Homophobia in Clubs
‘… there was one where we played in Phoenix, and it was a weird day in fact, because they had a lot of political trouble there… it felt like a real gathering of people that were against what was going on… you realise sometimes when you’re doing a show you’re providing a place for people to meet, people who don’t meet normally, and create a sense of belonging in a way which is really powerful and important.… there was one moment that night when Ed and I came off and said ‘did you see that?’ ‘yeah I saw that’; the room, the room changed shape, and we were completely clean, straight, no nothing, but something happened in the room, I can’t put my finger on it but I’ll go to my grave knowing that it happened…’
‘I mean… that’s the reason we all do what we do’
‘I think it is’
That’s Thom Yorke talking to Benji B during a co-hosted show about his most memorable experience playing with Radiohead. It speaks to the notion that music venues – particularly those that specialise in the esoteric music played by both men – should provide a safe, expressive place for certain kinds of people, a belief clearly held by the bouncers at clubs like Berghain which categorically turn away men who seem overtly straight and masculine.
A few days after listening to this show, I watched a Benji B dj set in London. Before entering the club, my friend and I befriended a couple of young Lithuanian men, who were initially worried we would judge them for being Eastern European. After we set them at ease and got to know eachother, one of them explained that he had a pregnant girlfriend at home; this was his one night out amid months of work. It was also their second time clubbing in their lives; they were both 18. We invited them to come with us – I had two spare tickets – rather than head onto the gimmicky shithouse for which they initially asked us directions.
Then came the bombshell. The soon-to-be-father told us that he admired how open-minded we seemed, but for some reason he felt the need to tell us he had a ‘problem’ with gay people, not noticing that my friend was gay. Fuck. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had fantasies about banishing homophobes from clubs and festivals (something that happened last year to Ten Walls, a notable Lithuanian dj). I pushed the guy for an explanation; ‘is it just scary to you because it’s not what you’re used to?’
He nodded, saying ‘well you know there is that expression, it’s Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve…’
My friend suppressed laughter. I continued: ‘Ok, so you haven’t grown up around it, it seems alien to you?’
He told us that he had in fact met multiple gay people in his last few years living in London, and found them to be lovely. He didn’t even think that gay people were necessarily bad people, ‘have anything against them’, or wish them any harm. He just wasn’t comfortable with the concept of homosexuality.
This is the funny thing about homophobia, it’s a complex term. When writing my dissertation on the illogical nature of homophobia, I criticised arguments which aimed to demonstrate that homosexuals deserve different, limitting treatment, such as the denial of adoption rights, legal requirements of sexual abstinence, etc. These guys didn’t believe that there was something wrong with homosexuality in such a way that justifies such arguments, they were homophobic in a far more literal sense: the notion of homosexuality made them feel uncomfortable.
The soon-to-be-father didn’t get into the club. Not because of these remarks, but because of the bag of Cocaine in his pocket. My friend and I did. We had a great night; Benji played 2-4am, dropping monstrous tracks from various genres, finishing off with a dub of the house classic Can You Feel It, a definitive statement of inclusivity. We couldn’t help but feel disappointed that the guys didn’t come with us; they were a good laugh, and we really wanted them to experience a – forgive me – proper club night.
Before we had entered the club, after the homophobic Lithuanian had clarified himself, I told him that I had a good friend who grew up with a homophobic father and used to have similar views. He was capable of being kind and friendly to gay people, but unable to accept their sexual lifestyle. Over the course of his gap year travels, he became good friends with a gay guy, and within a couple of weeks he was laughing at his previous mindset, in its lack of logic.
And that’s the thing that homophobes need to understand; there is no logic to homophobia. I’m really confident in this, having experienced homophobia many times in both flesh and text. My dissertation sought to demonstrate that a logical defence of homophobia was impossible by analysing both influential – but obviously flawed – homophobic literature, and homophobic articles written by philosophers of greater intellectual repute. Even when analysed from a perspective that took the theoretical premises of their argument for granted, their articles failed to provide a valid argument for homophobia. Even if I accepted the moral philosophy with which they justified their arguments, I still could not accept their arguments’ logic.
Unlike homosexuality, homophobia is not a natural condition, it’s demonstrably caused by your surroundings. Unlike homosexuality, it is a problem which by its very nature is harmful to others, and yourself. Unlike homosexuality, it can be cured. If you cure yourself, I personally hope you will come to clubs and festivals and dance to house music, a genre which is inextricably linked to gay culture. Because as Thom Yorke said, when there’s that many people who all feel the same way, who all support eachother’s sense of belonging, it really is a big deal. It’s beautiful. Don’t let your unresolved internal problems get in the way of experiencing it; you too can belong.