I readily identified with Owen Jones’s important article (Why homophobia against straight men matters, 17 May). Though the memories are decades old now – I went to a Catholic boys’ grammar school in Liverpool from 1976 to 1983 – the homophobic abuse I received is still very clear in my mind. While the school I went to wasn’t “rough”, a lot of the lads were still “hard”. I wasn’t. I was just different, in the way I looked and spoke. I am not gay, but that didn’t matter. My classmates rewarded my difference with a daily diet of homophobic insults.
The masculine examples I had grown up with showed a different view of what it was “to be a man”. That is, being kind, gentle, caring, sharing household duties, very involved with bringing up the kids, and not spending hours in the pub. My dad was also something of a counsellor to his friends: “ordinary” blokes who, I later found out, would confide to him problems that were taboo at the time, eg erectile dysfunction. Sadly, he died when I was 12.
I didn’t really have any friends at school until I was 16. I had hard-won respect from my peers, but at some cost. I still detest all-male, macho and misogynistic attitudes and environments. I often prefer talking to women than men (though I have good male friends). I also appear an ordinary bloke: married with two kids. I firmly believe that being an ordinary bloke can and should encompass the qualities my dad showed me. And I have never mastered the simian stroll.
• I’ve been subject to comments of the type noted in Owen Jones’s article my whole adult life (I’m 57). In writing to you, my first impulse is to perhaps explain why people might think that I’m gay – but why should I have to explain myself?
For me and for my experiences, the line “it is principally about policing the boundaries of masculinity” really strikes a chord. But I flatly refuse to let one narrow group of men be the guardians of what “being a man” is. Men who love men, men who have sex with men, are masculine men as far as I’m concerned.
I can’t change the world by myself, but my act of defiance in the face of this mindless homophobia is to never tell people that I’m actually straight.
• Thanks for Owen Jones’s important article on homophobic bullying of straight men. I think he is spot-on in his conclusion that it is a form of policing what masculinity is allowed to be.
My daughter recently told me of the ribbing of a straight male school student in her cohort for studying dance and drama. She is 17. I would rather have hoped we would have moved on from this narrow view of what a boy or man is or can do. She sympathised with him because she was called a “lesbian” for being part of a women’s football team.
Surely it is a sign that there is still so much to do to have LGBTQ people accepted in mainstream society that they are being used as sticks to beat straight people into conformity.
Name and address supplied
• I agree with Owen Jones. His piece shines a light on how homophobia is a very serious hate crime and should be understood at every level of society for what it really is, affecting as it does gays, straights and people from ethnic minorities. I know it can only be tackled by education within schools and universities. It should be a big part of sexual education in general for all ages into adulthood.
I experienced this form of bullying at school, which made me hide my real sexuality until I reached my mid-50s. Unfortunately, I was the subject of homophobic hate in Notting Hill a few months back, which was both abusive and violent. I’m 73, so you see how serious this problem is. The police do take these matters seriously and arrested the man.
Thanks, Owen, for writing about this hidden evil.
Notting Hill, London
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