As I write, the UK is marking 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act was passed in 1967. The Act decriminalised homosexuality and began the process towards wider equality. It should be a time to celebrate. As a society we no longer consider homosexuality to be a type of mental disability – right?
Wrong. President Trump has banned transgender people from serving in the US military. The tweeted edict was designed to achieve a political purpose, not a military one. The message is very clear: you do not belong in our society.
Theresa May is also alienating people by linking herself with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, founded by Ian Paisley. His son, Ian Paisley Jr, has called homosexuality ‘immoral, offensive and obnoxious’ and said he was ‘repulsed’ by gays and lesbians. This type of messaging doesn’t just offend the LGBTQ+ community. It tells anyone who is not white, male and middle class that they are not part of the future.
Why the hatred? Misogyny, racism, transphobia and other forms of discrimination are all deeply rooted in what our culture teaches us is ‘natural’. There is no such thing as a ‘natural’ way of being, however, and scientists know that racial origins are far more tangled than simplistic notions of ‘race’ allow. The recent trend for home-testing of DNA is little more than a con.
Although people may feel deep-seated disgust or confusion towards two men kissing or a person who has decided to transition, it is because they have been brought up in a way that teaches them this is not the norm. People are also lazy. Given the choice, they would rather stick to their inherent bias than try to understand other human beings or empathise with them.
Only today I overheard a conversation about ‘this social justice shit’, in reference to the phrase ‘ladies and gentlemen’ being scrapped from announcements on the London Tube.
It might seem like a small step for the general public, but breaking down gender bias in language is a huge step for campaigners who want to challenge what is referred to as normal.
This week the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK finally took an active stance on harmful gender stereotypes.
This not only affects minority groups. It also means men can explore and challenge what it means to be masculine, for example. Take Charli XCX's pop video for Boys, which is perhaps one of the first to actively subvert and play with the male gaze – pitching men as playthings of desire.
Brands need to be a part of this shift. It is no longer enough to sit on the fence, let alone allow inherent bias. It is time to break away from dangerous stereotypes that tell your audiences they are not part of your vision.
If you do not, you will be left behind. While Trump trolls Twitter with hatred in order to win over fundamentalists, collectives are forming and reaffirming their identity in safe spaces, both physical and digital. Their message is that social distinction is a marker of success.