Photo courtesy of Marie S. on Unsplash
It is unfortunate that in many countries being gay is legally a crime. In other places, although not labeled criminal, there are segments of society who believe they are entitled to abuse members of the LGBTQ community either verbally or physically. I state right now, most emphatically, that such abuse is wrong. Such abuse itself should be labeled criminal; and in the more enlightened countries, it is.
People should not need to feel they have to be on guard against continual discrimination. For instance, LGBTQ couples just want to mind their own business and live their lives. But I recall some media reports over the years such as these examples.
(i) Two women were dropping their daughter off at the school gates. A man who’d just seen his own child into school, approached the women, whose little girl was watching, and began yelling expletives and shoving them. He kicked their car before walking away. Not only were the women slightly wounded, but their daughter was traumatized. This happened approximately 25 years ago, and I believe it was in Canada.
(ii) Two teenaged males were assigned a 2-bed dormitory in a university residence. One was a closeted gay. During a free afternoon, he and a friend studied in the room while the other resident was in class. These young men began embracing, unaware that a secret camera was recording them. This had been set up by the straight student, who then posted the clip online (this is an instance of what is termed cyberbullying). The teenaged gay man committed suicide because of it. This occurred in 2010 at Rutgers University in the US.
There’s a mistaken belief that discrimination aimed at the LGBTQs is perpetrated by less-educated, lower class individuals; however, The Irish Times reports that on 7th December, 2020, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, a member of the British House of Lords, was suspended for homophobic bullying.
It turns out that Lord Maginnis has harassed gay and lesbian individuals for many years. His contempt hearkens back to his home country of Ireland (1), where he was recorded in a BBC Northern Ireland interview as saying he was against gay marriage because he didn’t believe society should have imposed on it “something that is unnatural.” In the same show, he talked of “bestiality” and “deviant practices.” This was in 2012 on the Stephen Nolan show and proves Maginnis has held the same views for many years.
Although at the time, in 2012, there was pushback from the Ulster Unionist Party leader and from gay rights groups, he still went on to become a member of the House of Lords. It has taken his ongoing insults and ridicule of several British gay security guards and three MPs, to finally force the House to suspend him for 18 months.
Why only a suspension? He has proven by continual abusive behaviour that he is not going to change.
It’s unfortunate that harassment of the LGBTQ community is ongoing, tolerated, and across so many social groups. It’s why so many who feel they’re born in the wrong body stay silent, leading what is, to them, a life of hiding their true selves and the stress that causes.(2)
In better news, though, the last decade or so has seen more people feeling safe enough to “come out” in many Western countries, and for transgendered people to request they be called by a different pronoun and new name.
One such is the film actor Ellen Page, who starred as Juno, in a film of the same name (2007), as Vanya Hargreeves in the ongoing series The Umbrella Academy (Season 1 premiered in 2019) and many other roles. Page also worked in 2019 as a co-director in There’s Something in the Water.
Page came out as gay during a speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s 2014 “Time to Thrive” conference in Las Vegas, married choreographer Emma Portner in 2018, and in late 2020, publicly announced a new name, Elliot Page, and new gender: he/they.
Mr. Page called out transphobic politicians (this would certainly include Lord Maginnis) and others who, he says, have “blood on their hands.”
He also said: “I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self” and thanked the trans community for working to make the world more inclusive. However, he goes on to admit he’s also afraid, bracing for hatred and discrimination. He points to the many murders of trans people.
I’m glad for Elliot Page that he has joined others who desperately needed to be their true selves. Others who come to mind right now are Sonny & Cher’s child, born a daughter, who now goes by the name Chaz Bono, and Caitlyn Jenner, who was previously a male decathlete and Olympic medalist.
Let’s remember, there is still so much more to be done to support the LGTBQ community. We can start with a kind word and friendly face, and the knowledge that we are diverse in myriad ways, but that we are all human beings. We are part of the same tribe.
Footnote 1. This is not to imply that all Irish are homophobic, but rather, that a small fraction are, the same is in other Western countries. The Irish former Prime Leo Varadkar was an openly gay Prime Minister (Fine Gael party) and his orientation was a non issue.
Footnote 2. In a future blog post, I intend to define and discuss the history of several kinds of prejudice, including homophobia but also misogyny, misandry and xenophobia.
[New link added April 30, 2021: Elliot Page’s interview with Oprah]