Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ellen Page. And why it's a big deal.

I'm equally heartened and saddened by the online reaction to Ellen Page publicly "coming out" at a conference on teenage homosexuality hosted by the Human Rights campaign, which lobbies for the rights of those in same-sex relationships.

Heartened from an immense wave of support that I've seen (from some unusual and unexpected sources) but saddened by some of the comments about it (that have come from some unusual and unexpected sources as well).  And I've got a blog, and feel damn strongly enough about it, that I feel I want to say something. I've found myself getting angry, and I rarely get angry.

I realise I'm in an incredibly privileged* position. I'm writing this as a straight male, and was aware of quite how straight I was surprisingly early (except for a bit of a man crush on Antonio Banderas and Idris Elba, but thats beside the point).

I've never struggled with my sexuality or been faced with the potential shame of having to tell my parents that I fancied women. I've never had to worry about being beaten up coming out of straight night clubs, or felt pressured into hiding my affections for my loved one in public for the attention it might bring, or had to keep my love hidden and underground. Nobody has ever needed to campaign for my marriage to be as equally recognised to be the same as somebody else's marriage, and no church has ever proudly admitted to being able to cure my condition.  Gangs don't roam the streets looking to beat me up, and I've never had to campaign to have what sex I am legally accepted.

Nobody has to have a conference to discuss my rights.

The suicide rates amongst the LGBT community, even in the so called "enlightened" West is comparatively higher compared to the general population. Whether we like it or not, we still live in a heterocentric culture and institutionalised homophobia is still prevalent in schools, workplaces and social media.  At school children who come out as gay or admit to being questioning are bullied three time more than straight children, and LGBT Youth are four times more likely to kill themselves than their heterosexual peers.

Somebody far better a writer than I summed it up perfectly;

Ellen coming out is a big deal, and it means a lot to a great many scared and persecuted people. And if you don't care who she chooses to sleep with? Well done, you. Personally can't think of many better places to come out than at a conference on teenage homosexuality, and she has nothing but my admiration. But this is all coming from a privileged straight guy - which, to be fair, is playing life at the very lowest difficulty level that there is.

* As an aside, I'm aware of the incredibly loaded meaning behind the word 'privilege' and hope you take it as I present it.

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