I tend to have a slightly over-active imagination. Maybe the diet of Hitchcock films and cheap thrillers that I devoured during my youth are to blame. I encountered three situations this week that sent my pulse racing and made me feel like Tippi Hedron in an aviary:

1) Walking through the deserted park on my way home from work on a dark November evening, I heard a man running at me. As he approached I heard him wheezing and breathing heavily. Anticipating a knife in my back or at least a huge hairy hand round my throat, I braced myself. Of course, it was one of the ubiquitous joggers that pound the streets, getting sore nipples and suffering for a few pounds of weight loss. It was all quite harmless.

2) Walking towards me was a man who was shouting loudly into the air. He was angry and babbling, face contorted with rage. Clearly this man was deranged and about to kick off, throwing punches and pulling out a huge sword as he moved to disembowel me. Of course, it was a man using his mobile. It’s so hard to tell nowadays who is and isn’t having a psychotic episode, as the world seems full of people shouting into mid air. It was all quite harmless.

3) Sitting on the bus I hear the words “F**king gay boy” shouted out loud. I wince and am instantly back to my 14-year-old self, suffering homophobic abuse on a daily basis. I expect that an attack on myself is forthcoming and prepare to vacate the bus. Of course it was just teenagers, causally bantering with each other, using the words ‘gay’ and ‘gay-boy’ to mean ‘sh**e’. It was all quite harmless.

Actually, no: the f**k number 3 was harmless. It was offensive, divisive and damaging. It might have been meant as a fun bit of cajoling but actually it’s really bloody offensive and really dangerous. Would they have used racist terms as insults to each other and thought that was O.K.? Is it O.K. to use a term describing a massive section of society to mean something is lame and useless? Is it harmless to allow this to happen when we’ve fought so hard for so many years for respect?

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Joggers are annoying and get under you feet. Mobile phone shouters are rude and ill mannered. People using the word gay to mean anything other than ‘happy’ (if they’re over 80) or homosexual are beyond despicable and in my opinion, are as dangerous and dumb as racists or people who use derogatory words for disabled people. I’m fully in support of the Stonewall Campaign against the casual use of homophobic language. I know it’s hard to change cultural practices but it’s not impossible.

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