I’m never normally speechless but the other day a work colleague rendered me thus. She happened to mention the Stonewall “Some People Are Gay Get Over It” bus campaign that has re-launched. She wondered why it was necessary at all and considered it a bit of an insult…
I remained silent, to my shame. There was a lot that I could have said.
I could have pointed out that homophobic hate crimes still ride high in the crime figures’ hit parade.
I could have discussed the recent reports about the volume of calls to The Samaritans from men with issues surrounding their sexuality.
I could have pointed out that although we’re both white and middle class, we work in an area with a high black and ethnic minority population with high social deprivation where homophobia is rife.
I could have pointed out the high levels of bullying in schools, prevalence of drug and alcohol problems in LGBT people and the high rates of mental illness and suicide that, unsurprisingly, go hand in hand with this.
Maybe, I could have quoted some of the extremist religious groups and the hatred and bile that they spout about us, to anyone who will listen.
I could have discussed the long wait for marriage equality and the vitriol that was merrily aired during this debate.
I could have mentioned the school children on the bus, merrily calling each other ‘gay’ as an insult, the word, naturally, meaning totally crap.
I didn’t mention any of this. I grunted and carried on typing, followed a few minutes later by a funny little aside about a colleague. I was fulfilling my role, you see: comedic and waspish gay colleague/friend/relative/neighbour. We’re unthreatening and fun to be around. We’re much like the inflatable ‘gay best friend’ recently on sale by a major supermarket. We make hen nights jolly but can be put back in the drawer if we get over blown.
I think that tomorrow, I may take something unusual to work with me: my soapbox. We’ve got things to discuss.
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