I love Falmouth. I love going to University in Cornwall. I love my course. I am basically very happy to live and study where I am. What I have noticed of late though, is the increase in homophobic behaviour. This is so inconsistent with how I see University, and the 99% who do not behave like this are probably able to completely eradicate it.
Two of my friends were recently in Club I (the best/worst place ever) and were victim to this. As we all know, everyone has a cheeky smooch in Club I and instantly regrets it, but apparently the standards were different on this night. She had a cheeky smooch whilst dancing with her girlfriend but was informed by a passing stranger that this was ‘disgusting’. This, in her words, ‘ruined my night’. This kind of behaviour is so unusual here that it is all the more shocking, and upsetting.
Using the word ‘gay’ to describe something other than someone’s sexuality is offensive, and needs to stop. No one would substitute the word ‘straight’ in the same way. If a guy wears makeup that isn’t ‘gay’, anymore than a girl wearing makeup is. No person is a faggot, ever, under any circumstances. A faggot, according to Google, is a bundle of sticks or a bit of seasoned liver, but not a person. A person is a person.
Having ‘gay friends’ is often the retort in this murky world of accidental homophobia. Thing is, if that gay person knew they were being labelled, they wouldn’t be so eager to be branded as your ‘gay friend’. No one has a token ‘straight friend’, do they? I know how I would feel if someone referred to me as their gay friend. (Angry. I would feel angry). This hardly ever happens in Falmouth, (the 4th safest student area in England and Wales because we are the best), but it shouldn’t ever happen.
“ Using the word ‘gay’ to describe something other than someone’s sexuality is offensive, and needs to stop ”
I know that most people, whenever they hear homophobic, sexist or racist language will call that person up on it. I have done, and when I have the individual always proves to be ignorant rather than malicious, but it is so important that this kind of language is stamped out as soon as possible. Young LGBT people are much more likely to develop mental illness and to commit suicide as a result of this kind of behaviour. 52% of young LGBT people in the UK have self-harmed in the past and/or currently do. I know, before I came out, I was a conflicted bundle of ignorance and intolerance. It only took one person telling me I was homophobic to stop me, though. The language used everyday has huge impact on whether someone feels safe to be LGBT in that environment. It matters, hugely.
When I first arrived in Falmouth, due to the increasingly high prevalence of people named Tom. I was, alongside ‘beautiful Tom’ and ‘fit Tom’, ‘gay Tom’. I let this go for a week, just because I didn’t see any point in raising the issue among my new circle of friends (I was amazed I had made any friends and didn’t particularly want to alienate them). When I eventually did, however, they were surprised that I was offended, and immediately stopped. I wasn’t annoyed, I just didn’t want to be known as ‘gay Tom’ forever. Now I’m not. It reassured me that their actions were from a lack of experience, rather than a lack of care for me.
One of the easiest ways to be casually homophobic is to oppose gay marriage. It can make gay people feel excluded from something they see all their friends look forward to. Strip away the institution and all anyone is arguing against is that two people who quite like each other can’t sign a bit of paper to say they quite like each other. If you believe in equality, you have to believe in gay marriage. There is simply no debate to be had. Me marrying someone I quite like in a church should be a non-issue, and will be soon, and the fact that I’ve never heard this in Falmouth is brilliant.
“One of the easiest ways to be casually homophobic is to oppose gay marriage ”
Most people believe in what I’m writing, I’m sure. I’m not by any means suggesting that I’m scared to do anything in Falmouth as a result of this. But, it does make me more conscious of my sexuality, which I don’t think would apply if I identified as heterosexual. So please pick others up on language. It has an enormous impact. You’ll be amazed at how often words like ‘gay’, ‘faggot’, ‘fag’, ‘queer’ and heaps of others are used derogatorily. Don’t let it go, because they probably don’t even know they’re doing anything wrong.