Last night, I was at dinner in a large group. We had just completed the show at the end of a drama summer camp for kids, a week of biscuits, tantrums and out of tune singing. The director, MD, technician, assistant director, and one of the band were there, as well as a hetero couple I didn't know. I picked up that the director knew them, for the man taught at the same school she did.
Well, a friend of mine had popped in to the theatre to say hi earlier during the dress rehearsal, because he had gone to that school, and been involved in the drama group whilst he was at that age, so the director and MD had been excited to see him as well. He came up in conversation near the end of the meal, and both teachers proclaimed he had to be gay.
I of course told them he wasn't, and they scoffed at me. I reiterated that he's my best friend, and the man laughed it off with a "I taught him for five years, of course he's gay". I retorted that I had been his best friend for 7 years, so I should know. His wife then mumbled something about not being able to tell, so I told them "I'm a part of the LGBT community, so I have a great sense for who's gay or not".
She came out with a classic "LGB what?"
"Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender," I replied.
"Cats, dogs, who knows," she continued.
I could help it. "I'm sorry, but that's quite offensive," I said.
She maintained that it wasn't, then claimed that it was harmless because it was just a joke. I could have got very righteous then, gone off on one at her, but I just said "I'm not going to hold it against you personally, just know that it is offensive." She mumbled something else about how I'd understand the joke when I was older, and as much as I wanted to scream at her for her second count of prejudice, I stayed silent.
Even telling you about it still makes my blood boil. A horribly classic case of a woman stuck in her ways of thinking and not considering that she might have said something wrong, choosing instead to judge that I was arguing with her purely because I am a young person, clearly ignorant of the world.
What do you think? Was I right to take offence at her comment about animals? Was I being over-sensitive and not appreciating off-hand humour?
I know people makes jokes about sensitive subjects all the time; I'm sure I do too on occasion. But I felt that it was not okay to joke about LGBT and bestiality, when it is still a prevalent belief that outside of jokes, there is a link between them in reality. That's what I feel we're fighting against. That's why I write a blog to connect with other LGBT, and I try with this and other things to spread knowledge and understanding of LGBT.
In a world where it's still okay to joke that being LGBT leads to bestiality, people still think that's actually true, and will treat us accordingly, with no regard for who we beyond a label that to them immediately identifies us as disgusting by default. I know it's a tired and over-used analogy, but it is no longer okay to joke about ethnic minorities and black people as though they are linked to bestiality, and nowadays, the majority know that there is no link.
The joke was a symptom of a prejudice, and though maybe not horribly harmful, it still should be pointed out as wrong, to make it clear that we will not tolerate ignorance as an excuse for beliefs about us that are not true.