FEATURE: Pride After a Fall: Music’s Ability to Change Attitudes and Bring Deeper Understanding




Pride After a Fall

PHOTO CREDIT: @julfe/Unsplash 

Music’s Ability to Change Attitudes and Bring Deeper Understanding


AWAY from ongoing dramas in British politics…

 IN THIS PHOTO: Melania Geymonat and her girlfriend Chris were attacked in London earlier this week/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

something else has been making the news. It is Pride Month; a time when the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community should feel safe, respected and included. Rather than talk about celebration and togetherness, gay rights and inclusivity has made the news for the wrong reasons. If you did not hear the news; a gay couple, Melania Geymonat and her girlfriend Chris were attacked by youths in London for not kissing. A group of young men wanted them to kiss and, after they refused and tried to keep to themselves, they were set upon. The photo of them post-attack, bloodied and shocked, has appalled the nation and raised huge backlash:

Melania Geymonat, 28, said the attack on her and partner Chris happened on the top deck of a London night bus.

A group of young men began harassing them when they discovered the women were a couple, asking them to kiss while making sexual gestures.

Four other males aged between 15 and 18 remain in custody, the Met said.

They are being questioned on suspicion of robbery and aggravated grievous bodily harm.

Speaking about the attack, which happened in the early hours of 30 May, Ms Geymonat told BBC Radio 4's World at One she had previously experienced "a lot of verbal violence".

But she said she had never before been physically attacked because of her sexuality.

Asked whether the attack left her less willing to show affection in public, Chris, who lives in north London but is originally from the US, said: "I am not scared about being visibly queer.

"If anything, you should do it more."

Ms Geymonat, who is a doctor but currently works for Ryanair as a stewardess, said she agreed.

Chris said: "I was and still am angry. It was scary, but this is not a novel situation."

Over the five years to 2018, reported homophobic hate crimes across London have increased from 1,488 in 2014 to 2,308 in 2018, according to the Met Police's crime dashboard”.

It is good that there have been arrests and, let’s hope, those culpable are imprisoned and it sends a message to those who want to commit similar attacks. It is 2019 and we still live in a nation where there are such horrific incidences; where people are attacked because of their sexuality. One can say that the case above is an isolated incident that is not widespread in Britain. Whilst there are not waves of brutal attacks against gay men and women, there are plenty of cases where their sexuality has been degraded and mocked; where they have been made to feel inferior and wrong. I know a few L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. musicians and they have struggled to get the same rights and exposure as their straight peers. Although the music industry is, largely, a place of love and support, it is still hard for many gay/bi-sexual/transgender artists to get a break and the same platform as everybody else.

I do think that music, where politics fails, has a role to play and can help bring about greater visibility and awareness. I have written about Pride and L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. matters a number of times but, as we see images of hate in the news, it does make me wonder whether enough is being done to discuss the LG.B.T.Q.I.A. community and show that any prejudice is ridiculous and misguided. I am not sure what was going through the heads of the young men who attacked those innocent women in London but one suspects an ignorance and juvenile stupidity was their motivational force. Another case that has shocked and appalled people concerns protests that have been happening outside a primary school in Birmingham:

Protests against LGBT teaching at a Birmingham primary school are "homophobic" and must "stop now", the West Midlands mayor has said.

Andy Street said he was in "disbelief" at material distributed by protesters outside Anderton Park Primary.

The mayor, who is gay, told the BBC he had thought homophobia was a "non-issue in our city".

A High Court injunction is in place banning protests, which have been going on for months, outside the school.

Parents started to gather at the gates over concerns children were "too young" to learn about LGBT relationships. They also said the lessons contradicted Islam.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Street said the protests do not reflect the "modern, tolerant, inclusive place that Birmingham is".

He has also said the Department for Education (DfE) needs to strengthen its guidance around equalities teaching.

Anderton Park head teacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson previously spoke of receiving threatening emails and phone calls and Mr Street said the government was letting head teachers down by not taking a clearer stand in favour of the teaching.

The Conservative mayor has now called on the DfE to "stand actively behind the guidance it has given" around teaching about equalities”.

Of course, these are just two incidents of protest and anger against the LG.B.T.Q.I.A. community. From animalistic youths attacking two young women to parents and a community protesting against a school teaching children lessons about L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. issues. Maybe there is confusion as to what the children are being taught but, from the wave of protests that have been taking place, there is little confusion from those responsible. It is a blatant case of homophobia and, in a modern world where the sexual spectrum is broadening, does anyone have the right to interfere with sex education and lessons in this way?! It is not good enough for parents to say their children should not be subjected to L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. lessons and what they consider abnormal. I think it is abhorrent and reckless to protest against schools and send any threatening communications to teachers.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @charbutch/Unsplash

There is a lot of hate and anger in the U.K. right now and, at a time when we are unsure as to our status in the E.U., attacks against the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community are just adding to the intensity and division. Of course, there are many more cases across the nation where L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. and non-binary people are subjected to judgment and discrimination. There are shocking incidents where certain people are attacking Gay Pride Month and comparing it to a dictatorship. There are some Pride events happening across the country but it seems like there is a lot of hatred and vileness circulating. One does not need to be a member of the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community (I am not) to know that we are all the same and, in 2019, why do we have to see such vile cases of people attacking others based on their sexuality?! I do think we need to come a long way and there has been slow progress regarding understanding. No matter your sexual preference, I do not see why there is such ignorance and intolerance. Running alongside a couple of nasty occurrences around the U.K., there is a lot of shame and desperation across the world – the so-called ‘Straight Pride’ movement is, as you can guess, is straight people celebrating their sexuality. I have seen so many people celebrating Straight Pride and asking why there is a Pride Month that recognises the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community – where is the special month for heterosexual peoples?!

In the U.S., ugliness has reared its head, and you only need look on social media to see the number of idiots who have been challenging Pride Month with their own entitled and offensive equivalent. I am not surprised there is a lot of negative reaction to a month/event that celebrates and highlights L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. people. We live in a world where someone, somewhere will attack and undermine something good and positive. It is unnerving seeing so many people show their ignorance and selfish motives but, as I said, you half-expect this kind of thing. I know there are great organisations and bodies that spread the positive messages of the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community and I am always encouyraged to see the sort of unity and passion coming from social media and people out there – a lot of positivity and connection from all corners! The hatred that I am talking about is from a minority but, as you can imagine, any form of hatred and attack against L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. people is shocking. I have mentioned how the music industry is not excluded from hatred and ignorance. I have heard from artists who feel like they have to distil who they are in order to get acclaim and attention. It seems a shame that we have made leaps in some areas of society but there is still a lot of misunderstanding. Look at the mainstream and we do not hear a lot of messages regarding L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. matters – suggesting a lot of the artist who do talk about it are doing so away from the limelight.

 IN THIS PHOTO: L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artist Perfume Genius/PHOTO CREDIT: Hedi Slimane

I know there are a lot of great Pride songs and L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists around but you do not hear many of them in the mainstream. The scene now, as it has been for decades, is so heteronormative and one wonders whether, in a way, we have gone backwards. We are living in a time when Pride Month is bringing people together but there is still a lot of judgement and attack. Whilst music is much more loving and tolerant than other areas of society, I think there is this huge platform that would not only allow L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists to get their voice heard; it would also allow a thread to run through music that is being supressed from a lot of mainstream education. One might think that, if we did hear more about the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community through music, there might be the same backlash as we have seen in the Midlands – and there might be more provocation on social media. I do think that there is this impression that heterosexuality is the desired normal and anything other than that should be marginalised and kept private. I am not suggesting music changes its colour and look but there is still this vast majority of straight artists ruling – fewer messages and songs concerning any other form of sexuality. The sexual spectrum is wide and complex and I think music has the responsibility to be more open and increase channels of communication.

So many great L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists and anthems are inspiring in the underground but there are many who feel fearful about letting their songs run free; fearing there would be less attention and some discomfort. It is obvious we have a long way to go before artists of all sexualities are given equal opportunities and focus but, right now, there is this fetid and unappetising scent of ignorance, homophobia and misogyny. Whether it is protests at primary schools or random attacks on buses, I am shocked that we have to witness such things. Music is an immensely powerful tool and, whereas some might think using music to talk about Pride and the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. spectrum is a form of propaganda, those with a more logical and loving mind, surely, can see the benefits. I do look out at the mainstream and you see the same thing: straight artist talking about heterosexual love. I also not saying we need to make allowances and write new rules so that a percentage of songs out there are non-heterosexual; that might not work in practice but, instead, labels and music bosses need to make the scene more open and balanced. I do think that musicians, L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. and straight, can help bridge gaps and bring about greater acceptance. Maybe that sounds undermining to those who are working tirelessly to create balance and tolerance but I mean to say music is immensely powerful and influential.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @clemono2/Unsplash

Artists are out there talking about division in the country and political strife; they are discussing mental-health problems and suicide but, when it comes to L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. rights and subjects, are we hearing enough of it? L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists are doing their bit but, away from them, there is a general silence. Anything that can reduce attacks and mindless ignorance is a good thing and I do feel music has a lot of sway. Whether it is L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists being given more time and airplay or mainstream artists bringing the sexual spectrum more directly into their music…I think that can help redress some of the hatred out there. I mean, there is more positivity out there than negativity regarding Pride Month but I do worry that there are so many people who are tarnishing its good name and intent with their own agenda and misunderstanding. I do feel music is turning into this alternative government where big subjects are being tackled and there is this important platform. It is great seeing mental illness being included into songs but, away from traditional love songs and heterosexual subjects, what of the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community and Pride Month? I shall wrap things up but I, like so many out there, have been left stunned and upset by seeing cases of assault against L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. people; an intolerance and vileness that is hard to expunge from the memory.


 PHOTO CREDIT: @janasabeth/Unsplash

These perpetrators might be the minority but I think, in a wider sense, there is a lot of discomfort and misunderstanding regarding Pride Month and L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists. Music is this channel and community of love and equality and, as we are seeing people actively push against L.B.T.Q.I.A. teaching, can music help readdress the problem and lead to change? I am concerned that there is still a long way to go before there is true equality and understanding – but there is a big voice out there and people getting involved. It is distressing seeing people ignored and attacked because of their sexuality and it really needs to stop. It is not a simple solution and plan of attack when it comes to music. True liberation and acceptance does not happen overnight but I do feel like music can play a vital role. There has been some shocking hatred out there but, when you look at social media love and lots of positive outpouring, it is clear the majority want to bring L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. discussions to the forefront. If we can help lessen the ruthless and mindless attacks, educate those who are attacking L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. teachings and ensure there is better understanding, that would be something. There are some terrific L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists spreading the word and, if the mainstream can open its doors and ensure there is a greater balance, sexuality-wise, at the top, that is a potent and powerful way of bringing the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community and voice…

TO the front.