Some background info on this post: A “comedy” TV show in Lebanon has recently been airing skits that ridicule a number of minorities, be they domestic workers, Palestinians, or gay people. In last night’s episode, they featured a stereotypically gay man singing a love song to another man in a mocking way. A number of people voiced outrage about this on social media outlets today. Another group voiced outrage at the outrage.
Growing up, I had my fair share of bullying.
I was teased constantly, called a fag (or its French or Arabic equivalent), made fun of, etc.
I was once beaten up, not that badly, but it scared the shit out of me.
I spent one night in jail for some LGBT work I was doing.
I was “dick-slapped” twice (for some reason, “dick-slapping” was a big thing when I was growing up. It basically consists of a bunch of “straight” guys going up to a gay guy, holding him down, and slapping his face with their dicks.)
Thankfully, that kind of bullying has stopped for me.
But the bullying never stops.
It just takes on different forms.
There seems to be a trend nowadays where people dismiss the hardships that gay people go through, or at least dismiss the impact that some things may have on someone who is gay.
What bothers me about this is the fact that these examples of blatant homophobia are always taken as isolated events, as opposed to positioning them within the greater, very troubling, forces that manage to continuously create a sense of fear, insecurity, hatred, and ignorance.
When a TV show decides to make fun of a man just for being feminine or gay, it’s bullying.
When people laugh at this TV show, it is bullying.
When people dismiss the concerns of activists that highlight the homophobia in such a show, it is bullying.
Every comment, post, tweet, joke, statement, status, or message addressing this TV show that fails to listen to the voices of gay people is bullying.
Every single one of these actions is responsible for the more damaging kind of bullying, similar to what I experienced when I was younger.
I’ve been discussing this issue all day with various people, and the comment I got the most was “Why can’t you take a joke?”
The answer to that is easy. A joke loses its humor when it takes advantage of someone’s weakened position. You don’t kick someone who is down. Every kick manages to keep them down longer. What may seem like an innocent joke to some actually reinforces the homophobia that is already rampant. When you put things into context, then you realize the impact of such actions.
I waited until this evening to write this piece, because I was too angry this morning. That anger was the result of some of the reactions I read on my Twitter timeline and on Facebook.
That anger was the result of bullying.
I saw two tweets today that are particularly poignant here, from people completely out of the discussion that was taking place.
The first helped me to define bullying:
“If you’ve ever been in a situation where you couldn’t be yourself, you’ve been bullied.” (Unfortunately, I don’t remember who it was that tweeted that)
The second sums up everything above in a brilliant way:
“The boys throw stones at frogs in jest. But the frogs die in earnest.” (by @sachkii)
That pretty much says it all.