By Gaelick Contributor Kristine Allen
“Oh…she’s…straight?” a lesbian friend of mine pronounces the word as if it is some alien concept, her confusion/slight distaste clearly evident.
Feeling a sudden need to justify my new friendship with the girl whose sexual orientation she is disgusted by, I explain how we came to meet.
“And you like her, right?” it is more of a statement than a question.
Upon hearing that I don’t and that the girl has a (very) long – term boyfriend, this seems to further confuse her. In fact, underneath the glaring orange glow of a streetlamp on Dame St, it appears as if she is going to pursue her line of interrogation further, before her bus comes, and she makes a reluctant exit.
Heterophobia can be defined as ‘an irritational fear of, aversion toward, or discrimination against heterosexual people and institutions’and it is something which exists amongst some members of the LGBT community.
Thankfully, this seems to be ever decreasing, perhaps due to the (slow) progress with regard to equality that we are making and the subsequent better treatment by hetreosexuals of people who identify as LGBT, however it still exists, varying in it’s degree and the guise that it takes, amongst some members of the LGBT community.
Could this heterophobic attitude be due to fear, considering many of us have experienced a form of discrimination at the hands of a heterosexual person? Or is it simply because some of us have immersed ourselves so deeply within the familiarity and safety of the LGBT community that we view anything outside of it as something to not only feel threatened by, but as something abnormal? Or maybe the refusal by the heterosexual community as of yet to grant us full equal rights, say in the form of gay marriage, is the catalyst for the continuance of heterophobia?
Despite my reference to my friend’s heterophobic tone, I will be honest and say that I have in the past have been prone to this heterophobic mentality.
Having entered the LGBT community at 19, on foot of being discriminated against in the heterosexual world, I found that as time passed, the confidence that I had gained as a result of being finally accepted amongst my peers, began to turn into what I would call a mild form of heterophobia (if there is such a thing as varying degrees of discrimination), and I know from experience that I am not the only young LGBT person whom this has happened to.
I have heard other disparaging comments made about people who are ‘straight’ by some members of the LGBT community. Now before I am lynched, being a young gay woman in a predominantly heterosexual world, I am all too aware of the homophobia that exists within our city. I also know that the chances that an all too similar conversation possibly took place between the ‘Straight’ girl I was referring to and a ‘Straight’ friend of hers, on foot of her discussing her upcoming meeting with a ‘Lesbian girl’ (oh shock horror!), and therefore I can understand why some people who identify as LGBT may feel a sense of hostility towards people who are ‘Straight. ’
However, do two wrongs really make a right?
Yes, it is well known that LGBT people have been made to feel uncomfortable inside the doors of straight bars, but does this really justify the dirty looks that some of us, sometimes quite unknowingly, have been seen to throw in the direction of perhaps a straight couple in The George, who happen to have attended with some gay friends?
Isn’t this mentality just going to fuel the already evident divide between the heterosexual and LGBT community? Without meaning to sound too dramatic, do we really want to be encouraging a society reminiscent of the segregation seen between people of differing skin colours?
Shouldn’t we be leading by example and welcoming heterosexuals who clearly are accepting of people who identify as LGBT, considering their friends are members of the LGBT community, with the openness that we in turn expect to receive when we attend heterosexual venues?
For me, my personal heterophobic tendencies (which I am happy to say are now a thing of the past!) largely emanated from the experiences that I had with heterosexual people in my teenage years. While I had some lovely heterosexual friends in my adolescent years (mainly on the female side), there were also a fair few ignorant bullies whom made me feel pretty much ashamed to be a lesbian, while ‘straight’ blokes were…well… a whole other kettle of fish!
Referring to me as ‘a man’ and a ‘lezzer’ because I was more interested in scoring a football goal rather than scoring them, it would be fair to say that these experiences didn’t help me to view these lads in the best of lights. Then there was their ability to get the ‘straight’ girls that I, being a girl, never could hope to achieve and their subsequent dismissive/ degrading attitudes towards them. And so all of these experiences resulted in a form of distrust of my heterosexual peers and I suppose a downright dislike towards heterosexual men.
This all changed when, due to a much needed expansion of my whole social circle, I began to spend more time with young people who didn’t identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender. At first, there was the initial fear of being discriminated against by these ‘straight people’ for being a lesbian, let alone the terrifying prospect of having to listen to a group of girls waxing lyrical about Olly Murs.
However, after spending an evening in their company, all of my negative preconceived notions were dispelled and as an out lesbian, I found that by the majority of people, both male and female, I was made to feel at ease and in turn accepted within their group. Apart from an awkward moment of being hit on by a lad who wasn’t in fact a part of the group, who had one too many Budweiser’s, I found the night to be really enjoyable and to be honest, refreshing!
Since I have become friends with this new crowd of people, I have discovered tons of new pubs/gig venues/ clubs/ within the City Centre. Don’t get me wrong, I still love going to LGBT places with my LGBT friends, however now I feel that much more liberated and less restricted when it comes to socialising!
I will be starting University in September, and am now much more at ease about the prospect of mixing with people who stem from a diversity of backgrounds and communities, having taken that frightening leap from the safety and comfort of the LGBT community. Now whilst I am aware that I am far from the only member of the LGBT community who has heterosexual friends and also attends heterosexual venues, I know from experience and from talking to other LGBT people that just as many don’t and that a large chunk of their social lives takes place with people who identify as LGBT within LGBT venues.
While I hear the argument that many LGBT people, who are either out or not out, don’t feel comfortable enough or safe enough to socialise outside of the LGBT community (which is a valid concern – in particular with regard to LGBT couples when attending straight nightclubs), I don’t feel that this solely explains some of our community’s reluctance to step out of our LGBT ‘bubble’, nor justifies the heterophobia that some of us either currently display or have displayed in the past.
After all, how will we ever eradicate homophobia or gain support with regard to marriage equality from people outside of the LGBT community, if a portion of the LGBT community does not make the effort to mix socially within the heterosexual community and refuses to be as accepting towards their sexual orientation/lifestyle as we wish them to be towards our own?