It was almost a year ago that I first saw a video of Panti Bliss giving an impassioned talk at the Abbey Theatre in Ireland. I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve never had to deal with the level of abuse that she describes, but it makes me incredibly sad to think of the many LGBTQ people who do face such overt hatred.
Have you ever been standing at a pedestrian crossing when a car drives by and in it are a bunch of lads, and they lean out the window and they shout “Fag!” and throw a milk carton at you?
Now it doesn’t really hurt. It’s just a wet carton and anyway they’re right – I am a fag. But it feels oppressive.
When it really does hurt, is afterwards. Afterwards I wonder and worry and obsess over what was it about me, what was it they saw in me? What was it that gave me away? And I hate myself for wondering that. It feels oppressive and the next time I’m at a pedestrian crossing I check myself to see what is it about me that “gives the gay away” and I check myself to make sure I’m not doing it this time.
That part I can relate to, as I imagine many LGBTQ people can. I’m not talking about the abusive behavior, which somehow I’ve largely escaped. But rather the self-doubt that turns to self-hatred. The persistent fear that I will be “found out.”
Have any of you ever come home in the evening and turned on the television and there is a panel of people – nice people, respectable people, smart people, the kind of people who make good neighbourly neighbours and write for newspapers. And they are having a reasoned debate about you. About what kind of a person you are, about whether you are capable of being a good parent, about whether you want to destroy marriage, about whether you are safe around children, about whether God herself thinks you are an abomination, about whether in fact you are “intrinsically disordered”. And even the nice TV presenter lady who you feel like you know thinks it’s perfectly ok that they are all having this reasonable debate about who you are and what rights you “deserve”.
And that feels oppressive.
I let this happens to myself far too often. I keep revisiting the same online forums where I read this kind of debate, this hostility, this hatred. I tell myself I do it because I don’t want to be the kind of person who shuts out anyone who disagrees. But maybe I’m just a masochist.
Have you ever been on a crowded train with your gay friend and a small part of you is cringing because he is being SO gay and you find yourself trying to compensate by butching up or nudging the conversation onto “straighter” territory? This is you who have spent 35 years trying to be the best gay possible and yet still a small part of you is embarrassed by his gayness.
And I hate myself for that. And that feels oppressive.
If you haven’t seen Panti’s talk, it’s worth a watch.