Illustration by Kate Towsey for Varsity

Content Note: this article contains mention of violence, abuse, homophobia and sexual assault

A few days ago, I was sent a picture. With a simple white background and two short lines of text, I didn’t expect anything shockingly hateful – it wasn’t, after all, a tweet by Piers Morgan. It read, “Just because I disagree with you, does not mean I hate you. We need to relearn that as a society.” My first reaction was to laugh at the idealistic suggestion of a harmonious past, to question precisely when it was supposed to have occurred. Then I found out what the picture was a response to: the LGBT+ community.

I’d hazard a guess that most people who identify as LGBT+ have been presented with the question of why we ‘chose’ our sexuality and/or gender identity at least once since coming out, if we have, in fact, been able to come out. Or been hit with a statement along the lines of “I don’t dislike you, I just don’t approve of your lifestyle choices.” Having received many of these comments from family, friends, housemates and strangers alike, I usually respond that there is research evidence stating that sexuality is not a choice. It actually has a biological basis. This time it was different. While my tolerance for such questions was already low by this point, the assertion that I needed to ‘relearn’ the art of compromising to accommodate such LGBT+ phobia tipped me into a rage I have never before experienced, prompting me to respond with the following message:

“Before you decide what I should and shouldn’t feel and what I supposedly need to relearn, let me explain why your ‘disagreement’ with the community, and my own identity, is inherently hateful and why it therefore makes people (unsurprisingly) feel hated.

“The assertion that I needed to ‘relearn’ the art of compromising to accommodate such LGBT+ phobia tipped me into a rage”

“To tell us that our identity is a choice undermines the things we’ve fought for, the things we’ve endured, and the situations that continually threaten our wellbeing through the physical and emotional violence of others. It takes only a fleeting look at history to see the unspeakable persecution suffered by the LGBT+ community – and an equally fleeting look at current news to see that we are still suffering it today. No one would subject themselves to such cruelty simply to be ‘different.’ Presenting oneself in a manner true to one’s identity requires immense bravery. To this day, we must determine whether it is safe to be ‘out’ in new situations because of the prejudice, discrimination and intolerance that grows out of the belief that sexuality and gender identity can be wilfully chosen.

“Personally, since coming to Cambridge I have been physically attacked for my sexuality; I have been intimidated to hide my identity; I have been told I don’t deserve to exist; and I have been made to feel unsafe in my own accommodation. Yet these experiences pale in comparison to those I heard about from fellow students during my time as LGBT+ Officer and pale even further when you consider the extent of the violence enacted against the community every single day. If you think we would choose all of this, that our ‘lifestyle’ is something we selected, you are sorely mistaken.

“It takes only a fleeting look at history to see the unspeakable persecution suffered by the LGBT+ community – and an equally fleeting look at current news to see that we are still suffering it today”

“Your subsequent suggestion that we must ‘relearn’ compromise to accommodate your homophobia is insensitive, hateful and ultimately violent. It demands that we accept a reduction in our value as the consequence of an unwavering and fundamental part of our identity. The day I was locked in a room by someone who did things I in no way consented to, who said he was showing me why I shouldn’t again choose to be attracted to women, is the day I learnt never to compromise with acceptance. I refuse to diminish that memory to accommodate your disagreement with who I am, when that exact narrative is used to justify the hatred and violence my community experiences every day. The entire community has suffered immeasurably for that view and will continue to do so. There will be no acceptance of LGBT+ phobic opinions – they constitute oppression.”


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I never received a response to my message. I tell myself that’s because they had no argument to come back with, no further way to rationalise their discrimination against the LGBT+ community, but part of me worries that I may have pushed them further into their prejudice.

However, this is not an issue we can afford to compromise on – such a concession would endanger countless individuals. Sexuality and gender identity are not lifestyle choices that someone can simply disagree with. And I refuse to 'relearn' a falsehood, especially a falsehood that justifies violence against my community.  I can only hope that this article reaches at least one person who disagrees with our ‘choices,’ and that reading this prompts in them a new understanding and compassion.

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