Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Times: Equality starts with visibility
Tuesday, July 3, 2012, 20:41 by Alison Bezzina

We're clearly in election mode and with only a few hundred votes separating the two big parties in the last election, who can blame either of them for going after 'the gays'?

The Labour party seems to be doing this more tactically and strategically, with the latest move being that of raising the rainbow flag on several of their clubs to commemorate Gay Pride.

Of course, with the PL's human rights' history, and with a few Neanderthals still forming part of the party, one cannot help but wonder whether such a move is just some nicely packaged lip service; but even if it is, I welcome it.

Even if they're doing it for all the wrong reasons, even if they have absolutely no intention of raising a finger when it comes to things that matter, even if they are still holding back on the whole hog when it comes to same-sex marriage, there's no denying that visibility is an absolute necessity for equality.

Many argue that the gay fight is over, because it's illegal to persecute gays or to discriminate against them based on their sexual orientation, but, at this very moment there's a teenager somewhere crying behind a tree after being called a lady boy.

There's a 30-year-old woman who's thinking of killing herself instead of coming out to her parents.

And there's a 50 year old man who would rather 'go missing' than tell his work colleagues that he's been living with another man for years.

And whilst flags on poles and viral videos help a little, it's visibility of other gay people that helps in leaps and bounds.

People often refer to females who are visibly gay as 'butch', and even in the most liberal minds the term carries negative connotations. It connotes images of masculine looking females that straight men wouldn't approach even if their manhood depended on it.

Unfortunately, in order to be at ease in their own skin, butch women are often treated as outsiders. They get called 'Mr.' they get stared at in the streets, and no matter how old they get, their mothers will keep trying to put lipstick and earrings on them.

Growing up as a butch girl is a nightmare, because it's practically impossible for butch women to keep their sexuality hidden until they're comfortable enough to come out, but they are a Godsend to the gay community.

Visibility of regular homosexuals is more important than anything, because there's no substitute for seeing gay people living a "normal" life, reading books, having jobs, being happy, shopping, and living with their partners, by being possibly the most easily identifiable gay subgroups in the gay world, butch women raise visibility.

Just by being who they really are they are saving lives in ways they will never know.

This week the famous American TV anchor Anderson Cooper confirmed publically that he is gay. Cooper said he did not come out in his 2006 memoir, "Dispatches from the Edge," because the book was meant to be about war and not about his personal life. But now he said, "that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something—something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true.....Visibility is important, more important than preserving my reporter's shield of privacy."

It is visibility that will help us move 'what shouldn't matter' towards 'what doesn't matter'.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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