“He’s queer.”

A silly, snide little comment, but enough to ruin my evening, and continue to bother me for a few days.

I returned home from university a couple of weeks ago and went to the pub on Saturday evening to catch up with some of my friends. The first thing I noticed – being used to going out in student-majority town Leamington Spa – was the lack of people my age, considering it used to be the pub where young people would meet before going clubbing.

Anyway, a couple of friends and I went to the bar to buy some drinks, and there was a huge queue as it was quite late and the pub was very busy. After a little while I became aware of three men looking over at us, and I tuned into their conversation: “He’s queer,” they were saying, “He’s gotta be queer ain’t ‘ee? Pfft I don’t know, we don’t understand their type.” They were pointing at my male friend, who was stood next to me, in a very unsubtle manner.

I stood there biting my tongue very hard to try and stop myself from saying something – they were a few years older than me and were very drunk, and looked as if they could become aggressive very quickly.

That comment really got me thinking, and bugged me for the rest of the night. Who uses the word “queer” nowadays, meaning “gay”? I haven’t heard it in a long time and it sounds horrifically derogatory. It sounded as if they were homophobic and disagreed with the entire notion of homosexuality, rather than just asking him if he was homosexual at all. They were not asking him a question – they were stating and judging.

The one thing which annoyed me the most was that they automatically decided that just because of the way my friend spoke and acted, he was gay. Is there a particular trait that all homosexual people have, then? I don’t think so. I have a fair few gay male friends, and they’re all totally different. Some confident, some shy, some funny, some serious, some masculine and some feminine. The same thing goes for my gay female friends. And again for all my straight friends. Everyone is completely different so why assume someone’s sexuality based on their behaviour? It’s the same as saying: “Oh, he drinks Carling, he must be a Chelsea fan.” No logic whatsoever.

Also, I was shocked to see that they were only a few years older than me. I honestly thought the word “queer” was something only people of my Nan’s generation said – not mine. I actually feel quite ashamed to admit these people live in the same town as me and belong to my generation. Sometimes I can attempt to understand why many older people have issues with homosexuality as they have been brought up with prejudices, but I honestly thought that people of my age had overcome that. Though clearly not all of them have yet.

Luckily my friend has a good sense of humour, so he took it well and brushed it aside. I won’t tell you his sexual orientation because if I’m honest, I really don’t think that is the point of my blog post. Someone’s sexuality shouldn’t be something which is discussed like it is a piece of gossip to be thrown away. It should not only be accepted, but more than this: it shouldn’t even be something we think about. Of course it would be something you consider if you’re interested in someone – you may have problems otherwise – but asides from that, it should blend into the background as easily as someone’s eye colour, or hair colour. There’s nothing wrong with being gay, straight, bisexual, or unsure. It actually makes more sense for it to blend into the background as appearance does, because it’s less defined than your hair colour etc.

When my friends and I meet someone at university, usually the first things we recognise are how they respond to us, and the traits of their personality. This is how society should be, and I hope we will achieve that some day. However, there is more work to be done. We can help by being ourselves and not being afraid of what others think, and by standing up to those who continue to be prejudiced. I wish I had said something the other evening. And next time I think I will.

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