This week, a friend of mine aligned the plight of the bespectacled and the red haired to that of the homosexual. These too are people subject to judgement on something that they cannot change; persecuted by strangers, and parodied on various platforms. The theory that the persecution of those who wear glasses or are “ginger” is equivalent to that suffered by the queer community was not one I agreed with however, and soon the conversation spiralled into an increasingly loud butting of one opinion against another.
We all know the facts, the statistics, the laws that have not only allowed, but encouraged, homophobia over the years. Ostracised, closeted, imprisoned, even executed, the history of the treatment of queer people is a bleak and bloody one. And we all know that it still goes on, to varying degrees, worldwide. I don’t recall hearing about the genocide of the gingers. To mock someone based on physical appearance is, of course, unacceptable. And the bullying of children and teens as a result of hair colour or eyesight is horrid and can go to horrific extremes. Having worked as a youth adviser I am all too well aware of that. But, everyone knows it is horrific. You can’t fathom an excuse for that behaviour – you can’t cite age, or background, or religious beliefs as a reason for your judgements. For homophobia however, those who exhibit it can draw on a wide range of feeble (but sadly often effective) “reasonings”. “I was raised in a small town”, “It’s a generational thing”, “The [insert religious text here] says that…”.
I was pleased when in the case of the Christian B&B owners in Cornwall who refused a gay couple the right to share a bed were prosecuted, but people still get away with homophobia on religious grounds. Take the Protestant church in a village near my home town of Bishop Auckland. The locals have boycotted their church and set up their own, as the reverend is a lesbian. The church on the street by my house has a red haired, glasses wearing vicar. His flock are still happily following him.
I think the problem may lie in the fact that one group can’t see the other’s side of the argument. Those who have in their lives been subject to abuse because of their appearance are, understandably, upset and frustrated by this. And those who are queer, whether they have experienced direct discrimination or not, are continually made aware of their difference within society. In addition to this, on the whole, the discrimination against people based on physical appearance stops in its most overt form after childhood. But homophobia is exhibited by people of all ages, toward queer people throughout their lives, and it is covert, overt, and continual.
As a spectacle-free, dark haired woman, I can’t look at this properly from both sides. But perhaps some of you can. Can you see correlation between the two kinds of discrimination, do you think that you really can place them on an equal par? Please do let me know!
This feature piece was written by Amy Ekins, writer of fiction and non-fiction alike. She is training as a Project Manager for a publishing company, a graduate of English Literature and Creative Writing, and can be found at www.twitter.com/amyeek – Go on, give her a tweet!