Oban is a small town on the West Coast of Scotland. Last Saturday (25th September) saw our second ever Oban Pride. Many people had never seen a drag queen or met any openly gay people locally prior to Pride. That said, I’ve always been proud to say that I’ve never encountered any homophobia here in my home town, but that may be because I am a femme woman. Sadly, on Saturday night some of my LGBTQ+ siblings didn’t have the same positive experience.
As well as working for OutNewsGlobal I work part time in a local pub, The Claredon, known locally as The Clarry. It’s an old-school workman’s pub by day with karaoke and bands on at the weekend…and I’m not the only LGBTQ member of staff.
I decided to organise a post pride party. I went in during the afternoon to put up some rainbow flags and my four-year-old son came along to help. One of the regulars, a retired fisherman, looked affronted and said “You won’t make it a gay bar by putting up rainbow flags – and you won’t make me gay”. I explained that I wasn’t making it into a gay bar and I definitely didn’t want to turn him gay! He said that instead of fundraising we should be doing a parade, “so we can laugh at them”.
He followed up his comments by saying that I can’t possibly be gay as I “got a child off a man”. I explained that we all know how babies are made but the biology of reproduction has no bearing on my sexuality. At this point I should point out that the rest of the locals were very supportive, asking what was happening that evening and donating to the Oban Pride charity box. I hoped that this was a one off and perhaps Pride might help this guy realise that “his pub” would be unaffected by having a Pride party.
Unfortunately I was wrong.
A bad cold meant I had to miss the party. I woke up the next morning to find an apology message on the Clarry’s Facebook page. My colleague had posted to say she was disgusted to hear about homophobia and that we are a LGBTQ friendly pub and won’t tolerate it. I dragged myself to work yesterday evening and asked what had happened. I’m disgusted to hear that a gorgeous trans woman, who I remember meeting at the daytime events, had people making snide comments about what toilet she used. The woman had travelled from Glasgow and come to our Pride party alone. I cannot express how embarrassed I am that she was made to feel so unwelcome. The bar staff said they didn’t hear about this until she had left but they did see locals laughing at a group of young LGBTQ+ people who, tired of being the butt of others’ homophobic jokes, left abruptly.
I’m appalled: we had a Pride party and people who should know better responded with homophobic and transphobic abuse. As is so often the case, it was a minority of bigots who spoiled the event for the majority: both young and old, mostly straight people, said that they enjoyed pride and would stick up for anyone receiving abuse. I was subsequently told that one of the culprits was a guy who the night before had been giving me the “you’re too hot to be a lesbian, are you sure you’re 100% lesbian” line. How startlingly original!
This was not the first time I had to ask myself why I receive some sort of feminine privilege because I am what a straight man perceives as a “hot lesbian”, but those who do not conform to heteronormative standards of attractiveness are subjected to teasing and common insult. Quite frankly I could do without the sleazy remarks.
I hope The Clarry’s messages of disgust have reached the homophobes. Oban Pride might not have been such a big party as some other UK Prides but perhaps it’s just as important: it’s got people who know very little about the LGBTQ+ community talking about transphobia and homophobia, and hopefully next year we can have an Oban Pride party with acceptance for all.