I'm tired of being fetishised because of my sexuality.
From the first moment I came out as a gay woman, the fetishisation of my identity has been made painfully clear: “How do you fuck?” “Do you use dildos?” “How do you get each other off?” “Can I watch?” “Can I join in?”. I can’t seem to get away from these questions; I’ve heard them at school, at university, at work, at the supermarket, in the street, and (of course) online. It feels like my body is up for comment as often, and as lecherously, as the term “lesbian porn” is searched for on PornHub.
The sexualisation of queer people goes far beyond verbal harassment from curious fuckboys - it is entrenched in the fabric of our culture on all levels. It’s the reason we don’t have LGBTQ+ characters in children’s films (and no, that one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in Beauty and the Beast doesn’t count) - because we are seen as inappropriate, dirty, and explicit just by existing. It’s the reason teachers are warned not to come out, and why there have been campaigns to ban LGBTQ+ people from the profession; if we let queer people near children, who knows how they will corrupt them with their sexual deviance. I was told, while at high school, that we couldn’t have any teachers identify themselves as safe for LGBTQ+ students to talk to, because it might lead to “inappropriate relationships”.
This poisonous assumption is having a devastating impact on the queer community, as it destroys our ability to form meaningful intergenerational friendships and mentor relationships for fear of it being labelled as something sinister. It is directly isolating queer youth, who have no where to turn for support and knowledge except the same internet pages and comment sections that tell them they are wrong.
A few months ago YouTube was embroiled in a scandal after it was revealed the site was blocking LGBTQ+ content from young people in a “Restricted Mode” setting. I broke the story in a video on my own Youtube channel (which was itself, ironically, blocked under Restricted Mode) and the internet was outraged. I was interviewed by news outlets around the world, and my video was used in reports across the web. But all I could remember was being a teenager, not yet out of the closet, who had searched for LGBTQ+ helplines on my school’s computers only to be met with “Blocked for Lesbians and Gay Content”. Because archaic ideas about sexuality are apparently more important than access to support, community, and dignity.
We need a change in policy, and in attitude; we must teach kids (and adults) the history and the reality of LGBTQ+ people. Only then can we look towards a day when we are able to exist as a full and respected community, whose youth can learn from our elders, rather than being hidden and “protected” from them.