by Pierre Le Roux
It happens every day. Somewhere in the world someone will the recipient of a snide remark, a malicious taunt or a deliberate verbal and/or even physical attack. Most gay people have fallen victim to homophobia in one way or another. Most people (gay and straight) have experienced and/or witnessed homophobia firsthand. However, some gay people are not as lucky as most and the results of homophobia will leave lasting scars, devastate families and shock communities. Sometimes being gay could mean a death sentence by the hands of your peers.
The 2nd of August will be the two year anniversary of the tragic death of Michael Causer. During the early hours of 25 July 2008 Michael was brutally assaulted by two other teenagers because he was gay. Michael sustained serious brain injuries and later died in hospital as a result of his injuries at the tender age of 18. This was a senseless act but what makes it worse is that Michael is but one of many who lost their lives due to homophobia. Gay bashings happens every day, every day people are attacked due to their sexual orientation and every day families and friends have to deal with aftermath of the ignorance and intolerance that is homophobia.
Sometimes homophobia’s lethal effects are not directly handed down by gay bashers. Homophobia doesn’t always take the life of a gay soul through assault. Sometimes bullying, teasing and the continued belittling of a person are enough. Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover age 11 hanged himself on 5 April 2009 after suffering months of bullying at school that included daily taunts of being gay. In July 2008 Alex Wildman age 14 committed suicide as homophobic taunts at school and physical abuse by fellow students got too much for him to put up with. In April 2009 a bully publically said to Eric Mohat age 17 “Why don’t you go home and shoot yourself, no one will miss you” and consequently he did! Eric was also frequently called gay, fag, queer and homo, often times in front of teachers who did nothing to stop it. These are just a few tragic examples of something that happen every day, tragic examples of how homophobia kills.
Personally I too have experience the wrath of homophobia. Having been openly gay in High School I too was the victim of bullying, endless taunting and homophobic slurs. It was hurtful, embarrassing and even made me feel ashamed of who and what I was at the time. But, I was lucky – I survived it. The sheer will not to let those bastards win, to let them have power over me and to make me feel less than human because I was gay motivated me to go on and endure it. I also survived two gay bashings (at the age of 17 and then again at 18) which also made me feel ashamed. I was ashamed out of fear. I was ashamed having had to tell my parents I was beaten-up because I was gay and I feared that they would think or even say “That’s what you get for being gay”. Today I know better! All these experiences made me stronger and more determined to make a success of my life and to never again be ashamed of who or what I am. But I am one of the lucky ones.
Why is it that in a modern society antiquated prejudices are still allowed to plague us? Why do children think its ok to bully, assault and kill other children just because they are thought to be or are gay? Why do grown men prowl the streets near gay clubs waiting to pounce on an innocent person and beat the shit out of them? Does this make them feel more mucho, more manly, does it make them feel better about themselves? What does it say about us as a society that we are allowing such travesties to occur?
Every one of us carries with us a responsibility to change the world for the better. I know this sound fantastic, but just sit and think about it for a minute. Homophobia is a social disease spread by people and allowed to exist by people. If people changed their attitudes and consciously fight homophobia it may just be eradicated and it will be done one person at a time. If you hear a person make a homophobic comment do you speak out? If someone says “that is so gay”, do you correct them? If you see a child being bullied do you intervene? If you don’t, ask yourself why, what are you afraid of?
Homophobia is killing our youth, it’s killing our friends, and it’s killing our brother and sisters. Just because you may not be affected by it right this minute should not preclude you from doing something to help stop it. It’s time we take a moment and reach out and help the children on the verge of suicide because they are being bullied, the gay teens struggling to come to terms with their sexual orientation who don’t feel safe in their own homes, the homosexuals living in communities and countries that’s intolerant with real threats to their lives. Get involved with your local community centres, donate whatever money you can to foundations or just do the simplest thing possible – talk to each other, be proud of yourself and be proud of our community. Anyone who has ever been affected by homophobia should know better than to be indifferent. It’s been 14 years since I was last gay bashed and I am not ignorant to think that will never happen to me again. There are still far too many with hatred towards gay people that walk the streets and if you and I stay quiet about it the next victim may just be you.
Too many gay people have been taken from us due to homophobia. Heaven is filled with angels who were sent there by the deeds of others with hatred in their hearts. Let’s never forget our brothers and sisters who paid the ultimate price for being who and what they were. Let’s honour their memory by each and every day reaching out, educating and spreading love. It only takes one person to make a difference, let that one person be you.
Till next time