LGBT people get enough hate in society – we need to stop judging each other

All of us LGBT+ folks know, to varying extents, what it is to be marginalised or othered or persecuted (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Is there a ‘right way’ to be queer?

Don’t be daft, of course there isn’t.

Whatever your sexual identity, gender identity, the way you dress, the things you like, the hobbies you have, the life you lead, how quiet you are, how loud you are… you’re perfectly valid.

We all know how many challenges we face in being embraced and accepted and normalised by the wider world. We all know how much resistance we can come up against; how many microaggressions or – worse – actual aggressions we may encounter.

So it’s strange – no, enraging – that when it comes to acceptance and tolerance, sometimes the naysayers and detractors can include other LGBT+ people. Far too often, the call is coming from inside the house.

Whether it’s the evergreen ‘kink at Pride’ debate, the reluctance of some cis gay people to use a person’s they/them pronouns, racism masquerading as ‘preference’, or – as we’ve seen far too often recently – the constant vilification and othering of trans people; it never ceases to amaze me how often we as a community can be guilty of standing in the way of real progress for our own queer siblings.

It’s as if we’re constantly being let down by pockets of people (generally speaking, often my fellow cisgender gay men) who want us all to just keep our heads down, blend quietly into society’s heteronormative mould, and not rock the boat too much.

I’m reminded of all the people on dating apps who are proud to proclaim themselves as ‘straight acting’, or ‘masc’ [masculine]; seeking partners who are the same. ‘No camp people,’ they say. ‘No femmes’. Or ‘I’m a MAN, I want REAL MEN’, whatever that even means.

They’re a shining example of attitudes that reinforce this idea that there is a right way to be queer; a way that isn’t too far removed from conventional gender norms – and the further away you are from those norms, the further down some non-existent pecking order of validity you are.

On any given day, you only have to look at a gay website’s comments section under something like an article about a trans person, or a celebrity changing their pronouns, or someone speaking out against racism in the community, and you find a handful of cisgender readers being mocking or dismissive or generally unpleasant about it.

When Lil Nas X talks about being deluged with ‘we get it, you’re gay’ tweets, a minority of those are from fellow gay people – people clutching their pearls over a completely ridiculous fear that his explicit displays of sexuality will do queer rights more harm than good; as if the increased three-dimensional, intersectional visibility we’re getting is actually a bad thing.

Sadly, this in-house ignorance isn’t anything new. And actually, it was the inspiration behind All That, a comedy-drama play I first wrote a few years ago, which is now being performed at London’s King’s Head Theatre throughout this month.

In it, one character, Taylor (played by the exceptional Jordan Laviniere), is a gay man living out his Bree Van De Kamp fantasy in a nice respectable town in a nice respectable neighbourhood.

He’s got the white picket fence, he’s (just about) got the approval and acceptance of his straight loved ones, and he’s been in a settled suburban routine with his long-term partner for almost a decade.

But when he and said partner take in a pair of lodgers – a far more exuberant and colourful queer couple who are much less bothered about being ‘palatable’ – he’s instantly standoffish. He’s uncomfortable around them, he regularly misgenders them, and when he finds out they’re in a sexually non-monogamous relationship, he almost bursts a vein for how ‘embarrassing’ he finds it.

Over the course of the play wires cross, the tension escalates, Taylor’s ignorance is exposed, and things between the two couples – shock horror – get pretty messy.

I should point out: it’s not that people like Taylor are supervillains for the life they lead, the company they keep or the relationships they have. But when people like that start to look down scathingly at others, then we have a problem – especially when we should all be on the same team.

Whatever the root cause of that attitude – whether it’s deep-rooted shame, internalised homophobia or just an outright mean streak – we could all do with remembering that however accepted and embraced and (for want of a better word) ‘normal’ people like Taylor feel, that acceptance is still relatively new. 

Queer folks may be able to find some degree of mainstream tolerance now, provided they’re not too X, not too vocal about Y, or so long as they don’t ‘shove it in people’s faces’; but for far too many of our siblings, the fight is far from over – and nobody should be pulling the ladder up behind them.

Plus, we’ve seen how fragile the existing progress is. Just look at all the recent highly publicised hate crimes in this country, or the terrifying new laws still being passed in countries like Ghana. Watch this autumn as a same-sex couple is announced for Strictly Come Dancing and the Ofcom complaints come rolling in once again.

All of us LGBT+ folks know, to varying extents, what it is to be marginalised or othered or persecuted. The least we could do is have each-other’s backs.

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