There are certain types of people in this world who will always find someone to hate. It may not be that they are, in themselves, hateful, but rather that they find themselves, as people so often are, afraid of that which they don’t understand, that which is different. And, mostly, these people keep that hate to them and theirs, people who also hate that which they don’t understand. But in some circumstances, far too many, that hate boils over. It becomes a weapon to use against the unknown. Their hate spills out over everything they don’t understand, and it ruins people.
Now, you might be wondering what that has to do with you. Probably nothing, going by the likelihood of you being the sort of person that either hates or is affected by the hate. But I implore you, dear reader, to ask yourself this: why do people hate? What is it that makes people do the terrible things they do to each other?
Society has always chosen a group of people to be pariahs. It’s just the way of things. And, as of late, it has been the queers that get the backlash. That isn’t to say that other groups don’t get it, of course they do, they always do, but right now, it’s the queers that are being forced to bear the cross of hatred. It’s not illegal to be gay anymore, you can’t be arrested for it, but is that really all there is? It’s not illegal. Good. Great! So why is it that every single queer person I have ever met (and I’ve met my fair share) have all had a story to tell? A story of how they were hurt because they are queer. Because they are different. Why is it that so many people are still being hurt, heckled in the streets, kicked out of their homes, forced to fend for themselves in a world that would sooner see them lay down and die than thrive?
I implore you to ask the fatal question:
They shouted the f-slur at me while I was walking home, and I get a lot of shit for it at school. Especially the other boys, they really seem to hate me. I don’t know if they actually do, but they’re pretty good at pretending to if they don’t.
Queer people have existed in some form or another since the beginning of recorded history. There have always been people who break the mould, who love the way they want to regardless of society’s shortcomings. And, in the forms of riots, protests, and the fact that we’re not going anywhere, we managed to struggle our way to legality. But that’s not all it’s about.
I met with six young queer people, aged between sixteen and twenty-five, who live in Plymouth, to ask them about their experiences. Every single one of them had been victim to a hate crime at least one in the last year. All six of them. Six for six, that’s one hundred percent.
One hundred percent of the queer people I talked to had experienced, at least, being called slurs in the streets. How is that acceptance?
“They shouted the f-slur at me while I was walking home,” said Oliver G, aged sixteen. “And I get a lot of shit for it at school.” Oliver was outed to his schoolmates at fifteen, and since then he says that “it’s been hell.” I asked Oliver if he felt like he had been affected by this, and he said he had. “It’s not that I’m scared to go out,” he said, “But that I’m worried every time I do that someone’s going to know and hate me for it.”
At sixteen years old, Oliver already feels afraid of people.
Ray W, aged twenty, told me that he had once had a full bottle of water thrown at his head out of a car while walking to meet up with some friends. “I guess I was asking for it,” he said. “Dressed like this. It doesn’t mean it hurts less.” Ray told me that he felt that the event hadn’t really affected him, since he’s “used to things like that happening,” but doesn’t that just make it worse? That a young man has been hurt so many times because he’s gay that it doesn’t even register anymore?
The idea of becoming so used to abuse is a disquieting one. The fact that you can just accept it as normal and move on – doesn’t that hurt?
Queer people have been put down for so long that some of us don’t even register it anymore.
And again, I ask you this: why?
They’re never going to stop hating us, so we just have to accept it. In some places it’s better, Plymouth honestly isn’t that bad for it, but it still happens here, and people just watch. No-one ever does anything. I don’t know if it’s because everyone else expects everyone else to do something, or what, but people never step in.
When I asked Jack K, aged twenty-two, what their experience had been, they told me that they had been kicked out of their house at age sixteen for being queer. They came out to their parents aged fifteen, trusting that their parents would accept them, and they were kicked out, with nowhere to go and no way to find somewhere. “It affected me more than I realized,” they said, when I asked. “I mean, they’re my parents. I thought parents were supposed to love you unconditionally, but I guess not.”
Being abandoned always hurts, but when you’re abandoned because of something you have no control over, isn’t that worse?
It hurts to know that so many people are hated, simply because of who they love. That isn’t a choice, really, and yet people still act as though it is. As though their hate is justified.
“It sucks, but that’s the way it is,” said Sasha J, twenty-one. “It’s not like they’re ever going to stop hating us, so we have to just accept it. I can’t walk around without getting yelled at. It’s not like that’s ever going to stop.”
When I asked Sasha what she meant by this, she told me, “Pretty much everyone I know has been attacked at some point. No-one ever does anything. I don’t know if it’s because everyone expects someone else to do something, or what, but people never step in.”
Again, there’s this acceptance among queer people that it’s never going to stop, that we’re always going to be hated, so why bother to fight back? Why bother with it? It’s not like they’re ever going to actually accept us.
Gabriel S, twenty-five, when asked what his opinion on hate crimes were, said, “It sucks, and sure, sometimes cops take it seriously, but hardly ever. Most of my friends won’t even report it. I know I wouldn’t.” I asked Gabriel if he felt that being attacked for being queer had affected him, and he said, “I don’t know. I think it’s made me more wary of strangers, but at the same time, if I see someone who’s visibly queer, it makes me feel safer. I always feel better in queer spaces. I know that a lot of people like me do. Like they say, queers flock together.”
If hate crimes do occur, most people won’t go to the police because they worry they won’t be taken seriously – if that isn’t a chilling thought I don’t know what is. Over the years there have been a lot of increases in queer rights, but this is something we’re still fighting for.
I talked to James N, aged seventeen, and he told me that he had been shouted at by passing cars several times over the last year. “It’s not like they’re beating me up,” He said, “but it still stings.” While he spoke to me about what had happened to him, he began to cry. “I’m lucky that my parents accept me but that other people don’t still hurts.”
Every one of these six people have had words thrown at them, have been attacked in some form or another, have been beaten down over and over again because of who they are, what they are. It’s not their fault any more than eye colour or hair colour is their fault. It just is, and people still hate that.
The truth is, they’re right. This is never going to go away. There will always be people who have hate in them, and people who use that hate as a weapon. It’s not going to stop.
But what we can do is this;
Make queer people feel safer. Call out that homophobic comment, don’t laugh at the jokes about trans women. Confront your inner biases, and ask yourself the dreaded question. Why? Because every joke, every comment, every piece of media that edges on offensive, or even dives right in, that’s a queer person’s life that’s being mocked. That’s someone’s real life that’s the butt of a joke. Even a throwaway comment can hurt.
Queer people aren’t going anywhere. The least you can do is make it so that they have somewhere pleasant to stay.