Most LGBT+ people remember when they first heard their sexuality or gender identity being used as the butt of a joke.Â It might have been in the school playground or on one of the dozens of TV shows in the Eighties, NinetiesÂ and NoughtiesÂ which only had gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender characters as a means of comic relief.Â Are You Being Served?, anyone?
For me, itÂ was before I was even a teenager, when my parents would use the phrase âpoofâs parlourâÂ to describe anything they perceived to smell feminine.
These days, parents are better educated, TV shows are more inclusive and diverseÂ and schools even have bespoke protocols in place to prevent the word âgayâ or similar from being used as a pejorative.Â
So why isÂ rampant homophobia still permitted under the guise of political commentary, satire or even activism?
The New York TimesÂ is the latest culprit, this week taking aim at Donald Trump and his Helsinki summit withÂ Vladimir Putin by depicting the two heterosexual world leaders as gay lovers.
In the latest episode of the publicationâs âTrump BitesâÂ series,Â a feminised caricature ofÂ Trump eagerly prepares for a date with a hypermasculine, toplessÂ Putin. The pair embark on their date, hold hands, ride a flying unicornÂ in their underwear â because unicorns are gay, obviously âÂ before Trump tweaks Putinâs nipples while theyÂ engage in a deep and passionate kiss.
In the end, it turns out the âdateâÂ was merely a fantasy in Trumpâs mind, but the implication is very much a reality. The New York TimesÂ wants you to think that Trump is gay. Not only is Trump gay, but Trump is gay for Putin. Trump wants to have gay sex with Putin. TrumpÂ possibly evenÂ wants to be in a gay relationship with Putin. And the whole thing is deeply, deeply homophobic.Â
This cartoon from The New York Times is far from an isolated incident. At the anti-Trump protests in London last week, hundreds of placards and signs depicted the two presidents in homosexual embraces â with protestors even going as far to Photoshop the heads of Trump, Putin and in some cases Piers Morgan intoÂ gay porn scenes.
In June this year, Bette Midler â âThe Divine Miss Bâ, someone the community has long looked upon as an allyÂ âÂ tweeted: âTrump and Putin are meeting in Finland next month. Thatâs a long way to travel for a blowjob.âÂ
Meanwhile Kathy Griffin, someone who isnât shy of controversy herself when it comes to Trump, took a different tact and tweeted a picture of Trump and Kim Jong-un in a tender embrace on the cover ofÂ Vogue.Â
Rewind further still to February of this yearÂ when BBC2âsÂ The Daily Mash broadcast a cartoon of Piers Morgan rimming Trump.
Rimming can beÂ fun for both heterosexual and same-sex partners, but thereâs nothing funny about using a sex act to imply that two heterosexual men are gay together â regressing to the old schoolyard mentality of yore that to be gay is to be something shameful.
In this instance, theÂ BBC wanted you to think that Piers Morgan is gay. Not only is Piers gay, but Piers is gay for Trump. Piers wants to have gay sex with Trump.
HeÂ wants to rim Trump, actually.Â Piers possibly evenÂ wants to be in a gay relationship with Trump. And again, the whole thing is deeply, deeply homophobic.
There are countless more examples of Trump and Putin âÂ both oppressors of the LGBT+ community, it should be pointed out â being depicted as gay men. But no matter how many examples, the point remains the same.Â
Being gay is not a punchline.Â Being gay is not a weakness. Being gay is not something to be ashamed of, or to fear, or to reject. A
nd whether youâre Bette Midler, the BBC or a well-meaning protestor with a sign, when you bash Trump with a rhetoric which implies thatÂ being gay is something to be laughed at, youâre not only being insidiously homophobic, but youâre doing as much damage to the mental and emotional wellbeing of young LGBT+ people than Trump himself.