‘How Many Women Need To Be Assaulted Before We Agree We Must Teach Children It’s OK To Be Gay?’

TV hits like Killing Eve might suggest LGBTQ+ prejudice is over, says Emily Sargent – but recent attacks tell a different story.

Protestors to LGBT+ education

by Emily Sargent |

I hope last week marked a turning point for queer women. Because after years of straight men telling me to ‘stop making a fuss’ because ‘no one cares any more’, this image of two bloodied young women after a homophobic attack on a London bus, which went viral, has demonstrated that we are not, in fact, making a fuss.

The women – Melania Geymonat, 28, and her date Chris, 29 – were beaten in the early hours of 30th May by a gang of boys after they refused to ‘perform’ for them. A barrage of verbal abuse led to the gang throwing coins at the couple.When Chris got up to protest, she was battered, left with a broken jaw and nose. Melania was also left with broken bones, both and Chris’s possessions stolen during the assault (police have arrested five teenagers in connection with the attack).

Then, in a separate incident in Southampton, two women acting in a play about an LGBTQ+ couple were hit by stones thrown from a car. At 30, I’ve been an official lesbian for eight years (plus another 22 unofficially), and I believe things have deteriorated for myself and other gay women.

At best, we’re invisible, even within the gay community; so many more films and television shows celebrate male gay culture than female. And while we have seen more lesbians on screen recently, they’re rarely realistic. I’m a fan of Killing Eve, but ads for the second series have fallen into the trap of selling girl-on-girl action as titillating – Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh pictured entwined, with the text reading, ‘Will the perfect team become a killer couple?’ BBC’s Gentleman Jack is a nice watch, but it’s not easy to relate to women who risk being caught while one is 20 minutes into lifting the 47 layers of the other’s skirts.

At worst, I’ve been threatened and assaulted after telling men that I’m gay– most recently two weeks ago, when
I was followed through a festival by an increasingly aggressive man. So I was unsurprised that the unanimous response from the lesbian community following the bus assault was, ‘That has almost happened to me so many times.’

When friends are being spat at, groped and told they can be ‘fixed’ by a man who just exposed his penis next to them in a bar, it may be a case of #notallmen, but it is far too many.

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In April, new sex education laws came in: from September 2020, secondary schools will be required to teach about sexual orientation and gender identity, and primary schools about different kinds of families. Yet just last week, Birmingham City Council had to secure an injunction to stop anti- LGBTQ+ protests outside schools. How many women need to be assaulted before we agree that children must be taught that it’s OK to be gay? Some of those arrested after the bus attack were only 15.

The truth is that if we don’t teach children about acceptance and LGBTQ+ rights, they will continue to be taught through porn that lesbians are there to be dominated – waiting in a house wearing suspenders, hoping a man will ring the doorbell and join in. The reality is, I’ll break it to ya, not that.

For safety’s sake, I used to smile and be submissive when men made sexual comments to me. Now, I don’t react with warmth when they say, ‘I’ll teach you how to enjoy it’ – and so they snap, ‘I wouldn’t go near you anyway, you ugly bitch.’ So no, it isn’t a great time to be a gay woman. And when gangs of men are leaving women like me bloodied on the streets, something needs to change.

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