This article was written as a response to A Misguided Hate For The Straight.
Whilst I do believe it’s possible that anyone can experience prejudice and discrimination based on their sexual orientation, I don’t believe that ‘heterophobia’ (an extreme and irrational fear or aversion to heterosexuality and heterosexual people) exists as a phenomenon. I dispute Sam’s premise for a number of reasons, primarily to do with his lack of consideration as to the origins of LGBT venues and his lack of acknowledgement of the privilege and power heterosexuality holds in society.
LGBT venues came about not because the LGBT community is ‘heterophobic’ or because we wanted to actively segregate ourselves from heterosexuals, but because we had to carve out our own safe spaces in society, where we could be ourselves without fear, something we were not allowed to do until recently. Section 28, which banned the promotion of homosexuality in UK schools, was only repealed in 2003. The same year, it became illegal to discriminate against lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in the workplace. These were huge milestones in our fight for equality that occurred in the past decade but we are still a long way from equality (gay men still can’t donate blood, we can’t get married, etc). The article quotes a survey conducted by Impact, reporting that 70% of people surveyed believe that bars should not cater towards clientele of any specific sexuality. Of course it would be wonderful to live in a world where no one is discriminated against due to their sexuality, but in reality we just aren’t there yet. LGBT people expressing affection for each other in mainstream ‘straight’ clubs do not go unnoticed, usually attracting unwanted attention. Whereas two women might get away with some gratuitous male attention, two men will frequently receive some form of verbal abuse, or, in the worst case scenario, assault. Whilst I’m not arguing the LGBT community should endorse and continue segregation forever, as it currently stands, we are a long way off equality, and as such, LGBT venues provide a necessary safe space.
The survey also showed that 78.6% of people (half of which were heterosexual and half non-heterosexual) thought it was wrong to refuse an LBGT person entry to a ‘straight’ venue but only 67.1% believed it was wrong to refuse a heterosexual entry to a LGBT venue. The article concludes from these findings that the 11.5% difference is due to the LGBT community being less tolerant towards their heterosexual peers, or so-called ‘heterophobia’. If the question had only been put to those who define as LGBT, then perhaps the 11.5% difference would be of more weighting. However, it was put to all participants and so I do not believe such a sweeping conclusion of ‘heterophobia’ can be drawn from this data. Turning someone away from a LGBT venue will usually be because the venue has a duty to protect its customers, as far as possible, from harm. The biggest threat LGBT customers face is homophobia from other customers, and sadly they are most likely heterosexual. Turning someone away is not necessarily a form of discrimination or ‘heterophobia’ but simply self-protection; to have a good night out without feeling threatened or intimidated. An alternative interpretation of Impact’s survey results should perhaps be that people acknowledge the LGBT community needs its own safe spaces and that sometimes the turning away of heterosexuals from LGBT venues is vital to make this possible.
Whilst I believe the original article was written with the best of intentions, I don’t believe the conclusions drawn are correct. I think the entire premise of the article was based on a few isolated incidents, backed up by misinterpreted data, and did not address the necessity of LGBT venues, nor the wider issues of heterosexual privilege and power within our society. Until LGBT people achieve full equality, we’re going to need to keep our LGBT venues and safe spaces. So we’re very sorry if, for our safety, we occasionally don’t let you in and you need to go and find somewhere else to drink. But let’s be honest, you’ve got a lot of options and it’s probably not going to completely ruin your night. Homophobia is still a widely acknowledged and seriously damaging problem in contemporary society. ‘Heterophobia’ isn’t. So let’s get this in perspective.