Gradually, over the years I have become more interested and engaged with the politics that surround same sex relationships, and more recently same sex marriage. No doubt this is has been spurred by my own desire to have the right to be married and have children in a safe, tolerant and accepting society, and be a lesbian at the same time.
One aspect of the evolution of gay politics that’s been particularly interesting to me has been the use of social media not only as a forum to discuss issues, but also as a platform to share stories of intolerance, or post messages of support and acceptance. It’s heartening to see the number of ‘likes’ that these posts gather, an online thumbs-up for the outstanding work that goes on in the name of equality and tolerance. What interests me more though, are the comments. Alongside the usual messages of support, are a small but vocal cohort of individuals who disagree, vehemently, and wholeheartedly. Remarks range from the emotional and heartfelt ‘gays should die, nuff said,’ to the usual homophobic and sometimes disturbingly ignorant religious commentary that always seems to accompany a picture advocating same sex marriage/same sex parenting. I must add here, that whilst I find these comments deeply, deeply offensive I am also aware that we live in a free society where freedom of speech however vile must be engaged with – intelligently, and neutrally. I don’t believe in stating that those with views that disagree with mine are wrong, because then, I would be as bad as those individuals in my intolerance and bigotry.
I have no doubt that some of the comments are the work of trolls, individuals who just have nothing better to do with their time. What scares me though is that many of them are real and sincere. Every time I read a comment like that I find myself clicking on their name. I would never respond to their comments – but I am mesmerised by these individuals, that feel so powerfully about something that they feel justified in writing a hurtful/disturbing/homophobic/bigoted comment in the public arena. I want to know what they look like, and where they live. I assume they will look evil – but of course, they look ordinary. Just like you, or I. They write banal comments on their feeds about what they are doing that day. They have hundreds and hundreds of friends and photos. They have children that no doubt are being fed the same bile as they spout online. They tell us that we are dirty, going to go to hell. They tell us that God hates us, or that God will punish us. I assume that God has personally told them this – preferably in an email chain that can be presented in a court of law as evidence. But I doubt it. They come in all shapes and sizes, from all corners of the earth.
What drives someone to publicly declare that certain humans don’t deserve to live? Human beings that, for the most part, have done nothing except promote equality and tolerance. I find it fascinating. These people are an alien species to me.
It just shows…there is a long way to go.