It’s 10 years since I left Lancaster University, fresh faced and ready to take on the world. I’d probably spent more time and energy invested in extra-curricular activities in my three years than I had my philosophy degree, but that’s not something I necessarily regret.
The BNP were a rising political force, we had just seen the introduction of civil partnerships in the UK for same-sex couples but at the same time I’d found myself in Maidstone, campaigning against Kent County Council and their plans to introduce their own version of Section 28; and in Heysham, campaigning against the England First Party in a local government by-election.
Against this backdrop I found myself becoming more involved in different groups and movements, I was elected as LGBT Officer for the Student Union and held other positions in the LGBT Association, I also became Treasurer of the Feminist Society which resulted in a great deal of frustration trying to explain to others what ‘equality’ truly means.
Whilst a decade ago, sitting on equal opportunities and anti-fascist committees as well as receiving my HIV diagnosis in 2009 has meant that the recent actions of a minority of people over the past few days have not been of a surprise to me. I have not been under the illusion that in just ten short years the UK has somehow managed to rid itself of intolerance.
I am still frustrated that (a minority of) people have used last week’s result as an excuse to incite fear and violence into our communities. I’m angry that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the Labour Party, and this is all prior to considering my feelings about the referendum result itself.
But what’s really pissed me off is today reading comments from gay and HIV positive men ‘looking for love’ implying they’re desperate enough to ‘settle’ for the company of a woman on a ‘friendship’ basis. Completely disregarding the notion that women want to enjoy sex, are not property, that they are not tokenistic accessories or an addition to assist someone feel comfortable. They are not here simply to satisfy personal perceptions of what it means to fit a social (and heteronormative) norm – that we have to be ‘attached’.
It’s 2016 and women are still ‘the other’. Is it any wonder intolerance and bigotry exist in the minds of a few, when simple concepts of respect and equality for a majority population demographic aren’t understood or enforced by the many?