Pussy Grabbers & Right-Wing Populism: The Justification for Homophobia

By now you’ve probably seen the photograph of Dr Melania Geymonat and her girlfriend Chris (who has chosen to keep her identity largely anonymous), bloodied on a London bus in the early hours of 30 May after refusing to kiss on demand for a group of young men. After going viral, this photograph has spurred mass international outrage towards the attack, with people questioning how such a disgusting act of homophobia could still take place in the UK in 2019.

This attack is undeniably linked to the rise in right-wing populism, authorising people who disagree with the ideas surrounding queer identity to carry out these acts of violence. As Chris comments, in an article written for The Guardian, “One world leader on her last day in office concluded a long career voting in favour of anti-gay, racist, colonial policies by expressing her condolences to us”, in reference to Theresa May. Chris and Melania blame right-wing populism for the rise in homophobic hate crime, with the number of reported crimes in London rising by over 800 between 2014 and 2018. And with pussy-grabbers like Trump in power, it’s no wonder that people feel justified to act in this way.

Chris highlights her visible identity in her Guardian article, saying “I watched in real time as our faces – white, feminine, draped in pretty hair – circulated on every continent.” Her typically feminine features separate her from the ‘butch’ lesbian stereotype, forcing us to question if this attack would ever have taken place had the couple not been visibly affectionate toward one another. This raises the question of whether society has preconceived notions about the way in which a queer person should act or look in order to receive societal support? Well, the simple answer to this is, yes.

The term “queer” in recent years has been reclaimed by the community it represents, an identifier which has been used as a mode of empowerment against ideas of what is ‘normal’. However, it is impossible to ignore its history – the term “queer” was and still is used as a derogatory term, to emphasise an ‘Other’. The movement towards educating people, particularly children, on what “queer” is has led to cultural backlash, stemming from right-wing, anti-gay, populist beliefs.

Commenting on this attack, Helen Richardson-Walsh, Olympic hockey player, in a tweet to her wife said that what was worse about this incident is that the attackers “did it because they wouldn’t play out their misogynistic porn led sexual fantasy” – and it’s something worth flagging up. With the word “lesbian” being the most searched on sites like Pornhub, it’s not surprising that the ‘lesbian fantasy’ is a huge contributor to the damaging stereotypes that alter the way queer people live, and are perceived, in and by society.

Moreover, in a televised interview with the BBC, Melania added that “the violence is not only because we are women which are dating each other. It’s also because we are women.” The misogynistic element of this ‘lesbian fantasy’ that Richardson-Walsh comments upon, highlights how Melania and Chris were in a vulnerable position due to their identities, not only as queer, but as women. Whilst women still feel they can’t walk alone at night, how can we expect queer women to feel any more safe?

The way people have banded together in the face of this attack to create a unified front online needs to be replicated now on the streets. By supporting and helping each other, we’ll hopefully be able to prevent violent, discriminatory acts such as this from happening again, making our streets feel safer for everyone.

After all, Love is Love. Why should anybody have to feel afraid of being themselves?

Molly Rymer

 

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