Opinion

11 things LGBTQ+ people want you to know right now

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Shortlist Magazine
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1. It’s great to ask questions 

ShortList’s Entertainment Director Chris Mandle on why it’s good to be curious

We were watching God’s Own Country and got to the part where repressed farmer Johnny (Josh O’Connor) and his hired help Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) start a fight that soon turns into an intense, almost feral sex scene in the mud. My straight friend turned to me in the cinema and clicked his tongue, and I thought he didn’t approve. “They wouldn’t manage that without lube…” he began, followed by a pause. “Would they?”

The sex scene, he later rationalised, holding a chip and jabbing it towards me for emphasis, was great – but it was a bit rich to think two men could just go at it without a bit of prior planning. And I felt proud.

Something about the way our stories are being told on a larger scale feels soothing. Which is to say elements of the LGBTQ+ experience feel like they’ve never reached more people, whether it’s the rarity of male tenderness in Queer Eye or the familiarity of the Timothee Chamalet starring Call Me By Your Name’s terse, emotional chokehold. But with that larger exposure comes more questions, and more ways for us to inform, explain and educate.

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So it felt right to capture that for our first LGBTQ issue; it’s the only way to improve things, and maybe we’ll gain a few allies in the process. 

2. No gay person has all the answers 

We’re all still learning, says Queer Eye’s Tan France, so don’t be shy 

I’m learning, too. I think a lot of straight people assume that because I’m gay I must understand all aspects of the queer community.

We had our first trans hero on Queer Eye this season. I’d never met a trans person before and although I’m really aware of some of the issues they face, the finer points that a person experiences physically and emotionally when they transition were often things I hadn’t considered.

There’s no right way to be gay. That’s something I think it’s really important to stress. There’s no right or wrong way to come out, either. Gay men can sometimes feel ashamed or chastised when the messaging is ‘Be out and proud!’ or ‘Just come out’. It’s not that easy. It certainly wasn’t for me.

Read Tan France’s full interview here.

3. Some people never come out 

Author Matthew Todd on the cultural straitjacket of the closet

Queer kids aren’t given magical ear plugs. We grow up hearing the same homophobia as everyone else. As a result, many of us suppress who we are. Being in the closet is stressful. It can cause anxiety disorders and drive people to drink, drugs and other addictions. There are still large numbers of heterosexually married men and women who ‘psychologically split’, telling themselves that the occasional liaison in secret does not make them gay or bisexual. (And sometimes it doesn’t.) Ultimately the only way to feel better about yourself is to work it out in the daylight with support.

But some never come out and stay stuck in a psychological prison where hiding and hypervigilance remains a permanent part of their lives. Often this is due to cultural pressures or a fear of being rejected. Gay culture can feel alienating and misconceptions often make things worse. Not everybody wants to take part in Pride parades or go to clubs until 4am. One of the challenges for LGBTQ+ people is to show that there are loads of ways to be out that don’t demand things from you that aren’t there.

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There’s a new awareness that closet coping mechanisms can linger into adulthood, which I believe, in part, explains the higher levels of addiction, anxiety and depression that exist in the LGBTQ+ community. We’re finally talking about that, too, and beginning to engage with healthier ways of living rather than being confined to clubs and bars. However, by coming out we contribute to the understanding that LGBTQ+ folk are everywhere, and journey towards liking and respecting ourselves.

Read Matthew Todd on the realities of being a gay man in 2018 here

Straight Jacket is out now (Black Swan)

4. Same-sex couples are great parents

Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke on the challenges of being a Dad

I’m going to be glib; I know that the path my partner and I have taken to fatherhood isn’t the most traditional path for gay men living in the city. But I’ve never been afraid to do things that aren’t traditional. 

Where I live in London is probably one of the gayest neighbourhoods so I’m attuned to seeing other LGBTQ+ parents. It’s important for my daughter to see other LGBTQ+ parents – it’s obviously stuff we’re preparing for when we talk to her more about our situation.

There will be some people that don’t get it. There are always going to be people that will have a problem with you, and you don’t have to go around appeasing them. You just have to do you in the best way that you can. That’s what I’m going to instil in my daughter.

I don’t think you need to engage with people that have a history of making negative comments. I noticed Richard Littlejohn wrote a column in the Daily Mail after Tom Daley and his husband announced they were becoming parents. If people aren’t willing to treat you with dignity and respect, then I don’t think you need to engage with them.

You have to do right by yourself in the best way possible. Growing up as a person of colour, my parents did a good job of raising me to understand that there would be people out there that would have a problem with you no matter what you do or say, and you have to realise that.

Read Kele Okereke’s full interview here

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5. You are allowed in Gay Pubs*

*But there are rules

John Sizzle, DJ and co-owner of The Glory, on queer space queries

Don’t take photos

First and foremost, you’re not on safari, so you’re not there to point and watch people, or criticise and take photographs of them either. Members of the LGBTQ community are not exhibits. We’re open to everyone hanging out in our spaces, but we’re not on display.

Don’t touch drag queens 

I’m a drag queen and a performer, but don’t touch me. Oh God… Do not goose my genitalia. It’s such a cliché. Some people rub themselves up against you and do a kind of a booty dance, which is quite bizarre. It’s unwanted attention whether you’re a bloke or a woman. It’s just not on.

Don’t assume guys will hit on you because you’re straight 

This is especially going out to the straight guys: we might wind you up a little bit, but we don’t really want to get off with you. It’s a joke. And if you do get hit on, it doesn’t matter. You might even get engaged in an interesting conversation.

Do start dancing

This is the cornerstone of any gay venue: we dance while Rome burns. It’s a form of expression. It’s a form of release. It’s sexy. It’s fun. It’s escapism. That’s what gay clubs are – it’s what all clubs are. You’re not just on the hunt for a future partner, you’re out to leave the world behind. And that’s why we live in our own disco caves, so just relax and start moving a bit. Nobody’s judging you.

Do snog your girlfriend

We don’t care at all about straight boys and straight girls making out. The world has changed. There’s absolutely no problem with that. Being romantic and sexual in public – we’re all for it. Everyone loves an ogle.

…But try to keep it classy

Stay off the pool table, Harry and Sally. And keep out of the toilets; there are people with small bladders. 

Don’t be squeamish in the loos 

The toilets are going to have mixed clientele using them, so deal with it. We’re only going to the toilet, honestly. And also, if a sassy queen pushes in front of you, deal with it. This is their church, honey.

6. There’s more to queer cinema  than Brokeback Mountain 

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Director Craig Johnson on the LGBTQ films every man should see

This Boy’s Life (1993)  

There’s a moment where a young Leonardo DiCaprio and his friend Arthur are playing the piano and Arthur looks at Leo’s character, leans over and kisses him. Leo pauses, looks a little freaked out… then smiles and keeps playing. The tender, private moment between two boys touched something in me.

Totally F***ed Up (1993)  

One rainy Sunday, when I was a freshman in Seattle, I snuck out – feeling like a pervert in a trenchcoat – and went by myself to watch the moment two hot guys kissed in this angsty teen movie. I couldn’t believe how nervous I was that somebody might see me, but I was desperate for content that showed people my own age.

Poison (1991)  

In college, when I finally kissed a boy, I rented Poison, which has a story about two prisoners who are falling in love. In one scene, one of the prisoners is asleep and the other wakes up and leans over to his sleeping friend. He touches him and moves his hand down. I was turned on; it’s extremely homoerotic and so fraught with tension.

Safe (1995)  

Julianne Moore plays a housewife who’s plagued by an unknown ailment and gets sicker – but no one can diagnose her. It’s a wonderful, creepy movie and it’s one of the first films I attached to because I sensed it was a queer movie without it being explicitly queer. 

Craig Johnson’s film Alex Strangelove is on Netflix now

7. Queer fiction can move you, whatever your sexuality

Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander on the book that will change your perception of gay club culture

I recently read Dancer From The Dance by Andrew Holleran. It came out in 1978, but it’s so interesting if you want an insight into queer life. It’s about a straight guy, Anthony Malone, who leaves behind his life as a lawyer in a Midwest city in the US and moves to New York. He instantly meets a very fabulous, camp character called Andrew Sutherland, and becomes immersed in the gay nightlife and club scene of the time. It’s all very disco, [with the party scene on] Fire Island, and it’s set during a romanticised time in gay history, which is interesting to read about. 

Ultimately, it’s a tale of loneliness and sadness, and how the people we love are taken away from us. It’s set just before the Aids crisis; people are starting to get sick and die. It’s got a beautiful narrative structure, partly told through letters from two older gay men who are reflecting on their time in New York. It’s a beautiful portrait of desire and loneliness, and it’s quite heartbreaking. It really captures the biblical experience of going out clubbing, congregating with other queer bodies in a sweaty, dark space, and letting go.”

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8. The nightlife isn’t all about hedonism 

Sherlock star Mark Gatiss on the LGBTQ scene

Pride makes us think of what we’ve already won. We fought to give future generations the right to be indifferent. That’s what democracy is about. It may feel difficult if people aren’t aware of LGBTQ history, but you’ve fought for the right to not be bothered.

Younger LGBTQ people have a new set of problems. There are mental health issues that come with sex being more available and a disassociation from reality from being glued to phones.

When you had to go to a bar – or used classifieds ads – to meet people, the scene held a special sort of currency. People think of seediness when they think of gay clubs, but they’re places to bond; there’s a camaraderie in being “other”. While it’s great that people feel they don’t need those spaces [anymore], it’s a shame, too.

I don’t want to sound like an old c*nt. I was at The Glory recently and it’s marvellous; it has a real sense of community.

When you’re thrown together in adversity, your bonds are stronger. It makes an amazing difference to your camaraderie. But for everything you gain, you lose something. I think that’s the conundrum of being gay in 2018.

Mark Gatiss On John Minton: The Lost Man Of British Art will be on BBC Four in August

9. Going abroad can be genuinely terrifying

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Three-time Olympian Tom Daley on the fear - and defiance - of travelling to Russia and beyond

It can be scary going to countries that aren’t accepting of LGBTQ people. I’ve competed in the Middle East, Russia, and parts of the Commonwealth, where being gay is punishable. I feel extremely lucky being able to compete as I am without worrying about ramifications.

I skipped a competition in Russia in 2014. It was in the wake of my coming out. I thought it was too risky and unsafe. Then, when everyone got back, I really kicked myself for not going. I’d let other people rule by fear, and it weighed really heavily on me. I knew I had to go back the next year. I wanted to make sure young LGBTQ people in Russia saw me, an out and proud gay man, competing in their country. I realised being there would send a stronger message than me staying home out of anxiousness.

My husband [screenwriter and director Dustin Lance Black] is blacklisted from Russia. He did a big protest there with a massive rainbow flag, and after he screened his film Milk he started getting threats and attacks. So he’s not allowed back.

Read Tom Daley’s full interview here

10. We have to protect our trans allies

Comedian Joe Lycett on supporting the LGBTQ people who need it most

I came out as gay, then bisexual, and now I identify as pansexual. I felt a lot of the definitions of sexuality were problematic because they always centred on gender, and the reason I’m attracted to someone is not because of their gender. It’s something intangible in the ether somewhere.

As a community, pansexuality feels small-fry compared to larger issues. The real focus is on trans rights. And I think there’s a lot of work to be done.

Celebrity Big Brother this year was a battleground for trans issues. It was really interesting seeing Courtney Act [the drag queen, whose real name is Shane Jenek] engaging with housemates such as Ann Widdecombe. Everything Courtney did, she did with such grace. I found that so inspiring: she was measured and calm, and that must be hard.

I have been so thrown by the coverage of trans issues in the media. I don’t see how, if you put yourself in the position of a trans person, it could seem like a safe or easy existence. It has been particularly nasty, widely condemning trans people.

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11. We’re a long way off seeing an out gay player in the Premier League 

Sky Sports editor Jon Holmes on the inherent risk of coming out in professional football

A lot of people might wonder, with the progress we’ve made, why there isn’t a gay footballer in the Premier League yet. But footballers are already dealing with some of the most intense pressure of any competition in the world, and sexuality adds a new level of complexity.

The job invites enough criticism as it is – just look at how players’ spending habits, drinking and love lives are scrutinised by the media. Players won’t want to change preconceptions about who they are because the game is wrapped up in a comfort blanket of masculinity. So they choose to say nothing because it’s easier, isn’t it? I think a lot of LGBTQ people can understand that passive stance.

For some – such as footballer Robbie Rogers, who came out in 2013 – being closeted becomes exhausting because they are having to edit their behaviour. Or they isolate themselves because joining in homophobic banter feels fraudulent. 

I’m not sure when the industry will feel inclusive enough for people to be open about sexuality. Being ‘out’ in sport is so politically charged and I don’t think that’s helping. Challenging stereotypes in football will help. What’s clear, though, is that a sportsperson saying that a LGBTQ player is welcome on their team might be heard by someone who really needs that support.