Our Claire has something to say…
Last Sunday was National Coming Out Day. I first came out in 1999 in the wake of Queer As Folk being broadcast on Channel 4; in a world where I could still be fired for being gay, before the legal age of consent was equalised, Section 28 was repealed, and civil partnerships and equal marriage introduced. So my motivation for doing so was not pride but fear: I was worried the fact I was gay would be used against me. So I decided the best way for people to hear the news was from myself.
In the decades since then I have been gladdened by the progress that has been made in regards to the human rights of LGBTQ+ people in this country. However, I am mindful that although things have improved, they’re far from rosy. As you can see from the work of Stonewall, LGBTQ+ people still face daily challenges in this country. But things are even worse abroad: Being gay is punishable by death in eight countries, illegal in scores more and you only have to look at Russia, Poland and the USA to see how fragile LGBTQ+ rights really are. Nothing can be taken for granted.
So, unfortunately, being “out and proud” still carries considerable risk wherever you are. So there are times when I think twice about being out but then I remember this speech by out and proud San Francisco Supervisor, Harvey Milk:
Gay brothers and sisters, you must come out. Come out to your parents. I know that it is hard and will hurt them, but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives. Come out to your friends, if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbours, to your fellow workers, to the people who work where you eat and shop. Come out only to the people you know, and who know you, not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths. Destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake.
It is in my own self-interest not to hide the fact I am Queer and Trans but it is also the case that hatred and fear poisons a society. So it is in everyone’s interests not to swallow that poison. A fair and just society cannot base itself on prejudice.
So I fully support campaigns like National Hate Crime Awareness Week, which runs until the 17th October this year. WHISC have recently been identified as an Independent Hate Crime Reporting Centre and can assist you by providing a safe environment for you to contact Stop Hate UK on 0800 138 1625 to report a hate crime and receive support. A hate crime is any behaviour that someone thinks was caused by hostility, prejudice or hatred of their:
- Disability (including physical impairments, mental health problems, learning disabilities, hearing and visual impairments
- Gender Identity (people who are transgender, a transsexual or transvestite)
- Race, skin colour, nationality, ethnicity or heritage
- Religion, faith or belief (including people without a religious belief)
- Sexual orientation (people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual etc.)
We all deserve to live in a society where we feel safe and welcome. Hopefully, by making it easier to report a hate crime, the hatred and prejudice that blights so many people’s lives will stop.
You can find out more about National Hate Crime Awareness Week at the dedicated website.
If you’re LGBTQ+ and need support, then Sahir House provides a list of local support groups. Of course, there is always WHISC’s own Listening Ear service as well if you just need to talk. This is available by calling 07708 381 568. Alternatively, you can leave a message on WHISC’s Facebook page and someone will call you back.