Hey, cishets. Hold still a moment. No, don’t run away. I want to call your attention to this strange phenomenon that is making conversations between you, the cishet binary majority (also known as my fucking oppressors) and me, the queer, rather upsetting. I know this dialogue is going to be really, really hard for you—after all, being the privileged majority means you don’t have to stop and listen to other people in order to live a happy life—but please try to listen to me. I can’t promise that you’ll like what I’ll say, but if you make it to the end you just might be a better person, and who doesn’t want that?
Still with me? Good. Now, pay attention.
You see—you suffer from a peculiar problem where you don’t seem to understand the meaning of the things you say and, as a consequence … well, I’m rather taken aback that anyone reasonable and caring can say anything of the sort to a fellow human being. Perhaps you don’t mean it the way it sounds? The problem is that I only have so much patience: I can’t just spend the rest of my life assuming you’re hurting me by accident. Would you not complain if I accidentally socked you in the face every time I walked past you? Would you not expect me to be more careful?
The problem is that, based on your words, I’m forced to come to the conclusion you’re a homophobe.
You’re not a homophobe, you say? Shouldn’t I know that?
Well. You do realise that when you say things like ‘Slash fanfiction is so weird and strange and gross’ you’re actually saying Gay sex is and/or relationships are icky?
You see, queer people write fanfiction because queer people have no significant presence in the mainstream media. Yes, I know there are cishet women who write porn about gay cis men (and cishet men who write porn about lesbian cis women), but by ignoring the presence of queer fanfic writers and readers, and even cishets who realise that a world full of cishets is pretty fucked up, you’re making slash fanfiction all about straight people … and we’re pretty much back where we started with the whole ‘queer people have no presence in the mainstream media’ thing. Our relationships are now about you. Even our fucking sex becomes about you, if you make the (wrong) assumption that all slash is explicit sex. Yes, there are issues of appropriation, fetishisation, transphobia and misogyny, but this isn’t what you mean. You’re saying that works about queer people are weird and gross and strange. There is no way to make that not homophobic. What the fuck is the difference between Harry Potter slash porn and the selection of erotica available at Ellora’s Cave? How is any answer not homophobic?
Okay, what about ‘You know, the real homophobes?’, which actually means Real homophobia is gay bashing, with the unfortunate connotations of Anything short of being bashed or imprisoned isn’t really homophobia, therefore I don’t have to worry about everything else and a queer person’s fears are irrational and irrelevant?
(As a mean, cishet-hating queer, I find myself struggling not to add ‘I have to believe everything else isn’t real homophobia because otherwise the conversation we’re having right now would make me homophobic’. Except that I am a mean cishet-hating queer, so…)
There is no distinction between slurs and queer bashing homophobia and ‘I’m not comfortable with you in my change room, K.A.’ and ‘That’s so gay!’ homophobia. All of it is homophobic. It all reminds me that I am hated for just being myself—that who I am is a slur. It reminds me that I am not a person and should not expect the dignity afforded to one. An environment where kids can say ‘That’s so gay!’ is an environment where queer folk can be beaten up. What, do you actually think beatings happen without the so-called lesser ‘not real’ homophobic acts first stripping us of our humanity and making us targets for hatred? Are you that ignorant of human psychology? And who are you, anyway, to tell me what is and isn’t ‘real’ homophobia? What makes you more of an expert than me, again?
Do I detect a disgruntled silence? Too bad; I’m not done.
What about ‘I don’t think gay characters in fiction need to be explicitly referenced as gay—it would make some people too uncomfortable’ which, translated into hate-speak, means Queer people have no place in mainstream fiction unless cishets can pretend they’re not queer, as queer people and queer sex are icky?
This should be obvious, really. Queer people are expected to live without heroes and role models. We’re expected to live without the media presence cishet people take for granted: that you can pick up any book, any DVD, turn on any channel, and find someone telling your story, or one close enough that you can relate to it. There may be many other differences between the hero and you, but you can connect to the core cishet identity you have in common and go on a journey with these heroes. All we want is the freedom you take for granted: to pick up a book and connect with a character like us. Yet, you say, the feelings of homophobes are more important than our need to be a part of this world’s cultural tapestry, one that has been denied us for thousands of years? If we live on this planet, why should we not be a part of it in equal measure? How can such a denial be anything but homophobic?
(Yes, I know there’s non-mainstream queer lit. I write it. But I should be able to go to a bookstore like anyone else, pick up a fantasy novel, and not find a cast of cishets to whom I don’t relate, or worse, stealth homophobia.)
No, I don’t think you’ve gotten the picture yet.
How about ‘I think it’s important to take our time and be patient with introducing gay issues, because that way homophobic people will be more accepting’ in its hate-speak form as It’s okay with me that people continue to suffer oppression and discrimination, because accommodating the fears and concerns of homophobes is more important than permitting my fellow human beings basic human rights?
I don’t think it needs further comment, but I want to be sure you cishets understand. You’re saying that the comfort of homophobes who fear queer people for irrational, petty and erroneous reasons is more important than rectifying the injustice done to thousands of people in this country who are denied the basic human rights you take for granted. You’re saying that I should continue to live as something less than human in order to pat homophobes on the hand and convince them I am not scary—and only when they decide I am not scary will it be okay for the gross injustices enacted by my government to be lifted. You are saving that my safety, my representation and my equality is of less importance than soothing some hatemonger’s erroneous and irrational fears.
(It offends me, as a mental illness sufferer, that any reasonable human being could say that a homophobe’s irrational fears need coddling, when my abuse-and-trauma-derived anxieties never earned me coddling and only ever earned me more abuse from able-bodied people who sought to use my diagnoses as further reasons to blame me for my failings. Nobody coddles people with mental illnesses, when we are the ones most in need of a little kindness and support. Why are people who hate other people in need of it more than queer people, who often have a mental illness history as a result of being treated as less than human?)
Ugly, isn’t it?
This is why I stood on the platform at the train station, crying, after a well-meaning professional person approached me in a public space and nudged the discussion about the books I write into a debate. (No, it’s not even safe to leave it at ‘I write queer books’.)
This, cishets, is homophobia.
These hate-speak translations are what you’re saying to me. This is what I hear from people—articulate, well-meaning, open-minded, moderate people—who engage me, often the only out queer in these public spaces, and think these sorts of phrases are fine debate topics.
This is not abstract.
This is hate.
It’s just hidden under rational, moderate-sounding words.
Believe me, I’d rather you call me a fucking dyke and tell me I shouldn’t be in the room, because at least then I get to complain and know that the bystanders have my back. When hate is spoken this way, disguised by rationality, I’m standing alone in a room full of people. Nobody else hears. Nobody else helps me. I am left to stand alone and flounder in the presence of someone who thinks I am not human and not deserving of being one in the same way as everyone else.
This is homophobia for the new age. Subtle. Rational. Hate couched in reason. We-support-marriage-equality-but-you’re-not-deserving-of-all-the-non-legal-privileges-we-take-for-granted homophobia.
What, you don’t mean it that way? You never stopped to think your words through? You didn’t realise what those reasonable-sounding words mean to someone standing on the other side of oppression?
Well, I’ve just written this whole fucking post. Go back and re-read it, and then stop and think before you speak. Do you in any way imply that queer people should not have equal rights and representation right this very instant? That there’s a good, logical, rational reason for why we shouldn’t? If so—stop.
Stop being a fucking homophobe.