In An Ongoing Battle Against Queerphobia and Discrimination in 2023, Let’s Keep Fighting Against Shame
by Matt Rogan
Content warning: discusses homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, with references to queerphobic rhetoric.
Back in 2021, I read Straight Jacket by Matthew Todd ahead of hosting him at an event I organised for my student union’s LGBTQ+ Network. It was February so the talk was related to LGBTQ+ History Month, and specifically focused on mental health within the queer community. After I read the book, I had a chat with Matthew Todd (who speaks as brilliantly as he writes!) and he asked me: “could you see yourself when reading it?”. I answered yes, because when reading I came to share in the knowledge that the queer experience is almost universal and characterised by two things: shame and homophobia. The book itself focused on, as its subtitle suggests, “society’s legacy of gay shame”, however I also came to realise that surrounding this shame comes discrimination.
So, on days such as International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), it’s imperative we focus on how as queer people we still face an uphill struggle against this hate and shame.
Fighting shame and discrimination imposed upon our community is, unfortunately, an ongoing battle we must face. Back in the 1980s, headlines from the media shamed queer people for the smallest of things. One example that sticks in the mind is an article written by none other than Piers Morgan about EastEnders. In the episode, a gay couple shared an intimate moment where they kissed. The response? An article from Morgan calling for Eastenders to be scrapped.
Unfortunately, this sort of shame and demonisation wasn’t an isolated incident. The media was fuelled with hateful headlines attacking our community; at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic this was more than enough ammunition for the papers.
So in 2023, days such as IDAHOBIT are opportunities to look to the past and consider how far we’ve come from the days of homophobic headlines, and epidemics being used to demonise and attack our community. However, do I think we’re past everything we focus on for IDAHOBIT? Absolutely not.
It’s a stain on the reputation of the UK that we’ve fallen to being the 17th most friendly LGBTQ+ nation in Europe; in 2015 we were ranked number one. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that history is eerily repeating itself. Nowadays, the same sort of rhetoric used from the 1980s to shame gays and lesbians is being used to damn and spread fear around trans people - this is evident from articles in our media such as ‘Transgender athletes in women's sport are shameless cheats’, posted just 2 weeks ago from the Telegraph, and The Sun’s front pages shaming trans people for getting married.
But what of homophobia in 2023, around the world? We still have a mountain to climb: France has seen homophobic attacks rise by 30% in the last year; Uganda have recently passed a bill criminalising free speech on homosexuality; and here in the UK our police service has been deemed “institutionally homophobic”.
This isn’t good enough.
So whilst on IDAHOBIT we reflect on the progress we’ve made towards queerphobia being a thing of the past, we must also acknowledge that the experience of queerphobia still remains in our society. Reflecting on the message of Matthew Todd’s Straight Jacket, we still feel the shame and discrimination that is forced upon us as a community - don’t forget, there is no LGB without the T and our struggles are intersectional!
In just under a month, it’ll be Pride Month - a month where, as the name would suggest, we take pride in who we are and celebrate diversity. In June, let’s take pride in ourselves; on IDAHOBIT, let’s keep working towards tackling the shame that dampens that Pride.
 UK was once ranked the most LGBTQ-friendly nation in Europe. This year, it’s not even close, Pink News - https://www.thepinknews.com/2023/05/11/uk-lgbtq-rights-ilga-europe-rankings-rainbow-map-tories/
 Transgender athletes in women’s sport are shameless cheats, The Telegraph - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/columnists/2023/05/02/austin-killips-trans-cyclist-womens-sport-lia-thomas/
 The Sun called out over “sensationalist and offensive” front page about trans wedding, Gay Times
 Homophobic attacks in France rose almost 30 percent last year, LGBTQ group says, France 24 - https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20230516-homophobic-attacks-in-france-rose-almost-30-percent-last-year-lgbtq-group-says
 Uganda’s parliament passes mostly unchanged anti-LGBTQ bill, The Guardian - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/may/02/uganda-parliament-passes-anti-lgbtq-bill
 Met police found to be institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic, The Guardian - https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/mar/21/metropolitan-police-institutionally-racist-misogynistic-homophobic-louise-casey-report