It’s a common misconception among lots of my straight friends that homophobic bigotry is almost non-existent in modern society and that people are generally pretty tolerant.

I’m sure they’d be shocked to read that a peer who sat in the House of Lords has branded this website as displaying an “aggressive type of behaviour”, being a “perverse pressure group” and having a “corrupting influence on susceptible and vulnerable young people.” Bigotry clearly stalks the corridors of power and is pretty poorly informed.

Personally, I wouldn’t call myself perverse or corrupting. I’m certainly not aggressive either; assertive, maybe. I can stand my ground. I work hard in the public sector, pay my taxes and keep a clean house. I even subscribe to the Radio Times, listen to Radio 4 and like walking in the Peak District. I’m thoroughly wholesome, mostly. Just because the gender of the person I sleep next to and have sex with is the same as my own, it doesn’t make me a degenerate. I don’t go around spewing venom and hatred either. That, to me, is the hallmark of an aggressive bad influence. Hatred aimed against whole groups of people is a true evil.

As a younger gay man, the corrupting influences which affected me adversely did not originate from the gay community. They came from the mouths of bigots and zealots. I was continually told by teachers, the government of the day and by religious groups that I was sick and depraved and an abomination. This didn’t make me feel warm inside. The eighties were nasty in many ways, not just because of the bad clothes. The positive influences on me were gay celebrities, gay literature and gay films, which showed me that actually they were all wrong and being gay did not equate being the spawn of Satan. It was just something I was born being.

If only the internet had been around then. I feel heartened that young gay men and women can now access internet forums and sites like this to help them learn that the way they were born is not a crime and doesn’t make them wrong or bad.

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The city where I live hit the news in February of this year when three men were jailed for homophobic hate crimes. It was a case that made me feel physically sick. This was a test case using the newly amended laws from 2010. The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which came into force in 2010, made it an offence to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. These three men chose to distribute leaflets in the street and through letter boxes which were intended to insult and abuse gay men and to stir up hatred against them. The leaflets called for the death penalty for homosexuality and suggested we either turn straight, burn in hell or face execution. Thankfully these dangerous bigots were jailed for their actions. I know I would have been disconcerted and felt threatened to receive one of these leaflets.

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You only have to keep a faint eye on the news to see that bigotry is still big business and hate crimes exist in many forms and at all levels of society across the globe. I know who I think are the real bad influences here and I have just one thing to say: Bigots, bugger off.

About the author: Chris Bridges
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He's usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.

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