Saturday the 5th of March marked the 38th annual Mardi Gras parade in Sydney. Mardi Gras is Sydney’s take on the internationally recognised gay pride parade and is unanimously known as one of the biggest and best in the world. Sydney is an incredibly gay-friendly city and to me, as a resident of 8 months and counting, the fact the whole city comes together to celebrate everything LGBTQI is testament to this. That being said, LGBT people still face discrimination on a day-to-day basis in Sydney and indeed around the world.
I myself have experienced outright homophobia in Sydney, a few weeks back being asked by a member of security to leave a club on the basis of my dancing and dress, as well as being approached on the street by a clearly straight man asking if I was a ‘man or woman’ on the basis of my dress (high waisted jeans with a half crop top: tame by gay standards). And indeed, my lesbian friend was denied entry to the club on the basis she was obviously a ‘slut’, surrounded by many other (mostly straight) girls. So how do you prevent this?
To tackle a society where homophobia is so ingrained, especially in men, individuals should evaluate themselves and then call on others to do the same. At the start of the New Year I agreed with myself to begin calling out small cases of seemingly ‘harmless’, homophobia, primarily the use of the word ‘gay’ as an insult. Almost every time I call this out the culprit will bring out the ‘gay means happiness’ argument, which nowadays is wholly false. Very rarely, unless singing old hymns or reading old books, will the word gay be used in a positive, happy light, and even then the meaning is entirely different. As a reader, I am positive you will have used gay derogatory way albeit completely unintentionally (and I have myself thousands of time in the past) and will see it as harmless, but growing up in a catholic school system where both boys and girls would throw this word around without consequence can seriously affect self esteem and your respect for other people. The pervading stereotype of gay people as predators prone to infidelity, as well as the use of the noun-turned-adjective to mean stupid or bad not only affects attitudes of non-LGBT people but also amongst queer people themselves. It is often said that gays are the biggest homophobes and I can totally see that in today’s society – I have few gay friends and am trying to rectify this.
In the wake of this Mardi Gras, and with gay marriage on the cards in Australia and in much of the western world, I implore people to monitor their language and attitudes; how can you support gay people through the continued use of the word ‘gay’ as a bad thing. This language is archaic and old fashioned and does not reflect the increasingly gay-friendly atmosphere pervading modern societies. There are of course many other examples of homophobia, perhaps more outright and obvious, but I feel that as a gay man this would be the most effective and is something other gay men would fundamentally appreciate; it’s time ‘gay’ was left behind, hopefully in 2016.
Words by Mark Connor
Art by Ana Ovilo