Land of the Free (?)

Land of the Free (?)

I swayed with the idea of writing a post like this, purely out of respect for timing. But, if anything, the past few weeks have struck a nerve and made me want to do it even more.

It's 2016.

We live in a time when babies can be created within tubes. We can experience space travel, perform life saving surgeries with bionic assistance, prevent illness within the womb and treat even the most extreme of mental illness to a point where it is unrecognisable. Christ, we live in a time when some people's hearing is so well adapted, they can actually understand Sean Paul and Fetty Wap- even tolerate The Kardashians over and over, and over...

"Like, literally, so annoying."

(I would just like to state that I do indulge in the occasional KarJenner marathon and I'm not even sorry.)

It's 2016, yes.

And these incredible and useful advances are very, very real. Yet people are still being killed for their sexuality and gender identity. People still believe that non-hetero people make a choice. They still believe that Trans people are simply attention-seeking and playing dress-up. They still call bisexuals 'greedy'.

Let's break that down a little bit.

People still genuinely believe that members of the LGBT community have the genuine power, as a foetus, to cut and connect the certain wires which will later determine their sexuality and make them 'different'. These very same people, however, will get flustered when you apply their beliefs to red-headed people,  people with various skin tones or even children will learning difficulties.

'Oh those things can't be helped though'. Really? No shit, Sherlock.

Science has provided numerous arguments - literal biological proof - that people's sexuality may be determined before they even get a smack on the arse from the midwife. That baby Lucy may actually grow up to feel she is a boy. That baby Jack may grow up to then love baby Darren, or baby Grace. Or both.

Any normal person will have been shocked and disgusted at the events which occurred in Orlando on June 12th. With the taking of 49 lives, Omar Mateen, reignited the famous debate of whether the world was truly 'over' homophobia. Whether we had eventually out-grown our stupidity and intolerance. And the one thing that ALWAYS gets me, is when people say 'Each to their own, you have to respect people's opini0ns.'

No. No you don't. You can respect the existence of the free mind, but you don't have to respect and accept the bile that comes out of people. You do not have the show respect to hate, idiocy and (usually) religion-fueled intolerance. You may as well 'accept and respect' Hitler's Final Solution. You may as well 'accept and respect' Trump's blatant racism.

But you don't, right? Because it's wrong. And fucking stupid.

In order to gain some insight into the feelings of the LGBT community following the massacre, I spoke to two old friends who are in a same-sex relationship. Thankfully, these two lovely ladies, have amazing families. Although both experienced the initial 'shock factor' of coming out, both now have an exceptional attitude towards any intolerance that they may face. "If they don't like it, fuck 'em." says J. Something which, I imagine, is easier said than done. But the girls have been together pretty much since I've known them, and I don't imagine they'll break down in tears over an uneducated opinion.

My main concern was how safe they feel, knowing that people in the world are still willing - and able- to kill members of the community over their sexuality. I'd hate the idea of them feeling unsafe or discriminated against because of who they are, but thankfully they seem to be able to take the rare hostile event on the chin and not let it affect them. Members of the public do stare, if they hold hands whilst out. And J adds that 'some guys think it's okay to say certain stuff because you're in  relationship with a girl.' Which is sickening, but it does happen. A lot of the time, being a lesbian is still bait to creeps. It's pretty much the 'if you can't have it, you want it more' thing. The girls have also experienced counts of verbal abuse in the past, but again, it's not something that they seem to treat with anger. "There's always going to be someone who doesn't understand it", says P. Which, hopefully, isn't true. But there's always a bad egg in a batch.

The events in Orlando have made the girls more aware of how fortunate they are to live in a somewhat open and inclusive society. I don't think they should have to consider themselves lucky, but they are deserving. They deserve to live peacefully, however I understand why they feel they've got it a bit lighter than some. For P, the shooting was upsetting. However, she realised the strength of the community and became proud of those who have risen up against the stupidity.

'It made me feel really sad at first. Then I felt a lot of pride. The stories you hear and the way that countries and people have came together is fantastic. It's like a sense of 'Fuck You! You can cowardly shoot gay people dead but we will all stand together and support one another. I don't believe it will make LGBT people or people coming out scared (...) I also think it is bigger than just the gay scene. Like the Paris attacks and the MP (Jo Cox). Crazy shit going on in the world.'

For J, the response to the shooting was also emotional. She admired the focus on the victims' lives, rather than just their sexuality - something which is still new to the media. Typically, the focus is always shifted back onto their lifestyle and partners. 'The LGBT community will not bow down' she says, agreeing with P's statement on the display of unity throughout the world.

When I asked the girl's about religion's impact on homophobia, their response was an overwhelming 'YES!'. Religion, to them, is a definite factor in promoting the intolerance that we are seeing today. J goes on to mention that the Vatican are making 'smart' moves in regard to getting LGBT citizens more involved in the promotion of the Church. Growing up Catholic, I always heard of acceptance and love and all that shit. But not ONCE have I ever heard a leader of faith comment positively on LGBT rights. Not sincerely, anyway.

Say what you want about the Catholic church, and all other religions for that matter, but until I see a priest taking part in a Pride rally, I'm not convinced. I'm not Athiest, done right, religion could be an amazing source of comfort for people. But right now, I'm not feeling it.

The thing that strikes me about the plight of the LGBT community is that, as I'm writing, someone is probably being punished for being gay or bisexual, right? But there are countries in the world where it literally the norm for grown men to marry children and have sex with them (We call them paedophiles here, by-the-way.) To put it bluntly, people are more accepting and willing to turn a blind eye to those occurrences than to speak up about the mistreatment of our friends and family members who happen to be attracted to the same sex.

I have no doubt that it's a 'generation thing'. But it's also a hate that is taught. It's learned and repeated. If someone's choice of partner bothers you SO much that you feel the need to cause them harm, you're stupid. If you genuinely believe that it's wrong to be gay, you're stupid. And if you sincerely believe that being in the company of gay people will mean they'll hit on you and want to turn you to the Dark Side, you're fucking conceited. And stupid.

'I might not feel the same, but that's not important.

No freedom until we're equal, damn right I support it.'

Published by Kathryn Conroy

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