Queer people risk legal prosecution in 81 countries. In six of these countries (as well as parts of Nigeria and Somalia), the punishment is death. Imprisonment length in the remaining 75 countries ranges from indeterminate to life. Only 34 countries have legal recognition of some form of same-sex union (ranging from basic partnership rights to marriage equality).* While we are exceptionally privileged to be living in one of these countries that has recognised rights and protections for queer folk (including full marriage equality), the fight for an accepting environment is far from over.
For a queer person, the environment they live in drastically influences the way they are able to live their life. A positive environment, with a loving family, supportive friends, and an accepting society enables us to be who we are without fear of reproach, retaliation, stigma, harassment, or violence. A negative environment, with a homophobic family, prejudiced friends, and an oppressive society breeds contempt, fear, aggression, shame, self-loathing, denial, and hatred.
Most people are familiar with the concept of ‘closeting’, as in being in the closet, or coming out of the closet. One of the biggest lessons I learnt on my own self-discovery journey is that this closet isn’t one that queer people retreat into out of fear or shame. It is built around us through systematic heteronormativity.**
The best way to make a tangible positive difference is to make sure the environment you create around you is fully supportive and encouraging of all people. Language use, such as “that’s so gay,” or calling someone a “pussy” or a “f*g” is inherently heteronormative, homophobic, destructive, and hurtful. Using or condoning this language instantly makes the environment you occupy unsafe and oppressive for queer people, and adds to the culture of fear and hate. Also, it makes you look like an asshole. It’s [insert current year], being gay isn’t scary or weird any more. Grow the fuck up and do your part to make our environment one that’s safe, supportive, encouraging, and accepting for everyone.
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**Denoting or relating to a worldview that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation.