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International day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia

October 03, 2020

I hate needles. I can’t bear to look at them. They make me squirm and the very thought of them makes my hands go numb.

I especially hate seeing them puncture the skin. They always do this on TV or film without warning -why is that? I think we deserve a five-minute warning where there’s a little message that appears in the movie and a countdown for people like me to look away. That would be revolutionary. Anyway…

I hate needles, but I don’t actively hate them. I don’t shout at them when I see them in a hospital (always best not to shout at inanimate objects around doctors I find) and nor do I wish to eradicate them from the world or to spit at them in disgust. That goes without saying for someone who’s trypanophobic (fear of needles).

And yet, when we think of other phobias our thoughts are of someone being shouted at with words we know are wrong to use or someone being physically assaulted.

Like with many things human, phobias sit on a spectrum. It’s easy to assume that just because we don’t use offensive language or physically attack people in the street that we must be good citizens of the world (although, of course it goes without saying that they’re definitely good steps to follow).

I often hear people who would not consider themselves to be homophobic, biphobic, transphobic or any combination of the above saying things that potentially fall in the “low” end of the spectrum. This end is much more subtle, it doesn’t seem bad on the face of it and it may even sound positive at first: “who cares?“, “I don’t care who you are”, “why’s that relevant?” to name a few.

These people (nearly always) mean well in my experience. However, they don’t think beyond what they’re saying and how it can unintentionally stick in the mind of someone else - someone who it does affect.

Of course, I should just say that intent is everything. If you intend to seek out information or other people’s views in order to learn a little more about something and understand them better it’s always best to ask questions. Everyone has different levels of exposure and awareness that may lead to blind spots and if someone wants to learn and has good intentions then that can only be positive.

So, let’s end on an example.

If a well-known celebrity comes out as gay and your reaction is a rhetorical “who cares?” or “why is this news?” then maybe it’s worth thinking about whether it matters to others rather than blurting out how much it “doesn’t matter these days”.

It might seem like that to you, but it might mean a lot to a child who’s struggling with who they are in their own head at the age of 12. A child feeling alone, raised in a household where people are “blatantly” homophobic and being constantly reminded they cannot be that way. Living on a street in an area where everybody feels different to them, with no family or friends who are like themselves. Going to a school where there’s no education about such things. Where there’s not even a poster or a book of someone who holds the hand of another man to look at. A school where the only possible role model is a teacher who’s perpetually bullied by the kids in your class for being different. A school where to make friends you have to blend in and pretend to be someone else.

Imagine that child hearing there’s someone like him - and it’s in the national headlines.

"Someone high profile and adored by the country is also like me"

As that child, I know I would have been much more comfortable with myself today.