain that your place of work, your circle of friends, your school or your social media account contains one or more people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. Being in that position and feeling like you have nowhere to turn is a lonely place to be.

Even those of us who are already out to some extent don’t necessarily feel comfortable being open about who we are in all situations. We might be out at home, but not at work. Open at the gym, closeted at the pub.

We need a reason to come out. We need to know that people exist who will celebrate us for who we are. We need to feel safe and supported to be every bit of ourselves in every given scenario. We need an anchor.

You can be that anchor, but you almost certainly won’t achieve it with passive ‘I don’t make bumsex jokes so what the hell do they want?’ levels of engagement. Being a vocal and visible advocate for LGBT+ equality is probably the single biggest thing you can do to help queer people around you feel comfortable enough with their identity not to have to hide it from all but a selected few.

Talk frequently and openly about your support for LGBT+ rights, your queer friends, and the queer media you have seen and enjoyed. Wear the rainbow lanyard or a Pride watch strap or some other visible sign that you are a person who supports LGBT+ inclusivity.

Call out homophobia or transphobia wherever you see it. Don’t sit quietly by while ‘jokes’ are made at our expense. Don’t allow inappropriate language to be seen as remotely acceptable in your presence, because this is how hate is normalised. If Dave in marketing uses the word ‘poofs’, tell him to stop being such a fucking prick. If Carol in finance says she doesn’t want trans women in the toilets, ask her why she’s concentrating on other bathroom users’ genital arrangements and not on pissing.

We see this stuff. We hear it. It matters to us.

Trans rights are human rights

There is no LGB without the T.

Trans people are a vital, integral part of our community, and they have fought shoulder to shoulder with us as we’ve battled for the rights we currently possess. And, of course, many of them are L, G or B themselves.

Their trans identities, however, are under serious and sustained attack from newspapers, politicians, social media commentators, virulently fucking unpleasant sitcom writers, and even from certain inexplicably shitty elements within the LGBT+ community itself.

It’s up to all of us, queer people and allies alike, to fight back. Trans people are a tiny, vulnerable and marginalised minority, and they can’t do it alone. If you’re the kind of person who speaks out against transphobia in all its forms, and who offers a supportive and understanding ear, shoulder or other body part to trans people, you’re probably already a pretty good ally.

If, however, the extent of your being an ally is attending Pride once a year for a fun, colourful day out dancing to Britney with some white cis gays while you spend the other 364 days looking the other way as trans people are thrown under a seemingly endless line of Craggy Island buses, you’re not a fucking ally. You’re a selfish dickhead who is using the LGBT+ community for their own ends.

Don’t use our identities as insults. Ever.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the following scenario:

Homophobe says/writes something homophobic, ‘ally’ rides in with a truly hilarious riposte about how the homophobe is actually just craving a thick, veiny, glistening, throbbing seven-incher (sorry…drifted off for a moment there) but is just too nervous to say.

This is not helpful.

Yes, sometimes homophobes are closeted gays, obviously, but the majority of closeted gays aren’t homophobic and the majority of people who abuse the LGBT+ community are not closeted gays.

An overwhelmingly large percentage of the vitriol that comes our way is from straight people, and automatically implying that someone who behaves that way must be a repressed homosexual lets straight people off the hook for the pretty unacceptable level of homophobic abuse most of us still have to face.

This lazy trope also reduces queer identities to a frivolous thing we throw at bigots in an attempt to ridicule or humiliate them, and that’s not how an ally behaves. Fucking stop it.

Learn the language

Words are important. What we say and how we say it invariably reflects, in a very direct way, the content of our characters. If you don’t care enough to respect someone’s pronouns, or to understand that the word ‘cis’ is not an insult, how can you possibly claim to be an ally?

Taking the time to learn what terms are acceptable and which are not is the very bare minimum that should be expected of any ally, and it’s really quite easy to do.

Half an hour on Bing (which you can find on Google) will almost certainly yield the majority of the information you need, and if you still don’t understand, you can always fucking ask. Not a single LGBT+ person is going to be irritated or annoyed by someone who genuinely wants to be more supportive of our community asking questions about how they can achieve that. Not even me, and I get irritated by the sound of another person breathing.

Empower the whole community

We are a diverse group.

We are gay, we are lesbian, we are bi, we are trans, we are black, we are brown, we are white, we are Asian, we are asexual, we are gender non-conforming, we are queer, we are intersex, we are butch, we are camp, we are…so many other things.

It’s great that we’re all those things, but not so great that inequality still exists even within the community itself.

Queer people of colour are too readily left behind, bisexual identities too readily erased, feminine gays too readily derided or lampooned, and LGBT+ people on low incomes too readily frozen out of Pride events based on their inability to afford the ridiculous ticket prices necessary to bring in the big name pop diva demanded by white, middle class gays.

An effective ally doesn’t just ask Granny not to say ‘shirt-lifter’ for an hour because Alan’s boyfriend is having tea with us, they understand that different levels of privilege exist in the wide and varied subgroups that make up our community, and actively seek to redress those inequalities. They look outside of their immediate frame of reference and lift up those who would otherwise be forgotten or marginalised, so that the whole community might one day be viewed as equal, both within itself and amongst society at large.

Support LGBT-inclusive education

It’s not ‘inappropriate’ for children to know that queer people exist. It’s not ‘confusing’ for children to learn about families different to their own. No one is getting ‘turned’ into anything they weren’t already as a result of receiving information about LGBT+ identities and relationships.

Section 28 was horrible. Like, really fucking life-threateningly terrible for so many people. And now, these tired old arguments are raising their ugly, intolerant heads again, particularly where trans people are concerned, but also in relation to wider LGBT+ issues, and it’s incumbent on all of us to fight back against it with every bit of force we can muster.

It’s not ‘up to parents’ to decide whether their children get to learn about a simple fact of life, and fuck anyone who says otherwise. This essential knowledge must be given to all children at the earliest possible opportunity so that another generation doesn’t have to grow up isolated, afraid and broken.

This affects you. It affects your children.

Speak to your child’s school today – do it now if you can – and make it clear that you support LGBT-inclusive relationship education right from the word go. The majority of people almost certainly feel this way, but the bigoted cunts who look back on Thatcher’s Britain with a misty-eyed nostalgia boner are shouting a whole lot louder right now.

Let’s drown the fuckers out, and make it so that the next generation of children grow up as natural LGBT+ allies and you no longer have to sit through turgid, rambling shit like this.

 

 

 

Letting kids be kids: the fig leaf of the homophobe

We all discover our sexuality at very different ages. It’s not a thing that happens all at once, of course, but an ongoing journey from early childhood, through adolescence and right into our adult lives. At some point on that journey, however, a moment of realisation occurs about who we’re attracted to.

As children, we’re absolutely bombarded with information about relationships. Our own parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. TV, films, books, and other media. All, overwhelmingly, reinforcing the same simple message: the default relationship is one that occurs between a man and a woman.

This is probably fine, of course, if at the aforementioned moment of realisation, you find you’re attracted to people of the opposite sex. Job done. Identity affirmed. Congratulations! You’re normal.

But what if you’re not?

What if you realise, at some stage along that journey of discovery, that you’re a boy who likes boys, or a girl who likes girls? Or what if everyone thinks of you as a girl, but somewhere deep inside you is the knowledge that this is not who you really are? And what if this happens when the only information you’ve received about relationships and identities from the day you were born has been almost exclusively cis-heteronormative?

I’ll tell you what happens, because I was that child. I knew I liked boys before I’d even heard the word ‘gay’, or had any idea what it meant. I had no language to describe my feelings, and no reassurance that what I was experiencing was ok. When I was eventually introduced to the concept of gayness, it was made clear to me that being gay was a Very Bad Thing, so naturally, I began to hide my feelings away.

I was no more than six or seven when I learned that it was wrong to be who I was, and the psychological damage this knowledge inflicts on a child is profound and enduring. It was a mantra that was repeatedly hammered home through what remained of my childhood and into my early adult life, the fallout from which I don’t know if I’ll ever really finish dealing with.

Sadly, this intolerable situation remains the case for so many LGBTQ children today, and there are those who are fighting with every fibre of their being to ensure that another generation of young people continue to be subjected to this gratuitous emotional barbarity.

“Stop sexualising our children!” they scream. “Let kids be kids.”

Bizarrely, they only seem to have this reaction to the suggestion that children should be taught about LGBTQ relationships and identities, and never in response to the constant flow of heteronormative ideas, which tends to make me think they might just be homophobic cunts who don’t actually give the first fuck about protecting children.

They’re perfectly happy, for example, for children to catch up on the escapades of Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig, but if a programme existed in which Peppa (or some other character) had two daddies, that would apparently be no better than teaching five-year-olds about the intricacies of glory holes and rimming.

And this gets to the heart of the matter. 

To those who aren’t hateful fucking trash, queer folk are just normal people. We go to work, we pay bills, we watch TV, we go for walks, we enjoy opera or sports or books. We have friendships, relationships, families. We fall in love and we break up and we’re flawed and messy and fragile and damaged and…human. 

To those who want to confine us to the shadows, we’re reduced to mere sex acts. We’re deviants, hell bent on corrupting young minds and ‘turning’ them gay or bi or trans.

Childhood should be the best time of our lives. We should be happy and carefree, unencumbered by day to day grown-up worries about paying the mortgage, buying food, getting a job, raising a family or whether we’re going bald. We are, as it happens.

‘Letting kids be kids’ means preserving this feeling for as long as possible, and how can we possibly hope to achieve that if 5-10% of them have no information to say that who they are is valid and normal, and the other 90-95% aren’t taught to respect, or indeed celebrate, this wonderful diversity that enriches all our lives?

‘Waiting until they get to secondary school’ is like waiting until someone is three months pregnant to teach them about contraception. By the age of 11, the vast majority of children will have experienced an attraction of some sort to one of their peers, and will be beginning to develop an awareness of their gender identity. If all they’ve known about queerness until this point is rooted in hate and negativity, the damage is already done.

And if you’re the kind of blistering fucking arsehole who wants to inflict this psychological cruelty, emotional insecurity, constant bullying and poor mental health on today’s children as it was inflicted on yesterday’s, at least have the courage to cease using those same children as a fig leaf for your repulsive bigotry, and just admit that you don’t like queer people.

Knowing that Josh has two mums will not prevent ‘kids being kids’. Sarah knowing that her crush on Jenny is perfectly normal isn’t ‘sexualising’ anyone. Saying, ‘Last term you used to know this person as Erica, but now he’d like to be known as Eric and please respect his pronouns,’ isn’t going to ‘corrupt young minds’.

No one is getting ‘turned into’ anything they weren’t already. If 30-odd years of believing that being gay was about the worst thing I could be didn’t turn me straight, I’m pretty fucking sure a storybook about a boy with two mums isn’t going to turn a whole generation of children into rampant homosexuals.

All that will happen is that these children will feel safer knowing that LGBTQ identities are just as valid as cis-het identities, that they’ll be given the love and support they need to be who they really are, and that their peers will be more tolerant and accepting of their differences.

That sounds like a pretty fucking great childhood to me.

Pigs, Chickens and Pride 2018

As Pride Month rolls around, it is my wont to write something a little more serious and considered than the usual ranting, expletive-laden frivolity you’re likely to encounter on my Twitter account. I appreciate I’ve left it a little late this year, but I reckon not dealing with things until you absolutely have to is 2018’s jam, so I should still be ok.

I’m not even sure what this piece will be about, I just felt as though I should write…something. I think, though, I’d like to talk about myself for a while. I know that’s probably going to elicit a few groans, but fuck it: I’m in charge here, not you.

For those of you who don’t know, my situation is a little unusual. It started off fairly typically, I guess: closeted guy gets married, has a family, finally comes out…you know how that one ends. Except it didn’t end that way for me. My wife and I are still together, and not just to keep up appearances or because we have a child, but because we actually want to be together.

In many ways, this is the best outcome I could have hoped for. With the odd (quite understandable) wobble aside, she has been unflinchingly understanding and supportive, and, whilst our relationship has unarguably altered substantially over the past two years, that change has been, to an overwhelming degree, positive. So I had the benefit of being able to be honest about who I am, with none of the upheaval of a messy divorce and all the associated unpleasantness. Great.

But that’s not quite the whole story.

You see, I’ve always struggled with my identity, and that struggle continues to this day. I spent 37 years feeling like I didn’t fit, like I didn’t really belong anywhere. Then I came out, and, for obvious reasons, immediately began to identify as bisexual. That was great at first, but after the initial euphoria of being out had started to abate, I realised that I didn’t really feel bisexual. With the exception of the one with whom I’d spent the past decade and a half of my life, I wasn’t really attracted to women at all. 

So I started to identify as gay. This felt better to me – more honest at least – but it brought with it its own problems. Primary amongst these is the fact that I’ve never really felt accepted by other gay men. I feel like they view me as an outsider, an imposter. Indeed, some have explicitly stated as much to my face. As a result, I started to feel that way about myself, not least of all because, when you look at it objectively, their argument has some merit. So I’d gone from not really fitting in as a straight guy to not really fitting in as a gay guy. I felt like I’d been cast adrift, back into that ocean of not belonging. 

Then there are the questions. Oh, Jesus, the fucking questions:

“Why are you still married?”

“You’re not really gay then, are you?”

“Do you still have sex?”

“How does THAT work?”

Quite aside from the fact that these things are no one’s fucking business but my own, I wonder how many people would presume to ask a straight person they hardly know (or even one they know quite well) why they bother to stay married, or indeed whether they still have sex with their spouse.

These questions began to take their toll because, whilst I’m very open about who I am online, I still wasn’t totally comfortable in real life situations being a queer guy who’s married to a woman. So I found myself reverting to the old habit of ‘passing’ as straight to avoid the funny looks or the probing questions. And I fucking hated it. I’d spent most of my life pretending to be someone I wasn’t, and it felt like I was still hiding even after risking everything by coming out.

I’ve attempted to explain my situation a thousand different ways to a thousand different people, but I’m not sure any of them really get it. All I know is that I’ve been through an awful lot of shit over the course of my adult life – some soaring highs and some desperate, crashing lows – and the one person I’ve always known I can rely on to be there, without question, without equivocation, is my wife. 

We laugh a lot. Sometimes we cry. We take the piss out of each other mercilessly. We argue, but not very often. We mourn our departed pets like they’re members of our family because that’s exactly what they are. We celebrate each other’s victories as though they were our own, and commiserate on each other’s failures to an equal degree. We lift each other up during times of hardship, and appreciate the good times all the more for it. We drink wine and go for walks, though not usually at the same time. We share common values and work together to instill them in our son, who we’re certain will one day turn out to be a fine young man. So whereas we might not have ended up together had I had the courage to be honest about who I was when I was 20, I feel like it’s an awful lot to throw away now I’m pushing 40.

I realise I’m rambling now, but I wanted to provide a little context to the statement that this last year has been what you might describe as a little bit really fucking awful for me. On top of the stuff I’ve already mentioned, my son was hospitalised in quite a dramatic and somewhat traumatic fashion in February/March, and I also endured the most stressful house purchase/move it’s possible to imagine shortly after that. There have been times over the past 12 months when it’s fair to say I’ve been in a bit of a state.

I’ve suffered some pretty horrible bouts of depression going back several years, and I waited far too long to seek treatment. When I did eventually decide to get help, I had to battle with the gatekeepers of my local NHS trust’s mental health services in order to be allowed access to even a short course of counselling. I know I’ve said it many times before, and I will no doubt say it again a million times in the future, but fuck every single member of this uniquely fucking evil government.

Anyway, after I had finally secured the treatment I needed, I started having some therapy earlier this year. I don’t feel as though I got the best out of the sessions as my anxiety was off the fucking chart with the house stuff, but it definitely helped. I don’t even think my therapist was particularly amazing at dealing with my particular issues, but just being able to talk to someone impartial was a huge positive for me.

If nothing else, I think the sessions helped me to change the way I think about certain problems. I still struggle with my identity, but I’ve learned not to dwell on it too much. One day I suspect such labels as ‘gay’ and ‘bi’ will be redundant and people will just be attracted to whoever they’re attracted to without worrying about which particular box they fit into. Maybe I was just born a few hundred years too early.

I’ve also learned to be less bothered by the inappropriate questions because, ultimately, they’re not a thing I can control. All I can do is be the best version of myself it’s possible to be, to be open and honest about who I am, and to invite those who don’t like it to go eat a big fucking bucketful of Trump dicks. I am what I am, and all that.

Which brings me neatly back onto Pride Month. This year, as with every other, there have been the usual cries of, “Why do you still need Pride?” from people who really shouldn’t be allowed to operate anything more dangerous than a fucking duvet without professional supervision. There are a whole range of very general answers to this eminently fucking ridiculous question, but I hope this article provides a more specific, personal example. I still need Pride, and I suspect I always will because it’s never gonna be easy being who I am. It is getting easier, though.

I guess sometimes, if you’re really lucky, life works out exactly as you had planned and everything just falls perfectly into place. More often than not, however, we have to play an imperfect hand and try not to lose the farm. Well it’s been a monumental fucking struggle, but I still have my farm and the soil is reasonably fertile and there are even some pigs and chickens wandering around somewhere. It’s doing ok.

It’s not ‘Gay Pride’, and it’s ok to say so

I have a confession to make: I’m a pedant. I am the sort of person who will react like a steak-deprived Jeremy Clarkson at the sight of an erroneous your/you’re, and who will beat his fist on the desk like a millionaire Tory MP who’s just been told about a proposed £3 per month increase in the rate of disability benefits at the use of the word ‘I’ when it should rightly be ‘me’. For many of you, this will hardly come as a surprise, but it did give me cause to stop and think about my reaction over the past few days to the persistent use of the term ‘Gay Pride’ by a range of news outlets and social media users.

The BBC News channel’s coverage of Belfast Pride on Saturday repeatedly referred to the event as ‘Gay Pride’ (though they also referred to homophobic fuckweasels as ‘religious conservatives’, so accuracy obviously isn’t high on their agenda); that bastion of left wing inclusivity The Guardian told us yesterday that the National Trust had reversed its decision to require volunteers to wear ‘gay pride badges’ (because even those volunteering for charities should be free to behave like arseholes, presumably); and The Star proudly reported how Michaella McCollum (no, me neither) was pictured ‘flashing her nips at Gay Pride in Brighton’, which is presumably the sort of hard-hitting journalism the author, Nicholas Bieber, feels justifiably proud of having produced. The monumental titwank.

Perhaps most worryingly, though, a quick Google search for the term ‘Gay Pride’ brought up the following result:

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I can’t even begin to explain that last one, but the organisers of a Pride event really ought to know better.

Every time I hear the words ‘Gay Pride’, my reaction is similar to that experienced when I witness ‘imply’ and ‘infer’ being used interchangeably: my brow furrows, my buttocks clench (often audibly) and I let out the exasperated sigh of a teenage boy whose parents simply won’t fuck off out so that he can have a wank. Given my self-confessed pedantry, therefore, it was only natural that I should start to wonder whether my objection to this phrase is just another manifestation of my somewhat anal commitment to linguistic accuracy.

The short answer is that it is not. Having given the matter a good degree of thought, I have reached the conclusion that my bristling is actually quite justified. Whereas the first Pride events were routinely referred to as ‘Gay Pride’, this hasn’t been the case now for many years, and rightly so. Our lesbian, bisexual, trans and other queer friends have been with us from the start, playing an instrumental role in the Stonewall riots of 1969, and in organising the very first Pride event the following year.

For the most part, LGB rights have improved immeasurably since the late 1960s, but it’s sad to say that the rights of trans, intersex and non-binary people haven’t kept pace. Whilst LGBT+ people still experience disproportionately high rates mental illness across the board, by far the worst affected are trans people, around 40% of whom will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. And far from looking upon this as a reason for attitudes to change, many a loathsome shit will actually use the intolerably high rates of attempted suicide as a stick with which to beat trans people:

“Trans people aren’t ‘stuck in the wrong body’, they’re just mentally ill – look at their suicide rates!”

What these subhuman sacks of festering excrement fail to realise (or do realise but are simply too fucking vile to care), is that trans people aren’t taking their own lives because they’re who they are, but because of the nasty, small-minded shite fountains who abuse, belittle and attack them for who they are. Their families disown them, their friends ridicule them and a rabid, unchecked right wing media portrays them as something to fear and deride. High-profile commentators, like the arse-faced, steaming bucket of pig jizz that is Piers Morgan, routinely use their platforms to make bigoted statements about trans people with little or no backlash. And whilst it would be nice to lay all the blame at the door of oily, shitty little cunts like Morgan, it’s disappointing to report that it’s not possible to do so. As I touched on in my previous article for Pride Month, casual (and not so casual) transphobia is still rife in the LGB community. All too often, I hear words like ‘tranny’ and ‘she-male’ being thrown around by assorted cis-gay fucktrumpets who, quite understandably, don’t particularly like it when they’re referred to as ‘poofs’ or ‘faggots’. It really has to stop.

Another problem we face as a community is our tendency to dismiss bisexual people as ‘confused’ or ‘undecided’, with a troublingly large minority of gays and lesbians being willing to declare that ‘bisexuality doesn’t really exist’. I have to say, I bear a good degree of residual guilt for the prevalence of such views because, although it’s certainly not an idea I subscribe to in any way, I did feed into this narrative by identifying as bisexual when I first came out. I think my reasons for that were fairly easy to justify (it wasn’t a conscious decision – I actually was a little confused), but it doesn’t stop me feeling like a gigantic twat, all the same. That said, it’s important to note that, whilst there are confused people who identify as bisexual, not all bisexuals are confused. And neither are they an inconsequential part of our community that we can simply forget about when it suits us.

Like it or not, we are in this together. From the lesbian who incited the unrest after being hit on the head by a police officer outside the Stonewall bar, to the trans women who risked everything to throw rocks at law enforcement officials and the bisexual people who fought alongside them; our pasts, and our futures, are inextricably linked. It seems a little like some in the gay community are happy to reap the benefits of the support we received from lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer activists then, and in the many years since Stonewall, without feeling the need to return the favour when it’s most needed.

So I urge you, fellow gays, to drop the term ‘Gay Pride’ from your vocabulary. It erases those members of our community who have stood up alongside us for so many years and betrays exactly the same level of privileged bollocks that so many straight people unthinkingly shit out on a daily basis (straight pride, anyone?). Moreover, if you see others referring to Pride as ‘Gay Pride’, correct them. Whether it’s a 300-follower user of Twitter, your Daily Mail-reading aunt on Facebook, or an international media outlet, it’s an exercise worth undertaking. None of us are free until all of us are free, and it’s up to us to ensure that every single part of our community is represented. It’s patently obvious that we can’t trust the media to regulate itself in this regard, so we have to accept responsibility for saying to them that it’s not ok to erase the LBTQ people upon whose shoulders we are so fortunate to stand.