As the LGBT community celebrate 40 years of Pride, Peter Tatchell looks forward to a society that is beyond Gay and Straight; to the end of homophobia. I’m not sure that’s possible. Social phobia have deep roots. We absorb socially constructed identities and ideas. They are tenacious, almost impossible to remove. Like attitudes towards disability. The language has moved on. The words cripple and handicapped are no longer socially acceptable. The medical model, where impairment was blamed for non-participation, has been replaced with a social model. This acknowledges society’s failure to recognise and cater for difference of need. But underneath I wonder how much has really changed. We may have statutory equality of opportunity but negative attitudes are still there. They maybe invisible, even subconscious, but access is for the majority and this is not changing. Take the recent move towards street furniture and shared surfaces, where the distinction between road and pavement is removed. This suggests the built environment is becoming less rather than more accessible. What about technology where the flexibility of digital data means it can be made accessible to everyone. The furore over the Tesco online shopping website this week clearly demonstrates how little the needs of visually impaired shoppers are taken into account. What’s that? You haven’t heard anything about the Tesco online shopping website? Then I rest my case.
Any form of person-phobia is unacceptable. The SU posters associating LGBT with abuse are forthright and difficult to ignore. 10/10 for impact; there’s no doubting the message. Or is there? What sort of awareness is being raised? Isn’t linking LGBT with hate crime discouraging for anyone wanting to know more about alternative lifestyles? Deeper meanings may lie underneath but posters are not always the ideal medium for provoking thought; sometimes it’s the surface message which dominates people’s time and attention.
The risk with promoting uncomfortable images is the observer may make the wrong association. Linking LGBT with violence says homophobia shouldn’t be happening but, because it is, you might want to think twice about putting yourself in that position. Nothing positive or reassuring about being LGBT is evident. Result? A missed opportunity. Closet door stays shut. At best, the viewer is unavoidably reminded of the lack of space in social discourse for difference and that legislation against discrimination is never enough to prevent it.