Blasé Bigotry Is A Virus We Must Confront
‘What people do in the comfort of their own home is up to them’. This is the common declaration of the faux-liberal straight male when asked how they feel about a persons non-cisgendered or gay lifestyle. It is often preceded by the classic ‘It doesn’t bother me what they are’.
This is a wolf in sheep’s clothing of a statement. On the surface it sounds like a carefree live-and-let-live line that lets the speaker bask in the glow of their progressive outlook, but look beneath the surface and you find the ugly teeth of the bigotry.
Let’s unpack it for a second. Why should something as natural as someone’s sexuality or gender ‘bother’ anyone? Would you be bothered if someone told you that they ate beans for dinner? Or that they occasionally watched Friends? The implication of both declarations listed above is that there is something abnormal taking place.
Sentiments such as these are why real social justice advocates must remain vigilant. We need to call out such blasé bigotry at every turn because it is dangerous. In many ways it’s worse than an outright homophobic or transphobic remark because it is virulent.
Viruses are effective infection vectors because they use surface proteins to trick host cells, allowing them to inject their DNA and replicate.
So too with these seemingly innocuous platitudes. Wrapped inside a well-meaning sentiment sits a deadly subliminal message - ‘I may accept you but you are abnormal’. This can bypass the mental defences of even an enlightened person and take root in their psyche, normalising hatred in the most pernicious way.
If we allow ideas like this to remain part of the mainstream dialogue and be uttered in the presence of children or people of lower awareness then we can never hope to stamp out intolerance in our lifetime.
For the purposes of this piece I’ve focussed on two variants commonly targeted at the LGBTI community but needless to say there is a whole lexicon of similar expressions for the BAME and disabled communities. We need to stay vigilant.
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