In The South

OPINION: Craig’s Thoughts – Another Brick In The Wall

Craig Hanlon-Smith February 8, 2019

Or The LGBT Brexit by Craig Hanlon-Smith  @craigscontinuum

WHATEVER position taken on the subject of Brexit, there is some agreement that on all sides of the discussion behaviours have led much to be desired. Neither lies nor fears projected during polarised arguments are attributes we should be aspiring to and yet we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised that these characteristics emerge. Members of the LGBT+ communities have often found themselves a political punchbag and this kind of aggressive and hostile rhetoric on both sides is nothing new – the context has changed not the content.

I’ve been surprised at the seemingly one-sided understanding of the desire to ‘end the free movement of people’. Whilst I appreciate the concerns around immigration, when I hear the views of some English folk I’m often relieved to have a ‘jolly foreigner’ down the street to talk to. We have no way of knowing the details yet but any inhibition of the freedom to travel will not be a one-sided approach. Perhaps not by the end of this year or even the next two but certainly within five to 10 there will be noticeable changes to our current freedoms to run around Europe as we please. Those impromptu f*** it trips to Sitges or Mykonos. The international Pride circuits from Gran Canaria to Madrid. And whilst one may have previously dragged piss soaked black footy socks through the Nothing to Declare channel at Gatwick following that trip to Berlin, be prepared in future to have the dirty laundry aired on either side of the border.

We, the LGBT+, are a range of communities that have one unshakeable common thread. We’ve fought for all of our freedoms however basic and fundamental. The freedom to work, the freedom to marry, to apply for life-insurance, to visit a loved one in hospital. The freedom to raise a child, the freedom to hold hands at the bus stop, to sit together on a flight. The freedom to exist without fear of prosecution and imprisonment. The freedom to engage in sexual relationships without the fear of an inevitable death. Freedom is everything.

The freedom to travel without a state permission, the freedom to move without question across an entire continent is a privilege the majority of us can’t remember living without but this is about to change for a generation if not longer. Brexit is to all intents and purposes our very own wall between us and our neighbours. Walls are not only impossible to scale on one side they’re impenetrable for all of us. Like it or not we will soon need to learn to live with our wall and it’s time to get used to the idea.

Change can be a challenge and it’s perhaps the acceptance of such significant change that’s proving difficult for the remain voters of which I am one. But you cannot always play for the winning side, democracy is a system that will not always satisfy our own private or publicly political leanings. And whilst I’m enraged at the lies told to help secure a victory, these are no different to the total fabrications and false promises made by all contributors to our usual electoral process. We went to war in 2002 on a ‘sexed-up’ lie regarding fictitious weapons of mass destruction. Horrible, but that we’re a nation of liars is written into our history. We’ve been in a race to the bottom since time began.

Change often sticks in the throat but it doesn’t need to. Perhaps we can learn from the progress and shape-shifting within our own communities to help us think about the national situation in a more manageable way. Our range of LGBT+ communities have been developing and changing in recent years at a pace that at times feels a challenge to keep up. More disappointingly, this all too often comes with a host of reactions from all corners of our supposedly diverse and accepting selves that are matching the polarising nature of our EU departure. The very best and worst of our communities is forever in our midst.

There are clear differences between our communities and these should be acknowledged and celebrated. But too often we give so much time to difference that we neglect that which makes us the same. At the very least we’re prone to ignore our common experiences which can be a source of support and comfort. And yet our collective ability to shout ‘PHOBIC’ at the slightest question or criticism needs addressing. At times it feels as though a great chunk of the LGBT+ masses may need to count to 10 and just calm the f*** down. It’s akin to suggesting everyone who voted to ‘leave’ is a racist. In some cases yes, in many no.

Brexiteers often cite the freedom of movement of people as a source of conflict and their arguments are not without merit. Of course these freedoms are taken advantage of by those who mean to do us harm or disrupt our way of life. But in turn these instances are taken advantage of and the threat magnified by those who wish to use such occasions as a weapon of fear. We’re twisting our truths in a vice-versa wordy weaponry swap shop which has no positive outcome but works to increase national levels of anxiety. Anxiety that impacts economics and ultimately the little guys on the ground.

Craig Hanlon-Smith
Craig Hanlon-Smith

Our own communities have begun to build our own walls of division which not only separate the LGBT+ but create further silos of shame within our own so-called teams. Whether nation shaming, race shaming, leave or remain shaming, trans-shaming, lesbian shaming, fat shaming, skinny shaming, camp shaming, femme shaming, HIV shaming, sl** shaming, bottom shaming, it’s all just a way to keep people down, to keep the other back and at bay.

It’s time to look at ourselves and to command what’s great about we, me, I and us based upon who we are and what we’ve achieved. There’s nothing great to be celebrated by keeping others out or ourselves locked in. There’s little to celebrate in our sense of individuality or collective communities by intimidating those we are not. I’m fabulous because I’m not trans, camp, HIV+, a bottom, promiscuous. News: no you’re not. You don’t achieve because of how others are – your life isn’t that easy.

Wake up, sit up, grow up and whatever the context the content remains the same. It’s not cruel to be kind.