Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations
A few years ago, I encountered for the first time the idea that the word ‘gay’ was an acronym for ‘good as you.’ I was watching Milk, the 2009 film starring Sean Penn in the lead role, and the comment struck me. Those of you who follow me on various social media will know it had an impact: it has been my handle ever since. It came to me in a time where I was fighting to find my identity, to rediscover who I was and what I stood for, if anything. It focused my mind, and my heart, and allowed me to accept me for all my flaws, and to be able to recognise that, as a human being, I had the same fundamental rights and responsibilities as everyone else.
I always talk about how I’m not a stereotypical gay. I like football and Formula One, I have dreadful fashion sense and bad hairstyles, I can fart and belch with the grossest of heterosexual men. I’m short and overweight, and I would rather listen to Linkin Park than Beyoncé. I don’t do any of this to be deliberately different to other gay guys, but not do I see any need to change to fit in, even though there is a real desire within me to fit in, to be accepted by the so-called community. I won’t change who I am just to please other people – I know all too well how that can end up causing me more harm than good – but that ultimately leads to me being an outsider.
One thing I’ve learned in recent years is that there really is no LGBT community. Sure, we come together for Pride, or more poignantly for times such as the support shown to the victims of the Colorado shootings. In fact, in those times we genuinely see the best of us, and we should never underestimate the good we all hold within us. But unfortunately, the everyday face is nowhere near as pleasant, and in my experience, it can be downright nasty.
Im typing this blog on the eve of National Hate Crime Awareness week. No doubt over the coming days there will be focus on crimes against women, against muslims, Europeans and yes, of course, against LGBT people, and I have no problem with awareness of all those being raised. Each is important, and there are so many types of hate crime that it would be hard to cover them all in just seven days, or even in just one short blog. But hate crime happens in a lower level, every day, often electronically as well as face to face. And I can guarantee much of that will take place on social media, in clubs and bars, classrooms, playgrounds and sports venues. And as nonsensical as it seems, plenty of it will be from one LGBT person to another.
We’ve all experienced it. Or at least have witnessed it happening to someone else. One gay guy can be the subject of another’s scorn simply because he wears make-up, dresses differently, or has a higher-pitched voice. In my case, I get comments about my height, my weight, the fact that my hair is going grey or that I’m the wrong side of thirty. Some get abuse simply because they enjoy sex, others get laughed at because they want to wait for the right person…it seems as though every difference that people can have is magnified and subjected to hate by LGBT people. I have one friend who regularly is bitches about by others, yet when they see him in person they’re all over him…in some cases quite literally. We accept a double-standard, both wanting the freedom to express and be ourselves, yet singling others out for doing just that.
One thing that really annoys me is how others tell us what we should want, who we should and shouldn’t want to be with. Apparently, we should all be attracted to an exact image of what we are: if we’re fat, we not allowed to not want to be with other gay people. If we’re black, wanting a white or Asian guy is seen as kinky. Once we reach a certain age, we should only ever be interested in people our own age. For whatever reason, we try and squeeze the diversity from ourselves, we help each other out of the closet and then immediately try to fold ourselves into regular, neat, labelled boxes.
I confess, I’m angry while writing this. I’ve received comments which were neither constructive nor pleasant, and the person delivering them claimed himself to be a ‘nice guy’ while also using the phrase ‘be normal.’ But these thoughts are Ines I’ve had for a long time now, and I’ve been growing increasingly disillusioned with and isolated by what I once saw as an important part of my life. In the last few months I’ve been clubbing twice, and one person in the space of those two trips went from being fun to be around and very cuddly, to being wilfully ignorant and rude. I’m getting truly sick of the hypocrisy and double-standards. I used to think it was just the London scene, but I’ve learned it is actually common within cities around the world.
The last few years have seen LGBT people take huge strides forward, we have gained some important recognition and rights within society, and each is an important step. But I think we’ve become arrogant, and even complacent. We’ve forgotten that we have a responsibility to each other, to be supportive, and to demonstrate to the world that we’re not just a cliché, a stereotype, that we are a microcosm of humanity as a whole. We’re so caught up with ourselves that we’ve forgotten what it is that we stand for. It’s not so much ‘good as you’ as ‘better than you.’ It’s certainly not what Harvey Milk, amongst many others, fought for.
So my point? This National Hate Crime Awareness week, while you’re supporting the various well-deserving causes, while you’re tweeting your rallying cries against the mistreatment of others, think about what you’re saying in your every day life, think about how you’re treating those who are not the same as you, who don’t live the same lifestyle as you, and who don’t share the same tastes and interests as you. Think about how you behave towards them and ask yourself, Am I treating them how I want to be treated? Am I showing them the respect they deserve? Or do I think I’m better than them?
You don’t have to like someone to treat them respectfully. But you do have to respect diversity. And if you can’t respect diversity, and particularly if you count yourself as one of a minority, you’re a part of the problem. And that is something you might want to take a long, hard think about.