When a black or Asian or Indian or Pakistani kid is bullied because of his ethnicity in school, that kid can run home to his parents and brothers and sisters and cousins and uncles and aunties and get reaffirmation of his worth as a human being. “They’re racist twats!” they can say.
When a gay kid is bullied, there is nobody to turn to because there is a definite risk that the kid would get one of these reactions if he told. The image is a letter from a father to his son after the son came out as a gay man to him.
Growing up gay is a unique and utterly lonely experience where everything around you, from how your friends talk to watching politicians on the telly, says that you are a filthy and amoral creature. It is something that happens day in, day out. It doesn’t stop at the end of the school day. Every waking moment reinforces that there is something so wrong with you that it removes your humanity and human worth.
You can’t really shrug it off, unless you’re stronger than anyone has the right to ask you to be. You’re never allowed to vent frustration, must never appear to be weak and demoralised and seek some kind, any kind, of affirmation that says “Hey kid, you’re all right”.
This is not an excercise in “opression olympics”. It is just the way it is. Being gay is different, lonely, and demoralising – and it’s really easy to slip into a morose mood, and even depression – because if everyone, including parents and siblings and schools and politicians say you’re bad, then who are you to say that they are wrong?
You don’t really acquire allies and friends that reaffirm your worth until later until you’ve moved away from your community, your family, and your roots. That thirteen or fourteen year old that discover that he or she is gay lives in a bubble of fear and loathing, even if he’s the most out and proud person there is.
The hardest part of coming out is to get over the fear of being utterly rejected by everyone. That’s the big step. That’s the big moment. That’s the coming of age; shedding the fear and loathing of yourself.
So, the gay rights struggle isn’t really about the right to marriage, or for the right to be treated equal in the eyes of the law. It’s to get to a point where a father doesn’t write to his son that “I don’t want to see you again, ever” simply because of who he falls in love with.