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The Gay Berliner

Queerphobia, or just being an asshole?

Sometimes, we're so quick to defend our identities, we can't see that they're not under attack

Illustration by Agata Sasiuk

That dude is traaaaaaaansphobic,” my friend Bobby said as he pointed at Arthur across the sea of people traipsing around my flat. Bobby was angry. And if Arthur was transphobic, he had a right to be. Arthur looked over at me and gave me a sheepish yet not-exactly-guilty look. This was in the middle of my birthday party, and while playing affable host is obviously the most fun part of that gig, making sure my guests feel safe is also important. “Are you okay?” I asked. “He just said some really transphobic things,” Bobby explained.

Not wanting to make a scene for fear of making Bobby uncomfortable, I left it, figuring I’d speak with Arthur once he was gone. “I don’t know what he’s talking about. I never misgendered him and I never said anything transphobic,” Arthur told me. In all fairness, it would be hard to believe any of my party guests would be trans- (or queer-or homo-)phobic. Why would they be at my party? I had known Arthur for 17 years – longer than I’d been in Berlin, although Arthur has lived here longer than that. He had introduced me to one of Berlin most infamous trans nightlife queens. The godmother of his son is a trans woman. I know this sounds a bit like “Some of my best friends are…”, but he’s clearly not new to trans experiences in Berlin. Does that mean I would set Bobby and Arthur up on a friend date? Hell no. Oil and water. Sometimes natural enmity isn’t a hate crime – you’re just each other’s assholes.

In Berlin, everyone’s got an identity to fiercely defend, but sometimes it’s just not the identity that’s being attacked. We’re so quick to take queer defence when the targets are people within our real social reach, yet when it comes to online, the categories of judgement are completely different.

That old mud-slinging playground Queer Exchange Berlin has been mostly quiet during a lot of Covid (and making it quite boring to be honest), so I was as shocked as anyone to see a little heat go down in one of its posts about homophobia. A Berliner spending time in Athens posted about the response they got when attempting to start a queer band. “Why does everything have to be queer?” was the idiotic retort from some straight dude there. The other criticisms were fast and harsh… against the OP! For being a western European gentrifier going down there to make use of cheap resources. Maybe there is a time and place for that topic, but no one really sympathised with the poor guy that actually had a pretty fucking rude remark made to him. Nobody said about the guy who can’t handle a queer band: “That guy is so queeeeeeeeerphobic.”

Maybe the offender being anonymous and abstract naturally redirects anger? Sometimes people aren’t just each other’s assholes: sometimes one of them is being homo- or transphobic.