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

How Did You Two Meet?

Top-Ten-Places-To-Meet-Girls-Women-Girlfriend-Bookstores-Library Now there’s a question I don’t like. Not that I particularly enjoy questions about serious life things in general, I prefer to babble on endlessly about nothing in particular and spew factoids like my life depends upon it, but occasionally people seem not to realise this and so ask me the question. Not that I’m actually in a relationship now, but in every relationship I’ve been in, no matter how depressingly short lived they may have been, some poor sod has always found the time to ask “so how did you two meet then?” I don’t have anything against you if you’ve previously been the one to ask this, I’m not having a go or anything so don’t fret your pretty little heads.

Now perhaps it’s because I’m from a rather conservative upbringing where boy meets girl and prays earnestly about whether he should ask somebody he knows about whether he should pray about asking her out for coffee, that stories of how person A met person B are often quite sweet, if more than a little too vanilla; but does nobody else see how the question could potentially be problematic? In this glorious golden age of technobabble and e-love, it is only natural that a huge number of relationships begin, or at least are made possible, on the internet. Natural yes. Socially acceptable? Now there’s an odd little point. Anybody who’s ever met anybody from the internet will identify with the feeling that somehow, somebody somewhere disapproves of the fashion of your initial rendez-vous. It’s mental, but it’s still in the back of your head. Thus, when inquisitive friend X asks where I met my paramour, I invariably freeze for a second and weigh up my options. A) Come clean and say I met them on the internet B) Invent a plausible place in which we could conceivably have met and thus have to remember to tell the person in question that I told my friends that’s where we met and would they mind awfully if we just went along with this ruse for the sake of avoiding social awkwardness or C) Invent a blatant lie which is also a funny story that, by virtue of it being both funny and wildly untrue, dispels any further questioning and thereby avoids the question all together.

Having employed all three of these in the past, I can testify that A is a bad idea, B is a bad idea if you forget to cover your tracks, and C is a bad idea if the interrogator actually wants to know where we met. As unbelievable as it may seem, a beautiful story crafted on the spot about how our eyes met across the corridor of the International Space Station as it plummeted toward earth and how we spent weeks adrift in an escape pod lost in the Pacific Ocean where our love blossomed into the stuff of fairy tales and romantic novels, does little to deter a determined inquisitor. Shame.

And what really bugs me is why people actually want to know. I kind of accept that sometimes it’s just a conversation filler but when pressed for an answer (as I have been an odd number of times) I do have to wonder what the motivation is that drives the person to acquire such a boring snippet of knowledge. What does it matter if I met him on Grindr or picked them up in a seedy bar* and then didn’t mind them when the beer goggles came off? It changes nothing to what’s actually happening apart from to inject some little needed awkwardness into a conversation.

But meeting somebody on the internet is not even the only embarrassing location for a meet-cute. Just picture the scene: you’re old and grey with age and your wife/husband/whatever is sat with you in your favourite armchairs and all your grandchildren are gathered around you and one of them, the annoying little brat, pipes up with the question “Granddad/Nanna how did you and Nanna/Granddad meet?” [delete as appropriate] How will you feel if your answer has to be “Well sonny, it was a dark cold night and I was smashed off my face when I saw your nan across the dance floor and she was shakin’ what God gave her and I thought to myself “I’ve got to get myself some of that” and so I ground up against her for a good hour then we got out and went back to her place and your mum happened.” Talk about teaching life lessons too early.

That being said, I remember asking my granddad (though on second thoughts, it seems more likely that he told the story without much prompting) where he met my nan and, as I recall, the answer involves a dance of some sort. In my head, this has now morphed into a good old fashioned Rock n Roll jam fest with some Elvis blasting out and hips gyrating all over the place. Granddad saw just how good nan was at the Jive and it was love at first sight. Different time, same story.

* Now, just to clarify here people, I make no habit of picking people up in bars but as I’m sure some of you will revel in confirming, it has been known to happen *hangs head in shame*. But that’s enough about my dating habits. Go bother somebody else for their love stories.

Totally Unrelated Video Of The Day

Why I Hate Football

You may not have noticed, but I hate football. Please note, dear American readers, that I am talking about the game where a ball is kicked with the foot rather than the game where a big rubber egg is thrown with the hands. Not that I like your football either, but I hate actual football more.

Though if I’m painfully honest (though it gives me no pain to be so) I hate all sport really. All of it. Running, jumping, twisting, turning, moving quickly through water or over tarmac, throwing little spikes of metal at defenceless cork boards or thwacking small white spheres into the stratosphere in the hope of them landing in a ditch in the ground, I hate it.

Is hate too strong a word? Weeeeell perhaps. But I do have to admit that if I’m watching the news and then the sport comes on, or if I stray too far past the middle when reading a newspaper and I stumble upon the racing pages, I get angry. I don’t know why and I can’t explain it. One part of me realises that it is perfectly legit to have a sports section after the news. The rest of me wants the sports reporter shot for bad journalism – reporting on a non-topic.

Is this irrational? Yes. Do I care? No.

I remember when I first realised that I could stop pretending to enjoy football and oh what a joyous day that was.

But do I have a problem with you if you like sport? Well actually, I might do. Now I’m a left wing liberal so what two consenting adults or twenty two overpaid children do in the privacy of their own home or grass field is their business. But what really grinds my gears, what fries my noodle to a crisp, what makes me want to jump off the nearest tall building, is people talking about their teams. If you are unsure as to why I would ever feel this, I believe that David Mitchell and Robert Webb have perfectly captured my pain:

There. I’ve had that in my system for quite long enough thank you very much.