To celebrate IDAHO 2012, Polari Magazine is publishing stories from its writers about their experiences of homophobia and transphobia. Some tales are funny, some are shocking and some are sad.
In this story BJ Epstein, writes about men who leer at lesbians in an attempt to get back on top.
Homophobia for gay and bisexual women sometimes takes the form of prurient, lascivious interest. Men ask to join you in sexual activities or say that they’d know how to turn you straight. They make reference to what you might do in bed, showing that much of their knowledge of lesbians comes from porn. This can create discomfort or even shame, and an easy response would be to just ignore it. But I’ve learned that speaking back when such comments are made can shut people up and sometimes even make them think a little about what they are saying.
I was kissing my then-girlfriend on a street in London. “Yeah!” a man jeered. “Mmm-hmm! Can I come home with you and watch?” My then-girlfriend, barely out of the closet and easily embarrassed, took a step away from me and urged me to hurry to another street. As she complained about how awful homophobic people were, I wished I’d been brave enough to tell the guy where to go, even if my girlfriend hadn’t wanted me to speak up. Not calling attention to ourselves as gay women was important to her.
A couple of years later, I was walking down a street in Norwich, holding hands with my current partner, now my fiancée, and some men were smoking outside a house. “Hey, look!” one shouted. “Lesbians!” Another added, “Are you real lesbians? Woo hoo!” I didn’t let go of my partner’s hand. I smiled at the men and said, “Yeah, and what of it?” They looked taken aback, as though wondering how I dared to question their right to say whatever they wanted to me. One started to say something more about what he thought of lesbians and I politely said, “Fuck off.” My partner and I walked on, still happily holding hands, our shoulders touching.
A small victory, perhaps. But if talking back now and then helps make society more accepting of same-sex couples holding hands, kissing, marrying, or otherwise just living their lives, then I’m happy to keep telling homophobes to fuck off.