In 1993, there was a journalist, an editor and a publisher of a national newspaper who hated gay people enough to find joy at the prospect that science could one day give homophobic parents the option to abort their child, rather than give them life that would mean they would go on to become a gay adult.
It was with immense glee that the Daily Mail published its article relating to the potential discovery of this holy grail of anti-gay hate, the “gay gene”.
Once the bastion of outing closeted celebrities and homophobic rhetoric, to be fair, the newspaper has since somewhat shifted its stance on queer issues.
Don’t get me wrong, it is by no means a devout ally, sadly continuing to publish anti-trans commentary and a number of editorials slamming LGBTQ-inclusive relationships and sex education in schools.
However, this horrendous article is just one of many examples of homophobic and transphobic stories that appeared on a frequent basis across newspapers and in the wider media during my childhood.
The search for the “gay gene” continues. Last month, researchers from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that genetics could account for between eight and 25 per cent of same-sex behaviour across the population, when the whole genome is considered.
To quote the wonderful Paris Lees, 'Why are they even looking for a ‘gay gene’? Why don’t they go and investigate people are who really unpleasant to LGBTQ people and ﬁ nd out what their fucking problem is.'
Preach. I remember when the first “gay gene” story broke. I was barely a teenager and the reaction from the media made me feel as if my identity was a disease that needed eradicating.
A couple weeks ago, when I saw the newspaper excerpt doing the rounds on social media, my memories of that time returned like a grey shadow. I shudder and feel despair even now as I read the words again.
The casual nature of the language with its heinous optimism at the potential erasure of an unborn child’s life, because one day it won’t conform to a parent’s idealised heteronormative standards, is deeply unnerving.
How many millions of people read that original article and found joy in the news? Those opinions don’t just disappear. And neither does the mark it leaves on all LGBTQ people — younger, older, closeted and out – who had to observe silently as the media shared this sinister perspective.
The report didn’t exist in isolation. It sat alongside stories that gay men were paedophiles, threats to family, society and “traditional moral values”.
Despite huge recent strides in equality legislation, is it any wonder that our community faces higher levels of mental-health issues and suicide rates as we continue to ﬁnd our way out of the years of shame that have burdened us.
This is why we at Attitude believe it’s important that we continue to share our stories, to talk with others from the queer world, and understand their perspectives.
This issue we bring together Gus Kenworthy and Laith Ashley, who both graced the magazine’s cover three years ago — after coming out as gay and trans respectively — to see where their journey has taken them since, and why it’s so important that we reach out and listen to others in the LGBTQ community whose voices remain too often unheard.