National Coming Out Day or Day of Disruption?

The 11th of October marked the return of this year’s National Coming Out Day. It is a day that is intended to offer hope, support and a sense of community to those closeted individuals who identify as LGBTQ. So, Logo – an LGBTQ TV channel whose shoes include Cocktails and Classics and Finding Prince Charming – decided to celebrate the day by going back in the closet.

Dubbed ‘The Day of Disruption’, the TV channel decided to censor all content by pixelating, using black bars to cover people’s eyes and audio bleeping any queer-related content.

The move was highly symbolic in more ways than one. The physical censoring acted as a damning reminder of the struggle LGBTQ individuals face across the globe on a daily basis. In a world where homosexuality is a criminal offense in seventy-two countries and punishable by death in further ten, this pixilalisation of LGBTQ individuals symbolically reflected the silence forced upon LGBTQ issues and the morphed sense of identity such closeted individuals face as a result.

This decision to feature such censorship comes at a poignant moment in the LGBTQ struggle. It was revealed this week that homophobic attacks have increased by 147% in Britain since the Brexit referendum. These statistics are shocking and, above all, unexpected.

British society currently exists at a crossroads in regards to LGBTQ rights. It – patronisingly and antagonisingly – thinks that it is more liberal than it is. On the one hand, we live in a society that that stresses that homosexuality is perfectly normal in ‘modern Britain’, on the other, however, we live in a society in which it was written into law that schools were not allowed to ‘promote homosexuality’ in schools up until 2003. While this may have been repealed, there is still a hangover of silence from these former times.

This country fails its LGBTQ youth by refusing to teach about homosexual issues alongside heterosexual issues, as well as leaving LGBTQ to teach themselves about matters of sexual health. At a time when homosexual men were demonised over summer in regards to the preventative HIV treatment (one Daily Mail journalist claimed that the preventative treatment was a ‘lifestyle drug’ and that ‘those gays clamouring for free treatment do so because they want to have risky, unprotected sex’), we demonise homosexuals as being ‘sexually reckless’, while simultaneously failing to teach them about their own sexuality. It is a hypocritical sense of equality: you are accepted, but you are not accepted enough to be welcomed into the mainstream.

The figures of the 147% rise on homophobic attacks came as a shock to many. Unsurprisingly though, this country shamefully experienced a 41% rise in racist attacks in the month following Brexit. Considering the referendum was won through political rhetoric that centred around an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, this rise was unsurprising, if not expected. What this rise on homophobic attacks shows us, however, is that this increase in extroverted racism and homophobia stems from a much darker and deeper place; in a word, it is a result of ‘traditional values’.

Over the summer’s Conservative Party leadership campaign, Andrea Leadsom stressed her ‘tradition values’. She attempted to appeal to those disgruntle about the current state of multicultural Britain in her Brexit-supporting campaign to become Britain’s top dog. She said about gay marriage: “I believe the love of same-sex couples is as every bit as valuable that of opposite sex couples – absolutely committed to that. But nevertheless, my own view actually, is that marriage […] can only be between a man and a woman.”

This rhetoric of ‘traditional values’ masks a deep-set conservatism that has been increasingly manifesting itself in an open manner in Britain over the past few years. It is one that hides itself behind a libertarian mask, and romanticises ideals of 1960s Britain.

What Logo’s decision to censor their content in ‘celebration’ of National Coming Out day thus does is that it reminds us to not become complacent. All too often, we, as students, get too readily caught up in the ‘university bubble’; we mistake university for a microcosm of society, when actually university is a far more liberal and left-wing environment than society at whole.

The fight for equality is not over. Just because we, as students, find ideas of homophobia alien to us does not mean that it does not exist. Equality is being attacked at full force by this romantisiation of ‘traditional values’, and this desperate attempt to revert back to a nation of white, heterosexual ‘traditional Britons’ is an attempt to stamp out diversity – racial and sexual.

The Revolution will be televised. But as Logo remind us, the fight will face censorship, silence and attacks before the revolution for sexual liberation results in equality.

Juliette Rowsell,  Originally featured in The Gryphon

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