I read this horrific piece ten minutes ago. Two women, a couple, beaten up on a London bus for refusing to let a gang of young men intimidate them into playthings for their male gaze.
I’m trying to pay attention to what is going on in my body. My stomach is churning, there is a shiver across my upper back and shoulder blades that won’t go away, my hands are shaky and it feels like maybe they want to form fists – to fight or to flee, maybe both. My legs are agitated, jumpy. This is fear. Actual physical fear.
THIS is what it’s like. Every fucking day that I am not behind the closed front door of my home. THIS is what it’s like to walk down the street with my wife and know that neither she nor I feel at ease holding each others’ hands let alone making any stronger gesture of love. THIS is what it’s like being queer and has been all of my adult life, most of my teenage life from the time I knew I was ‘different’ and was aware why I felt that way. Not knowing if we’re safe, not knowing what it might feel like to feel safe with my loved one. Never ever simply and naturally reaching for each other in public because we know this reaction from strangers is always possible. Hearing myself say ‘my wife’ and waiting for a reaction every bloody time. Because there is a reaction every bloody time. Even when it’s a positive and warm reaction there is a reaction. It is NOT ordinary, usual, ‘normal’.
To book a hotel room and be asked do I really mean a double room. To not go out on Valentine’s night (yes, the commercialism is rubbish) because we don’t want to stand out and be noticed, we want to be with each other, and nor do we want to go to a ghetto where yes, we’ll be safe, but at what cost – the cost of hiding. Again. Still.
This is what it’s like being LGBTQ in the UK today.
Pride should be about the truth. It should be about our fear and our loss and our worry. It should be about the elderly queer people who still fear coming out and who cannot be out to their carers. It should be about the teenager kicked out of home for being gay or lesbian or queer or trans or non-binary or whatever term they choose to apply to their own lives because their family want them to conform to some other idea of what is ok, what is acceptable. It is about all the constant, daily inequalities that range from irritating over-interest to verbal attacks to physical violence.
It didn’t get fixed with equal marriage – look at how many prospective PMs didn’t vote for it.
It didn’t get fixed with the equal age of consent.
It didn’t get fixed with Queer as Folk or The L Word or Ellen or Brokeback Mountain or Gentleman Jack or any number of out celebrities. Presence – still meagre anyway, still largely male in the media – does not do away with this. The visceral fear I feel sitting here, reading this article, in the safety of my own home.
We do not need a parade. We do not need a party. We do not need straight people appropriating our cause and having fun ‘with the gays’. We need Pride that says FUCK THIS SHIT. IT IS NOT FIXED.
There is work to do. There has always been work to do. There will always be work to do. Partying is for when the work is done.