When glitter goes viral
Something unusual happened to me this weekend. I was homophobically assaulted. Unfortunately, that’s not the unusual thing, but the events which followed were.
The plan was to head home from work and get changed before picking my bag up for a few days of celebrations and parties with friends, due to meet up down in Brighton for the Pride Festival this weekend. On my way home I had picked up a large quantity of glitter, to add a little sparkle to the planned festivities. People who know me will attest that it’s not unusual for me to travel with glitter.
As I walked through the unbearably hot streets of Manchester, down a road which I pass at least twice a day, a car of lads thought it would be top banter to shout: “FAGGOT!” at me from their window, while they hurtled past.
It might’ve been the sunshine, it might’ve been the absolute exhaustion from a week of work, or maybe it was just the use of that word in such close proximity to my plans of spending the weekend celebrating the exact opposite of the hate it evoked. I was overcome with white-hot rage. Their car came to a stop at the traffic lights, and I managed to catch up to them as they became gridlocked in Manchester’s congested Friday evening traffic.
Armed with a bag full of glitter, a head spinning with creative rage, and an escaping window of opportunity, I acted. Emptying a tube of glitter through their open window. It was such a gratifying, and visually whimsical response to their prejudice. A punishment which seemed fitting for the crime.
Being a member of the woke avocado-toast generation, obviously, I had to capture the magnificence of what just happened eloquently in a tweet, so that the handful of people who follow me on Twitter could share in the gleeful gay amusement which I was currently feeling.
So here’s the unusual bit.
I’ve tweeted about these sorts of attacks happening to me in the past. But each time it’s been without the visual image of me seeking revenge through the innocent medium of glitter. Talking about these things happening before has always felt like shouting into the ocean. Each time prior, a few close friends and internet well-wishers extend their sympathies and then the world just carries on spinning.
It was different this time. It went viral. At the time of writing this, my tweet has been read by over 4.5 million people.
But with exposure, comes consequence. Following some legal advice from a concerned friend, he recommended that I remove the Tweet and refuse to expand on the story any further, else risk opening myself up to an ‘assault charge’ from my glitter activism.
The thing is, I don’t want to remove the Tweet, and I don’t want to let these 15-minutes of fame slip by without using the platform to highlight the dangers of normalising this sort of homophobic behaviour.
Enough people on Twitter have uninvitedly taken the liberty to shout me down for over-reacting to innocent name calling. I’ll be the first to admit that someone shouting at me on the street isn’t the worst hate crime, it’s not even the worst hate crime that has happened to me this year.
Death threats, a glass bottle to the head, being thrown off my bike, and getting a brick through the window of my home are just a handful of the recent prices I’ve had to pay for being out and gay, in a supposedly open-minded, liberal, and welcoming city.
The point is that there is a link between gay people being shouted at on the streets and the escalation to more serious hate crimes.
But even mild hate crimes act as persistent and unignorable reminders of the daily prejudice we face. One isolated incident of name calling alone isn’t likely to dramatically affect you, but a lifetime’s worth of micro-aggressions can really build up and overwhelm you. Finding yourself the target of someone else’s hate can make getting through the day even more difficult for gay people. This all just adds fuel to the fire of the current mental health crisis in our community.
Personally, as a gay man, I’ve struggled with depression my whole adult life. I have no doubt that my depression stems from difficulties with my sexuality and facing constant rejection from society. Today marks 100 days since my last serious suicide attempt. Thankfully, I’m doing better now, and am able to face hate from strangers with the gay abandon of glitter, but had that spiky word caught me a few months ago, this could have been a totally different story.
So the next time you see someone abusing a gay person on the street, call them out. Just make sure you’ve got a tube of glitter in your pocket, because a little bit of sparkle goes a long way in a world full of hate.