Today is the International day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, it probably needs a longer title, but then like Pride events, maybe what we need to do is look forward to a day when neither of them are needed. Sadly, for now, they are! It is marked globally on 17 May every year to draw attention to the discrimination and violence experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics.
The date of 17 May was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization declassifying homosexuality as a mental disorder, which only happened in 1990. I was in a meeting only recently where an elderly doctor explained carefully to those gathered, that we should be concerned for “them” because “they” are ill! He obviously wasn’t aware quite how out of date he was. But of course he is not alone. You can read more about the day here.
Here in the UK there are events taking place in towns and cities, some to explain to anyone interested the need for the day, others to offer social gatherings, interestingly our newspaper headlines are filled with the story of Jake Daniels, a professional footballer for Blackpool FC, choosing to come out as gay, a brave step from the 17 year old who is being supported by family, friends and the Club itself, which has a good reputation for supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. You can find his story here.
His statement that he is one of the first is correct because it is worth remembering that it is 32 years since Justin Fashanu became the first and until now only male British professional footballer to come out as gay, in his case via a salacious newspaper splash. Fashanu played on for seven years in various leagues, but he suffered terribly at the hands of his sport, his family and the wider public. After moving to the United States, in 1998 he was questioned by police when a seventeen-year-old boy accused him of sexual assault. He was charged, and a warrant for his arrest was issued for his arrest. He feared that he would not get a fair trial because he was gay, fled to the UK, where he sadly killed himself in May 1998, his suicide note stated that the sex had been consensual. He certainly wouldn’t be the first gay man to be accused wrongly, and to suffer at the hands of the media!
Sadly, despite all of the positivity there is surrounding the story of Jake Daniels, there are also nasty trolls and nay sayers, discrimination and abuse is alive and well. That needs highlighting, and much more work needs to be done before we don’t need days like today or Pride events , or organisations like the wonderful Stonewall, and so many others who campaign for equal rights and acceptance.
The church has sadly lagged behind, and while there have been changes, with Same Sex marriages now allowed by several denominations, including my own, the route to get there has often been brutal, with people telling their stories over and over again, sometimes at great cost.
So taking all of that into consideration I simply want to share a prayer:
I long for the day when, nobody has to “come out” or explain who they are to anyone, unless they wish to.
I long for the day when nobody remarks on their son bring home a boyfriend or their daughter bringing home a girlfriend,
I long for the day when nobody considers it strange when their friend, sibling, even parent, or child chooses a new name, and where transitioning is acceptable and support is accessible.
I long for the day when it is okay to be who you are and love who you love…
I long for the day when labels are no longer necessary, and being human is enough.
I long for the day when kindness, understanding and love triumph over questions, when nobody is trolled and no hate is spewed.
Maybe I am longing for heaven, but then Jesus calls us to bring about heaven on earth, to be the God colours and the God flavours.
So, I offer my longings as a prayer, and my past inability to speak out as a confession.
May the day soon come.
May that day soon come