No matter how hard society works to present itself as a well rounded and accommodating community, younger and younger people are becoming victims of homophobic abuse.
Teen, and late pre-teen, years are by far some of the most stressful of years of our lives. With hormones flying all over the place and mood swings, friends, and fashions changing practically by the hour, people will strive to fit in. Standing out in this media-crazed generation is not exactly the best way to be accepted by classmates. Popularity is, to most people of this generation, essential. Having the wrong shoes is bad enough, but having the wrong sexual preference? Is that really something most people think about? Well, as almost two in every five of this youth generation will be questioning their orientation, I think it's safe to say that a fair few people do think about it. The slight problem is, not every one will accept that some people are homosexual, and that can include the individual themselves.
Many people will feel uncomfortable for a while before they learn to accept themselves for who they are. Many support groups for homosexual youths are available to them through school, at a Doctors surgery. Online communities, such as www.queeryouth.org.uk, are set up to help younger people come to terms with who they are, support them through any hard times that they may have, and to help introduce them to people of their own age, in a similar situation. They're not dating sites. They're support groups. Just online support groups. These can be easier to open up to on, as you can remain entirely anonymous and the likelihood is that you will never meet these people, so the fear of being judged, on something other than your personality, is eradicated.
Unfortunately, because of the fear that they will be recognised, because they cannot go out without saying where they are going, or because they haven't quite come to terms with being homosexual yet and think it will 'make it real' if other people know, individuals will abstain from going to a local support group, be it at school or in their local community. Think how hard it must be to tell someone something about yourself that is not only still looked down upon by many people, but can be the cause of many homophobia based, discriminatory problems. The thoughts going through a persons mind must be terrifying: 'What if my friends don't like me anymore?', 'what do I do if someone starts spreading rumours about me?', 'My parents won't accept it, I just know it'. Even, 'It's not normal, I'm not normal. I'm just weird.'Too many people are firmly set in their beliefs that if it is not done by the majority of people it is not normal, and therefore bad. Individuals who are questioning their orientation, or know how they define themselves but are having trouble accepting it, can end up on a disastrous route to their own self demise. Some people will try to be straight, thinking that if they ignore their preference, it'll change. Some people will do this, realise it's not working, and accept themselves; some people won't. The ones who don't will, generally, slip into depression; as I found when I spoke to various people across different 'queer support' web forums. Some people will go straight to depression. Very few people, dare I say none, are able to come to terms with being homosexual as soon as they realise they are. Depression sufferers can end up self harming, with low self esteem, and little confidence. Sadly, some people will even slip into a mind set that can make them wish to commit suicide. All of this because of the fear of discrimination.
In my eyes, the most distressing thing, is how much the adults responsible for looking after these kids seem not to notice any change. Is it just that once a person enters their teens they need to learn to be more independent? Or is it just that once at that age, a person is now far better at lying to cover up how they really feel? Talking to Sam, Jeni and Matt (all listed here under alias) on QYN (queer youth network: www.queeryouth.org.uk) I was horrified to discover that throughout the last few years of their high school careers, baseless rumours had begun to spread regarding their orientation, and as a result of which, they had all become victims of homophobic bullying. During sports lessons in the changing room, people would steal and hide their sports kit, uniform, and/or shoes, and even sometimes, lock them out of the changing room all together. During classes notes would be thrown at them with insults written on them such as 'fag', 'gay tramp' and others that I'd rather not mention. Same and Jeni said that on occasion they were told that they should 'go die, freak!' because they were, apparently, an abomination on the face of humanity. This is all because of a rumour spread around their schools, they never once confirmed that they were actually queer. It's this brilliant display of society's accepting nature that prevents people from being open about who they are. If a mere rumour can cause that degree of harassment, what would openly saying that you are homosexual do? Jeni, speaking out about her views on homophobia, said at one point: 'It's illogical, but whenever a homophobic person is faced with a queer of any sort, they always seem to think that we have an urge to act out any sort of desire on them, regardless of whether or not we have a significant other at the time, or if we even like the person in the first place.' Sadly, this does seem to be true of many people, and Jeni may have just touched on one of the major causes of homophobia.
From a young age, children are taught to define between good and bad. Or, the normal and abnormal. To put it bluntly, anything not classed as 'normal' is bad. And as most children will not have been taught that being homosexual is perfectly normal, they will see it as abnormal - bad. Although many people will learn to look past this mindset by the time they are nine or ten and judge what's right for themselves, some will not. And it's these few that can develop an irrational fear of something or someone different to their lives or self. Not to say that all homophobes, or any other discriminatory people for that matter, are stuck in the mindset of a five or six year old, that would be far too presumptuous; some people will actually take some pleasure from harassing others. It is just to say that it is the minority of the population that can not see through to the person within.
In conclusion, all I can see is that this is a problem mainly based on each individuals outlook on the world and how they react to the different things within it. It's absolutely fine to be a homosexual and to be open about it, but not everyone is going to accept who you are. That fact is one that cannot be avoided or ignored, only accepted, and then made the best of. It may be best to wait until late teens to come out too all. Because although whenever you do, it is practically guaranteed that you will come up against some opposition, at least in later teens your peer group will, hopefully for the most part anyway, be out of the hormonal, 'gotta-be-perfect', 'gotta-be-popular' faze, and see you for who you are, not what you are.
Bibliography :ÃÂ·www.queeryouth.org.ukMembers : 'Sam', 'Jeni' and 'Matt'ÃÂ·www.avert.org/homophobia