Two dear friends of mine were on the receiving end of a homophobic verbal assault over the weekend as they walked arm-in-arm through their Leicestershire village. Two young men shouted at them from the safety of their car – a cowardly act. In these kinds of situations the young men feel entitled to use another person’s (assumed) sexuality for their entertainment, often with misogynistic overtones if not hatred.
First, I’m sad and concerned for my friends. People shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of behaviour from others. It has the potential to induce shame and make those on the receiving end shrink into silence and erasure – which is why I am speaking out on their behalf.
It also made me wonder about the state of mind of the two young men hurling the abuse. Similar thoughts crossed my mind regarding the two recent nationally reported cases of homophobic attacks on women. How in control, powerful and overpowering might they feel? Why the need to express their feelings in such an unfiltered way? Equally, how inept, insignificant and inadequate might these young men feel to carry out such a cowardly act? As a society, how can we protect the vulnerable, those who are oppressed or marginalised? How can we also help to educate those in the majority that they also harm themselves in the process of attacking those different to themselves?
As you can see, I have far more questions than answers. Some of my concern lies within the context of the current political landscape where tolerance and cohesion are seemingly being rejected in favour of power-play and one-upmanship. Since the EU Referendum there has been an increase in hate crime and sadly we are not seeing it decline any time soon. So I add my voice to those speaking out and declaring that it’s not OK to verbally, physically or mentally abuse another person simply because they are a bit different to you and you feel intimidated by this difference.