I Am Afraid

There’s still a t-shirt somewhere in my drawer that has a few spots of my boyfriend’s blood on it. He was attacked earlier this year and, in the hospital, I gave him a hug, staining my clothes.

Violence against gay people is not a new thing, but it is relatively new to me. I’ve grown up in a city that has a reputation for being rough. I would always hear jokes when I was smaller about how people from Liverpool were violent, thieves, or both. I think it bothered me occasionally but never that much. Mostly, I was confused because the Liverpool I knew was just a normal city. I never used to feel unsafe walking alone at night (hello, male privilege) and I’ve barely even witnessed a crime, let alone been the target of one.

Perhaps it was all the nice laws that we passed, the people like me who are open about their lives in the media, or maybe I was just ignorant of the fact that I’m in potential danger every moment I’m in public, but I thought we were 100% safe unless a stray asteroid came plummeting our way.

I’m a human being. I can be with other human beings. I’m allowed, by law, to live my life. But I’m not necessarily a safe human being. And maybe this isn’t a new fact, but it’s news to me and I’m actually scared now. Every law that I could wish for could be passed and this still wouldn’t stop me or those I love coming to harm should we irritate the wrong person.

I can’t even justify being as scared as I am, due to the fact that guns are essentially non existent in this country. A horror such as Orlando is orders of magnitude less likely to occur in the UK and I’m somewhat relieved about that. But when I walk down the street hand in hand with a guy I love, every single one of you is, to me, a potential threat. Schrödinger’s Attacker, if you will.

And it’s not just because my boyfriend was assaulted – my cousin was too, in a completely separate incident, but for the same “reason”. I stop holding hands when we walk near groups of rowdy guys. We’ve even stopped apologising to each other about that now. We’ve had things shouted at us, I’ve had to stand my ground while some upstart teenager tried to intimidate me (an utterly bizarre experience), and yes – I notice every double take that we get. When was the last time you felt scared to show affection on an empty public street? For me it was today.

All of this is small stuff in comparison to last weekend, or to the number of trans people killed in the US this year alone, to the LGBT people murdered by ISIL, or the struggles of those in the past who fought for rights I now take for granted.

Yet all of the things I experience are still worrying. If I’m not anywhere near as safe as I thought I was, then what exactly do I do about this? Is there anything that can be done at all? Does anyone else care?

I have always known that there are people out there who would hurt me if they could. But until now I assumed that this was close an impossibility – on a par with the knowledge that bubonic plague would kill me if I caught it. But now the threat level, as it were, has been raised not just for me but for all of my people. Not least, the people of colour in my community who made up almost the entire list of the dead in Orlando.

In the wake of the Paris attacks last year, my news feeds on Facebook and Twitter were saturated by those who poured out their love. There’s good reason to think that I saw more of these posts than most, seeing as how I’m a French graduate with friends who live in Paris and around France, and other friends who have more Parisian acquaintances than I can count.

Yet this weekend, the lack of comment by those outside the LGBT community about these multiple hate crimes (not to mention the foiled attempt to murder more people at LA Pride) has been more than conspicuous. A few months back, every single profile picture was overlaid with a French flag. A useless token gesture, perhaps, but a gesture nonetheless. I can’t help but notice the glaring absence of certain demographics from any mention of Orlando.

No you don’t all have to write weepy statuses, tweet your condolences, or change your pictures. But when none of you do, we can’t help but notice.

Maybe I’m overreacting. I probably am actually – giving into fear and all that. But we, as a community, are hurt, and I can count the mentions of it by straight people on my fingers. I can count the mentions by my Christian friends on one hand. And no, not the full hand.

I still wear the t-shirt sometimes. I think it’s some Fault In Our Stars-esque metaphor* in which I wear something that bears the symbol of hurt, but I feel stronger for it now being unable to hurt me. In any case, I live in genuine fear that there will be more blood on my clothes by the end of this year and this is becoming normal to factor into my thinking. However this will not stop me going to Pride festivals or gay clubs, holding hands, or being conspicuously homosexual right in your face in the middle of the street. Yes I am more scared now than I was last week, and maybe I’m less scared than I will be next week, but while right now this rules my feelings, I cannot let it rule my actions.

Let us be kind to those we don’t understand. If Orlando has shown me anything, it is that I am deeply saddened at how divided we truly are. A refusal to acknowledge each other’s pain does not help it go away. We weep with those who weep because the killing of just one innocent person is like the killing of the entire world.

 

*“[Cigarettes] don’t kill you unless you light them,” he said as mom arrived at the curb. “And I’ve never lit one. It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

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Be More Tim

304468_10150365092083552_5943664_nA few years ago (and perhaps currently – I’m not sure – I don’t tend to keep hot tabs on national advertising campaigns) the telecoms company O2 had their slogan as “Be More Dog”. The idea was that you, dear reader, are living your life as a lazy and lethargic cat, and instead you should chase life like it’s the back of a bin lorry and throw enthusiasm into everything that you do – like a dog – and all through the simple medium of their nicely packaged payment plan. When I think about Tim Peters and the impression he left on me, the phrase that jumped into the forefront of my mind through the fog of grief was “Be More Tim”.

Tim seemed to vibrate on a higher frequency than I did – tuned into a host of potential possibilities for enjoyment that wouldn’t occur to me unless highly caffeinated. Tim was running, jumping, climbing trees and cliff faces while I was yet to realise that grasping at every strand of enjoyment in life was most definitely the way forward. Nobody else I know was simultaneously as level headed and also completely nuts as Tim. Where Tim was focussed and driven, I was ambivalently apathetic. Where he was wise and knowledgeable, I was barely understanding how much there was to know and how much I knew that I would never know. He was patient where I was erratic, kind where I was abrasive, quick with a joke where I was slow with an insult, and he knew the best places to hide a honeydew melon in Martin Chan’s bedroom.

I honestly think that Tim was one of my best friends. Not in the sense that “best friends” usually means, as I’d actually not seen him much after graduation. A smattering of weddings and birthdays here, a group lunch there. Perhaps to my fault, but as we all know, friends do drift. But Tim can be described as one of my best friends not in the sense of closeness, though obviously I loved him immensely, but in the sense that Tim Peters is supremely one of the best human beings I have ever known. If all of us were to become lights on a Christmas tree, then Tim would be one of the ones near the top, blazing away and putting the star to shame, while I tried my best to be the glint on a bauble that you can see if you squint and tilt your head the right way. Were I to ask myself the question of “who could do this better than me?” Tim Peters would be quite a solid answer for most things in life.

I think if, from the moment that I had met him back in 2007, I had attempted to emulate his endless love for everyone, his hunger for joy, and his warmth, kindness, and excellence as a friend, then perhaps my life would have taken a drastic upswing into a beautifully positive mindset that saw the best in the face of whatever he encountered. While Tim and I may have parted opinion on the issue of faith, I do feel as if he would certainly want me to say that the reason that Tim appeared super-human to me is because of his deep desire himself to emulate Christ, and all the great things I saw in him were only Tim’s expression and outworking of his beliefs. This, if nothing else, is but another facet of Tim that I’m sure many of you who knew him wish to re-create in yourselves. As it is, we are now left with only these memories of Tim, and a blaring wake-up call to desire more, give all, love forever, and smile that Tim Peters smile as much as we can. To be more Tim.

Face In A Crowd

wheres-waldo-StoreI remember that, even from an early age, I thought that astrology was a steaming pile of bullshit. I mean while I appreciated reading fantasy novels and the concept of the arcane art of reading stars, and by applying mythology and a dash of magic, one could distil some image of your character, or divine your future fate; the idea that this could be translated into real life never really sat with me. Perhaps I’ve always had a scientific side that somehow manages to couple brilliantly with my fantastical imagination, but I’ve eventually come to realise that if it’s not explained to me exactly how a thing works, then it probably doesn’t actually  work. 

However this worldview proves a little problematic when trying online dating. Apart from the initial panic of having to create one tiny page that has to perfectly encapsulate your life, who you are, and what you are not; the entire idea of selling yourself in a limited number of characters seems far too much like prostitution. Or a CV. Not to mention the very concept of going onto an invisible web of people and attempting to find a person is quite bizarre. There is an element of bullet biting, a dash of pride swallowing, and a handful of getting the fuck on with it, but eventually there you are – all ready for the wide world (or whatever distance parameters you’ve managed to set) to find you and poke at you until you roll over and realise you’ve had enough.

But this isn’t some agony aunt blog about “how do I find Mr Right in a sea of Weird?”. We all know the earth is populated by strange and unusual creatures who seep into every group and club you might think to join. I could go on for years about avoiding the crazies, deflecting the sleaze, and turning down the overly eager; but what really thrills me – what makes me sit up and take more than my usual ginned up notice of the planet is the fact that so many of us are so very, very alike.

My margins are small. Please be someone who: loves (or can tolerate) geekery, vaguely appreciates my face (and vice versa), and frowns not upon my drinking like a fish. Few needs, but they weed out much of the competition. What has astonished me to the max is that the slew of people who slide into this slot are so varied, but also how similar I feel with so many assorted and different souls. The variety of people I am able to co-exist with is so monumentally vast, despite my rather acute dislikes and severe personality parameters, that I feel a) a thrill at my eventual choice of life mate b) hope for general happiness and – ok let’s just pretend that this last one is the most important and that the last two haven’t already blown my mind – c) my kinship with humanity.

And while I can already hear you anti-hippies vomiting in the background, I invite all of you who remain yet unrepulsed to share in my joy that we are indeed all, vaguely, one. Or kind of, at least. While star signs and palm reading may light the way to some, I find the idea that we’re all essentially similar and searching for the same, to be one of the most comforting constants to cling to. Strangers adrift a floating rock who manage to find happiness (lasting or not) with each other and spur each other on to further heights of euphoria.

Perhaps that’s the case. Perhaps its all a waste. But hey, at least I’m having fun crafting the perfect opening sentence for my grindr profile.