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thinking before we speak - IDAHOBIT 2021.

May 17th is recognised around the world as IDAHOBIT. Far from being a celebration of Tolkien’s...

thinking before we speak - IDAHOBIT 2021.

May 17th is recognised around the world as IDAHOBIT. Far from being a celebration of Tolkien’s...

Matt Bennett
Matt Bennett

May 17th is recognised around the world as IDAHOBIT. Far from being a celebration of Tolkien’s favourite furry footed inhabitants of the Shire, this is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia.

This year’s theme is “Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing”.

what are REPL doing to observe IDAHOBIT?

​​​​​​​In REPL pride our mission is to be visible, educate, and support from a place of love and understanding – so this year we have chosen to shine a light on the everyday prejudices that we have faced via a survey of everyday discriminatory comments. The results shown below capture the things that people have said to us, about us, to our friends and allies, to our partners, and to our families.

Discussing the experiences with colleagues and friends it was clear that there many of these were things that we had all heard before. Many of these have been said to us without any malicious intent, and some with. ​​​​​​​

We have also created a short video drawing attention to the phrases by displaying them as ‘inspirational quotes’. This video has been shared on social media to highlight the casual discrimination and potentially offensive comments that we face on a day-to-day basis. It is important that we recognise that these things are still happening and that we confirm that we stand against all forms of prejudice and intolerance at REPL.

Whilst putting together the video and blog post it was clear that the most commonly experienced examples were those that didn’t seem to have any nastiness behind them: throw away comments like “greedy” and “shirt lifter” which can be easily dismissed or brushed off. But this is the exact problem with those phrases. They are dismissive, they dismiss our right to be our true authentic selves and compound the feeling that we need to reduce our sense of selves and conform.

 

I personally still remember very vividly my Mother asking me not to buy a particular jacket because it was “a bit village people”. In all honesty, I don’t know why my she didn’t simply say to me “I don’t want you to wear that jacket in public because I don’t want people to think you are gay” perhaps because even saying the word “gay” out loud can be a difficult thing.

I do know why she said it though. She was saying it from a place of love and was trying to protect me from a world that she had grown up in where the only time you heard about LGBT+ individuals in the media were because of scandals and abuse. She thought the best way to stop me becoming a target of homophobia was to hide me. 11 years later and I still wear that jacket everywhere – it’s my favourite thing that I own.

But what can we do to make sure that the next generation doesn’t feel the need to hide? What can we do to make sure that they never have to sit at a desk trying to contain a complex hot messy ball of guilt and shame that has been built from the phrases above?

​​​​​​​what can we do to fight prejudice? 

My ask to you is simply to think. Think before you speak so that the next generation doesn’t have to.

Our speech patterns and behaviour are learned from our parents, our grandparents, our friends. We’ve all grown up in a world where “Queer”, “Gay”, “Lesbian”, “Bisexual” and “Transexual” have been used as insults, derogatory terms, I’ve even used one of them to describe a particularly vibrant t-shirt that I didn’t like. If we can stop using these kinds of phrases or using these joyous words as insults then the next generation will never learn to use them to try and inflict shame.

We can also build into our habits the use of non-gendered language so that no child ever feels the expectation to be straight or cis-gendered. Phrases like “Are you seeing anyone at the moment?” when asking somebody about their dating life or “congratulations to you both!” when somebody announces a new milestone for them and their partner are already a part of the way we speak and completely remove the expectation that to be a part of society we have to be attracted to the opposite gender.

I firmly believe that this is how we can all Resist, Support, and Heal. Resist our own habits. Support the next generation. Heal someone’s sense of self.

This goes far beyond the experience of the LGBT+ community alone. We also received more general feedback regarding casual sexism, racism, and other forms of prejudice. The same rules apply, and the same steps can be taken. So again, we must think before we speak, or before we ask to touch someone’s hair. We must take steps to ensure that you aren’t normalising a behaviour that lessens or trivialises someone else’s identity.

despite all of this I am lucky.

For me this day is also a chance to reflect on how lucky I am to have a partner that loves me and friends that accept me whole heartedly. In this case it really is luck – a pure one-in-a-million chance that I was born into these circumstances. A magical, wonderful, incredible stroke of fortune that I have the privilege to be able to sit here and write to you openly and honestly about my sexuality. At REPL I have never had to hide any part of myself, and we are all actively encouraged to shine as brightly as we can.

*WARNING – THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH CONTAINS REFERENCES TO GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM RESULTING IN DEATH*
MicrosoftTeams-image (6)Unfortunately, not everyone shares in this good luck. In Iran two weeks ago a boy five years younger than me, Alireza, was murdered by his brother and cousins when they discovered that he was gay.

I have no words to express the frustration and sorrow at the fact that these kinds of things still happen around the world. In the world I live in we need IDAHOBIT to stop prejudice and improve mental health. For Alireza, and many others across the world, we need IDAHOBIT to save lives.

If you have the time I would ask that you visit https://www.rainbowrailroad.org/ to make a donation that could help someone like Alireza escape from an environment where there is a real and present threat to life.

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