Most people are shocked when I tell them my homophobic bullies at high school were girls, not other boys.
Homophobia is usually something we assume can only be directed towards men, by other men. Many psychologists believe male homophobia stems from societally generated gender norms: Men are supposed to be dominant; women purportedly submissive. When men are attracted to other men this dichotomy is thrown off, as so-called traditional values are no longer being enforced. Enter fear of the homosexual.
Others believe male homophobia towards other males is rooted in the fear of the predator. Gay men are misconceived to be continually preying on straight men: Throwing sexual advances their way, touching them inappropriately, or -- the biggest fear of all -- trying to "turn" them.
What society fails to realise is that the desire to uphold a gender-role dichotomy isn't strictly the proviso of homophobic men. Women, too, can dislike the idea of same-sex relationships and although it's usually verbal, their homophobic abuse is still apparent.
When I look back to my experiences as a teenager, I felt the exclusive target of female bullies who wanted to tell me just how abhorrent I was.
This is something that has continued into adulthood, though it's far more subversive now. "It's such a shame," straight women often say to me, as if telling me being a good-looking gay man is somewhat of a disservice to single heterosexual women everywhere. "I love talking to you," others will say. "You're just like one of the girls!"
The former comment is one gay men across the globe hear from straight women every day. Often brushed off as an (unknowingly backhanded) compliment, it's actually a reflection of the desire to enforce those same staid gender norms I noted earlier. You, the good-looking gay man, have been identified as a potential mate for procreation because of your physical appearance and its associated virility. By not being interested in said potential mate -- or any other straight females who'd like to mate with you -- you're going against your sperm-producing natural purpose.
The latter comment, too, is an expression of homophobia because it's an attempt to put somebody who's outside of the binary, into a binary box. Men are men and women are women, but gay men can't really be men because they don't 'like' women. Therefore, gay men must be women. Or so the homophobic thought process goes.
Subconscious as this may be (and I have no doubt it is), these are just two ways that straight women can express homophobia towards men, much to the detriment of diversity everywhere. And I haven't even delved into the fact that the "fag" and "fairy" slurs come at me equally from both men and women, especially when I take my online abuse into account.
Societally, we have a hard time accepting that men can be the victims of women. That's why the majority of male rape goes unreported, according to crime victimisation surveys. When you do a Google search of "female homophobia against men" the results are skint. This isn't even a topic those Redditers seem to want to tackle.
Thankfully, we are starting to talk about the fact that abuse isn't just physical, as seen recently with the #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou Twitter campaign. But it's high time we start talking about the fact that women can verbally and emotionally abuse men, too. We had it at high school when straight girls would call the thought of two men together "disgusting". We're still getting it now whenever homophobic women such as Azealia Banks go on expletive tirades telling us who men should be, and why we're wrong when we don't follow through.
Two years ago, the Irish drag queen Panti Bliss spoke of her shame of the need for gay men to "check themselves" whenever they feel they're going to be "found out" by other men. As the fabulous Ms. Bliss also notes, it's also the "nice, middle-class women" we check ourselves for. Not because we're afraid they're going to throw something at us from a moving car, but because every time those nice, middle-class heterosexual women state the place of gay men in society, it gives gay people everywhere a sense of oppression.
I don't want to feel oppressed anymore. I don't want boys growing up gay to feel oppressed anymore, either. But in order for that to stop happening, we must stop thinking about homophobia as the domain of straight men. We must think of it as something any person can promote -- no matter their gender -- simply by failing to try hard enough not to.