Homophobia in 2011: Where are we now?

Around a year ago, I had two separate conversations with male friends who told me that they believed homophobia in Britain to be a more pressing issue than that of sexism. Whilst I’m sure many would agree with them, I did not. I put their opinions down to their gender, and supported the pro-female cause.

At no point did I deny that homophobia was still a huge issue in this country, but my thoughts were based on statistics. According to a survey completed in the latter half of 2010, only one per cent of the British population are homosexual (and not the widely reported one in ten), whereas there is an even split between men and women. This made me question whether something that affects such a small minority could really be as damaging as that which applies to one in two of us.

What I did not consider at the time, however, was that everyday instances of homophobia are still trickling into our news stream with alarming regularity. On Thursday, it was reported that two men were asked to leave a London pub after other customers complained of their intimacy. This sparked a fair degree of outrage amongst the LGBT community, and last night, 700 protestors gathered on the pub’s steps to stage a ‘kiss in’: a defiant, two fingered response to this prejudice.

Unfortunately, this is not the first high profile incident of this nature to occur in recent months. A gay couple hit the headlines in January after suing a B&B who turned them away as a result of their sexual orientation. Both of these stories raise interesting questions about the inequalities that still exist in what most of us perceive to be a fairly liberal country.

Perhaps this is somewhat presumptuous, but I do have certain expectations of London, as a city, to be progressive and forward thinking. It then pains me to accept that a place so wonderfully diverse and culturally rich can be guilty of such bigotry in the 21st century. I do believe that the people here are accepting, for the most part, but it is worrying that such dated attitudes are still so prevalent in today’s society.

Questions have been raised over whether it was the acts themselves, or the people committing them, that led to such action in both cases. Personally, I am not a huge advocate of overt public displays of affection, but I do not see the issue with people sharing a kiss if they so wish – whatever their gender.

As I sat on the Tube the other day, primly reading my novel, I was incessantly elbowed by the movements of a heterosexual couple enjoying themselves a little too graphically on the seat next to me. She was on his lap. The train was in the hectic throes of rush hour, and in spite of the vast population of the carriage, no one commented that they should stop: lest that they should disembark entirely.

Whilst I’m sure that there are numerous examples of homosexual couples being intimate, or even just being, without chastisement, it seems as though they are targeted more than their heterosexual peers. Returning to my initial comment at the start of this entry, I do not necessarily believe that homophobia is a more detrimental issue than sexism, but the way in which it manifests itself is, to a large degree, quite shocking. There is no doubting that Britain has come a long way with regard to both issues, but if these recent stories are anything to go by, it still has a long way to go.

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