One of the reasons people say they dislike Gibraltar is that it is so small, everyone knows everyone else’s business.
Chatting to one of our many neighbours, a Gibraltarian told Partner how he’d been friends in his youth with some people who were gay.
His father and his grandfather found out (remember, Gibraltar is a small place) and it was made quite clear to him that he had to choose between his friends and his family. Actually, I don’t think he was given a choice. He had one course of action. Especially if he wanted any family inheritance.
Years later and he reflected that his long-since abandoned gay friends had ‘done well’ in life, ie ‘well’ financially and professionally, and better than him. But, how did those gay friends feel 30 or 40 years ago when people who they thought were friends broke off those friendships and shunned them? How did it feel to be socially ostracised and sent to Coventry?
We’re in the second decade of the 21st century. Homosexuality was only decriminalised here in 1993. We do not have same sex marriage. In 2013 the Supreme Court of Gibraltar ruled in favour of same sex couples adopting, and last year (2014) couples could have a legal civil union. But still no marriage.
Yet, the UK has same sex marriage, immediate Catholic neighbour Spain legalised it in 2005, and our other Iberian neighbour Portugal legalised it in 2010. So why is Gibraltar dragging its feet?
But in an interview (originally published in the Gib Chron, and now available on the website for Equality Rights Group GGR), it seems Gibraltar still suffers from homophobia:
Gibraltar has been and still is a homophobic place. As a gay person this is my perception. While some may be tired of the rights debate, let me tell you, I am even more tired. For me this isn’t something of a whim, it’s about love and fairness. I want what you have, is that such a bad thing? As a straight person, would you accept and settle for a Civil Partnership because that’s all you’re allowed and not aspire to what the rest enjoys?
I am 38 years old and homophobia has played a big part in my life and even so I count myself lucky compared to others. When I was an adolescent I thought I would go to prison for being gay when I grew up. Homosexuality was only decriminalised here in 1993 when I was 16. Not only did I have to deal with feeling alone and isolated, the messages in society told me there was something wrong with me, that I was an aberration, an abomination. I felt I would never be able to be who I was.
At 18 I went to university and discovered there were people like me and they were just as ordinary as I was. I felt normal. I had escaped and even though I looked forward to seeing my family on the holidays returning to Gibraltar was always accompanied by a sense of oppression. Similarly many friends who also came out while being in the UK decided to stay there.
You don’t need to be beaten up to a pulp, lynched, spat on or be shouted abuse, live in a Christian fundamentalist country like Uganda where gays face life imprisonment, or under the Islamic State’s controlled lands where gay men are killed in horrific ways for it to be homophobia. It comes in many different guises.
I am very aware that some will take exception at saying that there is homophobia in Gibraltar. It is easy for them to say, they have not had to walk in my shoes.
It’s a good interview, well worth the read, he makes some salient points (eg TV panels discussing SSM), and explains very rationally and calmly, the discrimination that gay people have suffered and continue to suffer.
[If you read it, please note Jersey and Guernsey and Crown Dependencies, not British Overseas Territories.]
I don’t see homophobia here, but I wouldn’t, I’m not gay. We’ve worked for gays here in Gib and they are, amazingly, just people like everyone else. And, if people want to marry, everyone should have that right. Everyone.