Comment: Homophobia is still a blight on our society

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Writing for Gary Spedding says the number of anti-gay incidents in Northern Ireland shows more needs to be done to tackle homophobia in society.

Over the course of the past few months, a series of revelations have surfaced in Northern Ireland that brings the discussion surrounding homophobia back into focus, at a time when certain areas of LGBT rights are under heated debate in the UK, the worrying blight of intolerance continually resurfaces in our society.

In June of this year, a survey in Northern Ireland looked into social attitudes and discrimination. Results from the ‘Do you mean me’ survey by the Equality Commission found some shocking increases in discriminatory trends, such as racism and homophobia.

A basic overview of the findings in this survey showed that a quarter of people would object to having a gay or bisexual neighbour, and four in ten would object to a close relative forming an LGBT relationship.

Horrifying, yet unsurprisingly, these figures translate and are translated from real life experiences of the LGBT community in Northern Ireland.

Arguments over marriage equality and the MSM blood ban rage onwards. Bearing this in mind I hope to remind the public of the hard work needed in our seemingly endless struggle for basic equality in our society as a whole.

Sometimes we forget the apparently smaller issues, and as a result, instances such as the sustained homophobic attack on newly-weds 24-year-old Dean and 20-year-old Curtis McFall who, married in May, go unchallenged and ignored.

Collectives of individuals and groups are pushing homophobic ideas in our society, continually attempting to disrupt our supposedly democratic and liberal society with a reverse victimhood that puts those against the LGBT community as the ones being oppressed.

High profile individuals such as Lord Ken Maginnis flap their mouths, spewing nefarious hatred disguised in religious rhetoric, whilst others find baseless and flawed scientific backing as a means of imposing their ideologically rooted moral codes upon all of us.

We all know the problems that we face but still, there isn’t a larger effort made to push for inclusive ethical learning in our schools. If we educate to inspire and engender human rights-based thought in our young people with this generation, then a great deal more could be achieved than we ever previously imagined.

The experiences of the McFall’s, forced to flee their home under desperate circumstances, are an example of why we need to take a serious approach to changing the hearts and minds of our communities. Being rudely awakened by a brick thrown at their kitchen window after weeks of homophobic abuse is not something any couple should have to face.

Having a fuller understanding for anti-LGBT attitudes could help us defeat them faster. Rather than just attacking hatred and bigotry with anger that only reinforces those negative values, shouldn’t we employ a new concentrated approach? Why do we continue to accept this discrimination that blights our entire social conglomerate?

For the moment, Northern Ireland is becoming further entrenched in intolerance towards the LGBT community, our politicians are failing to seriously tackle the causes of homophobia and our communities don’t take a proactive approach. Maybe we have all forgotten that the most sacred values of our secular democracy should include protection for minorities especially in areas of equality.

Doesn’t this seriously worry all of us?

Gary Spedding is a zoology undergraduate and also a freelance journalist.

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