Why is it so often the case that the struggle for equality can feel like one step forward and three back?
In the UK, equalities minister Justine Greening has announced plans to allow trans people to change their gender more easily, with less intrusive medical assessments, as part of a welcome shake up of equalities legislation. It’ll also be easier for gay men to give blood. This is good news, and updates to the Gender Recognition Act have to be welcomed.
On the other side of the Atlantic, our American friends have taken a few steps back, after President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, proving that pointless and nasty political tokenism is alive and well in the west. In-keeping with Trump’s consistency as a president thus far, the legislation is poorly thought-through, with no obvious route to implementation. Hopefully, it will be quickly struck down.We can’t afford to be sanguine about gay rights in the UK, and although most of us agree there is still some way to go, there are areas of disagreement over what to prioritise in moving towards equality. Because of my own experiences, one area I am passionate about is addressing the reality that homophobia affects more than just gay people. Bear with me on this if it’s not something you’ve previously considered. It’s great and right that we can report homophobic abuse to the police and have it taken very seriously (speaking from experience), but the story doesn’t begin and end there. Homophobia isn’t self-contained.
“…My parents received an ultimatum from one of my siblings:
boycott the wedding and disown me,
or have their grandchildren removed from their lives.
When my husband and I announced our engagement and intention to marry, my parents received an ultimatum from one of my siblings: boycott the wedding and disown me, or have their grandchildren removed from their lives. My parents attended my wedding and are no longer a part of those grandchildren’s lives. Yet my father’s thriving business was taken over by his homophobic child, and their wedding and a deposit for their first home was lovingly paid for out of my parents’ pockets. Prior to my husband and me tying the knot, my parents played a full and active role in that child’s life, and even more so once the grandchildren arrived, who adored their grandparents.
At first, they tried mediation. Their requests were ignored. They were so desperate to be reunited with their grandchildren that they used their life savings and pursued their last legal option, taking their case to the family courts. There, they found that the organisation Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) doesn’t take matters like homophobia into account in assessing what is best for children. As long as children are being looked after at home, then matters like their parents’ homophobic views and actions hold no weight. Similarly, grandparents have few, if any, access rights to their grandchildren. Most cases like this are as a result of acrimonious divorce, and grandparents on one side or the other invariably lose. Ultimately, in this instance, the judge repeatedly commented that she considered it a profoundly sad case and was aware of the gross injustice my parents were fighting, but was powerless even under these circumstances, with homophobic motivations on the other side, to grant my parents direct access, offering indirect access instead.
Believe it or not, the consolation prize was a better outcome than my parents had been briefed to expect. A different judge may have dismissed it outright.
Parents get to decide who can and cannot see their children, and bring them up in a homophobic household if they wish.
One major concern here though: what if a child in such a household is gay? There is a reason suicide rates in gay people is higher than average, and family hostility almost always plays a major part in such tragic cases.
It is clear to me that my parents are the victims of homophobia which has, in their old age, destroyed their happiness. They have reached the end of the road and now have to accept the outcome. This strikes me as a grievous wrong, and I hope many readers feel the same.
So what of the indirect victims of homophobia? I would be interested to hear others’ views, especially if anyone has known a remotely comparable situation. Whilst the homophobia my husband and I have suffered from within my family has been hurtful, it has been easy, painless and for the best to simply sever contact with the sources.
My parents’ suffering goes on. They are the real victims of homophobia here, not me.
For fear of further reprisals, the author wishes to remain anonymous, but please post your comments below.
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.