As a heterosexual man, I am not qualified to write about first hand experience of being on the receiving end of homophobia. I can only try to “put myself in the shoes” of another and use some emotional intelligence, my own humanity and my unpleasant teenage years to get me there.
My experience as a teenager growing up in North England and Wales was one of football and under aged beer and cider drinking. In the 90’s the music scene was dominated by Britpop by such wonderful bands as The Manic Street Preachers, Oasis, The Verve, Suede, in addition to a long list of other artists. Although I enjoyed these sounds, at the time I was much more into pop sounds like George Michael, Queen, Elton John and other artists, who to a group of hormonal, male, testosterone driven teenagers in search of a macho image, were not considered cool.
I was oblivious to the sexuality of George Michael at the time who in 1996 had just brought out (in my humble opinion) his masterpiece “Older” with such stand out tracks as “Jesus to a Child”, which was dedicated to a man called Anselmo Feleppa, who as a naive teenager I thought was a close friend or musical collaborator of his, only to find out two years later that it was his deceased boyfriend/lover, which my classmates in high school derided by making slanderous gay jokes, and using puns based on his song titles (including mainstream tabloid newspapers such as “The Sun” and other Rupert Murdoch lowbrow, trashy news outlets). I however just knew that I loved the slick pop sound he created like “Fastlove” as it had a catchy soul and at times funk influence, his voice at times also reminded me of Freddie Mercury (for whom he had performed a tribute concert with fellow Queen band members in 1993 with a masterful performance of “Somebody to Love”) and his instrumental pop beats even reminded me at times of Prince.
If you wanted to be “one of the lads” you had to support a football team like Liverpool FC or Manchester United and discuss the latest football scores every week. It seemed to me that they all seemed to deliberately love the same things, just to be able to fit in, and belong to the same ladish group. Unfortunatley, there were no teenagers in my village with a similar taste in music, in spite of the huge sales that each of these musicians had, as they were huge commercial, mainstream acts. It seemed like they were popular in the rest of the country and world except in my village.
So although trivial an issue as it may sound, as a young lad I had to hide my musical taste and prime downtime interest, so as to avoid being teased at school. I even had a karaokee machine in my bedroom, with which I would sing along to all my favourite songs (another fact I could never have mentioned to my macho heterosexual teenage classmates).
My main interest in gay pop singers (whose sexuality seemed irrelevant to me), alongside the fact that I wore an earring and plucked my eyebrows, led to frequent teasing at school (children can be cruel), with some “friends” even starting the rumour in school that I was in fact gay. I felt so out of place in school, that it led me to growing out my fringe, so as to cover my monobrow and face. This affected me so, that I knew I had to get out of my narrow minded village to another country i.e. Spain where we had spent some childhood years in the 80’s.
I never changed my musical taste however and to this day, continue to be a fan of “gay pop” if such a thing actually exists. In the ensuing 20 years since then, I have witnessed some mild homophobia by people around me but try not to be too reactionary or militant with my own feelings when stamping it out. I believe that these days we have “closeted homophobes” who deep down know that they are wrong to feel such hatred without any logical reason, but would never say so out loud, only behind closed doors with possibly like-minded people.
I can only imagine how it must feel for gay teenagers growing up, as there is a constant lack of gay role models in both popular culture but even more importantly in their own community.
I believe it is a gay adults responsability to be openly gay and proud, so as to encourage younger gay teenagers by showing them, that there is nothing to be afraid of and that enjoying sex and sexuality is not a dirty secret, but rather part of the joy of the human experience, along with other physical pleasures such as music and food. Double standards only lead to more sweeping under the carpet.
Perhaps such thinking among societies around the world, would have even saved the life of such people as the heterosexual woman who worked for Iveco in Spain, who although married with two children, was driven to commit suicide due to bullying and teasing at the work place, and this was a grown woman …. not a developing teenager who tend to be more easily influenced.
Lets put a stop to all the hypocrisy and at times religious, conservative demonization surrounding sex and sexuality …. by openly admitting that a great majority of us enjoy and/or sex and/or some kind of physical intimicy and contact with another human being.
Talking about the joy of sex should be as normalized as discussing “tennis”
It is no “sin” to enjoy the physical touch of another consenting adult, regardless of which part of their anatomy is involved …. so lets all grow up, once and for all!
If you wish to discuss these and other “taboo” topics in class …. then I look forward to seeing you in “Clases de Inglés en Valencia”