Homophobia hasn't gone away at all just because we've gained "rights" with little assurances to personal and societal protection.
Late at night on the 15th February 2019, I entered the bathroom at the Fox, a pub in East London where I have gone for the last 2 years for after events drinks; somewhere considerably safe. Now, at the same time as Vidcon you had the London Classic Car Show which dominated a lot of the halls of the Excel Convention Centre in Newham, London. The reason why I mention this, is because it was numerous members of this event that caused me a lot of problems; the worst case of it being when I was called derogatory terms multiple times as I entered, used and exited the male bathroom dressed primarily femme.
I was trapped essentially upon exiting the bathroom with a feeling of heaviness (and no that is not a "i'm fat" joke) - my heart had begun to sink and as I looked around the room for someone to help me, all I saw were the faces of the people, and their friends who had taken the time out of their day to be negative; to instill this fear in me. The Fox no longer was a safe place for me; it had become just another closet.
I said to my friends that I was going to leave, and I left - I was furious, I was mad but most of all I was left disappointed. Not once did someone who clearly overheard these guys say such distateful and homophobic things to me say "Hey, that's not cool" or report it to staff. Now, people will respond to this saying "why didn't you report it then?" and that's a simple answer: fear. When actions such as homophobia take place, there is always an element of fear of the repercussions and the aftermath of confrontation, because as a queer person I know that it'll be me against a group, not an individual. It'll always be traditional society against me. Regardless, of what the legal laws says, discrimination still happens - my rights aren't protected because they're on a piece of paper or some digital document. There's nothing physical to me of my rights.
So I left. I returned to my room - I was shook and a little bit teary but otherwise just shooked up at what had happened - especially in a place that has been the heart of many a good memory. I go on Instagram, and I sit there and record a good 15 minutes worth of story just to update people who may be at the Fox or elsewhere what had happened and that for the moment I was safe. For the moment...
I hadn't slept much that night - this had been a constant on my mind the last couple of hours until morning and I lied in bed till late morning to see if a longer sleep would help me forget the night before. It had, until I realised that I had to now walk through the convention centre and that I was on the side furthest from VidCon London.. I was on the side of the people who had belittled and who made me fragile. So to circumvent this, I took the tube - but again was met by the same people, the same ignorance - the same exact anxiety.
Now I managed to get to VidCon safely, sort myself out and attend one panel with my friend Eleana, do some interview stuff with my friend Trenton and nervously and somewhat anxiously talk to Jessica until my anxiety from last night had returned. At this point, it was reaching lunch time and I had run into Simon and we went Tesco, headed back to my room and I had a small sigh of relief that I was in a safe space again. My room was my sanctuary, and a social prison. After Lunch, and after Simon left I begun writing this exact post before getting distracted by the new season of Dragon Prince (check it out on Netflix, non-spon) and then wiping my makeup off. I returned to a lot of people's dismay that my makeup was gone.
"Why did you take it off?" "Oh but it was good!"
It was safe to say I never revealed why truly till I sat with my good queer friends Gemma & Ellen for food at around 5pm where we discussed what had happened the night before. I had removed my makeup because I was scared. I didn't feel safe with it on, and as someone who loves makeup - especially as someone who is male-presenting, it broke me a bit. Slowly as the evening went by I was divided by staying in or going out until I got a message from a friend. I went to the place they said the were at, and then they weren't. No biggy right? Wrong.
In minutes of getting to the Wetherspoons, I had glares and stares - I had people in the smoking area looking at me like I was an idiot - one of them actually saying loudly "look at that pansie twat". I was left alone for 10 minutes, until my friend told me they weren't there. 10 Minutes. Of glares and snide comments to friends - and this was just dressed femme, let alone without makeup.
I walked out, on the phone to my friend and then after 5 minutes of trying to navigate where I was, not being from there or having been there before. I was done. I got on the tube, made my way back to my hotel and it was at that moment I was caught by another friend Ellen (different Ellen to prior Ellen) crying in the elevator up to my room. I walked in, where my friend Mickey comforted me and after I while I asked him to leave because I didn't want to ruin his evening with some of our other friends who were waiting for him.
I sobbed for a good 30 minutes before messaging Gemma again, and afterwards seeing Lydia who gave me a hug.
I had experienced homophobia before; but never on a scale to the point where I felt confined to a small room. All I've thought throughout this experience is, in every single of these situations I've found myself in over the last 2 days, where has been that protection? Why am i being subjected to this when it says I have rights to not be discriminated?
Because rights, as it turns out - doesn't offer protection: it's people. Throughout this, the one thing that I've learnt and that I'm grateful for is that so many of my friends, and in some instances strangers treated me with protection and safety and love. But they won't always be there - so as a minority within the society, we need to do more than fighting for rights because at the end of the day, the enemy we're up against has more than our piece of paper that says "don't hurt us in any way", and most of the time don't care that there even is a piece of paper out there that states that discrimination of LGBTQ+ people is illegal.
I hope that, while I have been traumatised by this experience through my anxiety, and the damage it's done to my confidence, I won't stop being who I am now more than ever, but I won't be idle about the problems our community face either.