Jen Dodds: Is the deaf world more tolerant of homosexuality?

Posted on February 14, 2014

So, the Sochi Winter Olympics are on and everyone’s talking about snowboarders’ thighs… well, not everyone.

Some people I know are refusing to watch the Olympics because it’s being held in Russia, which is known for having anti-gay laws and a homophobic mentality that is so messed up that gangs of Russians hunt down and beat up gay people for “sport”.

I didn’t watch the Channel 4 documentary about that because it was too much for me to cope with, but you can read about it here if you want to.

I wouldn’t be watching the Olympics anyway because it’s not my thing, but I’m more than happy to show my support of gay Russians by using a photo of Tilda Swinton bravely holding up a rainbow flag outside the Kremlin for my Twitter profile.

Not a huge thing for me to do at all, but it’s good to be reminded that this world is dangerous and scary for some people, and we should at least think about them, even if we can’t do much else.

I’m taking this a little bit personally because, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a woman who has a wife.

Yes, I’m a big old lesbian.

That’s not really very exciting, though. After all, I’m lucky enough (should I be lucky? shouldn’t it just be that way?) to live in a country where people usually just say “Oh” when they realise my partner is a woman. And then, we change the subject to something more interesting.

But, anyway, this whole Olympics/Russia/homophobia thing has got me thinking more about being gay and what life has been like for me since I rather dramatically – and possibly a little bit drunkenly – came out as a lesbian, on a New Year’s cruise ship party nearly 20 years ago. Yes, I am quite old.

Basically, my life has been fine. I would say I’m lucky again, but really, I don’t think anyone should have to consider themselves LUCKY to live without worrying that someone might kick the crap out of them because of who they love (or for any reason, in fact).

It should be a basic human right, but sadly, it isn’t; in many countries, being gay is actually a crime.

I don’t know if it’s a Deaf thing or not, but while several friends of mine have unfortunately been gay bashed by random people in the streets and pubs, I very rarely hear of any homophobic stuff going on in the Deaf community.

(The worst of it usually comes in comments like “That’s so gay!”, which IS offensive, whether you think so or not. Oh, and you’re also not allowed to call anyone a poof unless you’re one yourself, just to clear that one up, too.)

But anyway, I’m not saying that Deafies are all wonderful saint-like people who love everyone else. Maybe it’s just something to do with the fact that we’re already in a minority group, so we know what it’s like to get picked on… or something.

After all, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

In fact, I can only remember a few homophobic things that have happened to me; usually just in arguments. One that sticks in my mind happened when I was in my early 20s, at a Deaf pub event in South London.

A Deaf bloke was trying to chat me up – why, I have no idea – encouraged by a big group of his friends. I tried to turn him down tactfully, but when he didn’t take the hint, I said “Look, I’m a lesbian, sorry. I don’t do men!”

The poor bloke was really embarrassed, especially in front of his friends, who firstly all thought it was funny… and then disgusting. They’d obviously never met a lesbian before and asked me loads of quite offensive questions.

I was on my own, so was a bit nervous, and the conversation wasn’t really going anywhere until someone asked me why I was a lesbian.

“I have no idea!” I replied. “I suppose I was just born this way.”

They all scoffed at me until I asked them why THEY were straight; then they got really defensive and finally worked out that they were simply born straight too.

That might not be why everyone’s gay, but I couldn’t think of a better reason, and it did shut them up.

Then, in true Deaf way, I made them all hug me. And they did.

So next time someone says “That’s so gay!”, tell them off. It might just be a small thing for you to do, but everything matters. You might even make someone else’s day – especially if you’re straight.

Jen Dodds is a Contributing Editor for The Limping Chicken. When she’s not looking after chickens or children, Jen can be found translating, proofreading and editing stuff over at Team HaDo Ltd (

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