My name is Charlie Carlton, and I have been asked to be a LGBT advocate for Stand Up Speak Up. I’m 21 years old and I live in Brighton UK, but I come from Cambridgeshire originally, I also happen to be gay. It has been difficult throughout history for gay people to be themselves and personally I have experienced a lot of homophobia throughout my lifetime, particularly in school.
There is no argument that things have gotten a lot better for gay people, homophobia was
decriminalised 51 years ago in the UK, however there is still such a stigma around gay people and our lifestyle choices. Of course, I can only speak from my own experiences and perspective as a gay man in the UK.
The city of Brighton is hailed as the Gay capital of the UK and described as a safe haven for people with an “alternative” lifestyle. Before I moved here I thought it would be perfect place for someone like me to live. I thought that there would be no room for homophobia in this town, however I was wrong. It by no means is as bad as it is in other parts of the UK but homophobia is still a huge issue.
In May 2016 a young couple, two men, were attacked outside a local nightclub in Brighton. Their apparent offence, with which two other men took issue, was that of acting like any other couple. These victims were enjoying a night out at a nightclub in Brighton, just like any other young couple, when they noticed they were receiving some odd stares. They suspected that something was off and this was soon confirmed when two men began hurling homophobic insults at the couple such as “F*ing Gayboys” and “is that your F*ing boyfriend”.
The boys proceeded to leave the club as quickly as they could, deciding not to further ‘provoke’ their attackers. They slipped out of the doors, walked out into the dark night and were hurrying away when out of the silence they heard a sudden burst of footsteps rushing towards them, and that’s when the pit in their stomach grew. It was the two men from the nightclub. They beat the young couple violently and without mercy. One of the boys had his face beaten so badly that he couldn’t see for weeks after the attack.
How sad that my instant reaction to hearing of this attack was to wonder if they were flaunting their homosexuality in the faces of their attackers. This is wrong. Young straight clubbers grind on one another on the dancefloor and are paid no attention, so why is it that when a gay couple are just being a couple there is an instant tension in the room? Why do I try to justify homophobia based on behaviour that for any straight couple would be normal, such as holding hands or kissing? I have personally seen straight people carrying out sexual acts on the dancefloor, yet not a word is said to them. Why is it so different for homosexuals?
I ask, why would you live in, or even visit, Brighton if you have issues with openly gay people? For those who don’t know Brighton, from the moment you arrive it is very obvious that the city is open to homosexuals. There are gay flags everywhere, busses emblazoned with “Pride” on the side, not to mention the many gay clubs within the city. My point? Brighton is clearly a gay city and there shouldn’t be room for homophobia here whatsoever.
The attackers were originally sentenced to just 5 years for Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) and Actual Bodily Harm (ABH). After some controversy this sentence was raised to 7 years which I believe is totally deserved. As a gay man I am constantly wary of what I do and how I act in public because I am genuinely scared to be myself for fear of being verbally or physically attacked just for the person I am. I can tell you this is a horrible way to live. Whilst it’s not as likely to happen in Brighton, as you can see it still does happen. Those men could easily have killed their victims intentionally, or unintentionally, and that strikes the fear of God into me.
After hearing about this attack I decided to ask the Brighton community to tell me of any experiences they had of homophobia within this gay haven. Whilst some people think that homophobia has been left in the past, just last week my friend and his boyfriend were walking along Brighton beach hand in hand when they had homophobic insults thrown at them such as “faggots”. In a progressive society there is no room for this behaviour.
An example of homophobia that some people still feel is acceptable is the chants used by some Leicester City football fans against Brighton and Hove Albion FC at their match in 2017. Now, football clubs are known for their mildly offensive chants, which is fine as long as it’s in good fun, with gentle ribbing and teasing of the opposition being commonplace. However, referencing sexuality or race is entirely inappropriate and fans left the stadium after that match feeling unsafe because of these chants.
I have also had personal experience of homophobia in Brighton. One night I was in an area of the city that some gay people go to in Brighton when a group of boys started shouting to me. “Have you been noshing someone off?” they asked. This is a crude UK term for fellatio. To put this into context, I had tripped over earlier and had mud on my knees, but the way they insinuated that been performing oral sex on someone, which I hadn’t, left me feeling uncomfortable, to say the least. The group proceeded to taunt me, lying about having filmed me and that they would put the video on facebook to expose and shame me. I, being a fairly headstrong person, went on to school them about how they would look if they did that. I admit I walked home that night with my keys in my hand, ready to strike. I felt unsafe.
In the UK there is always a sense of fear in the gay community in the back of our minds. The fact is that Brighton is still one of the best places to live for LGBT people and even then it’s not safe, showing how bad the rest of the UK can be. It’s important, wherever you are to report any incidents like these because the simple fact is that it shouldn’t be happening at all.
However you identify it’s your duty to look out for people and step up when you see someone being victimised.
Author: Charlie Carlton is a gay man and an LGBT+ activist who lives in Brighton, known as the “gay capital” of the United Kingdom. Charlie is very active within the gay community and is keen to share his views and discuss what’s happening within it.