Image via Instagram

this week in homophobic bias and hypocrisy

Instagram’s censorship of an image of gay couple kissing proves there’s still a long way to go.

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06 July 2018, 4:59pm

Image via Instagram

Young London couple Jordan and Luca met in the toilets at east London gay pub The Joiners Arms. “Quite innocently!” they insist. They’ve been together seven years, built a fashion brand, JORDANLUCA, together and now find themselves embroiled in a media storm due to the apparently highly scandalous act of kissing each other.

Some context: last week we published photo story by photographer Stella Asia Consonni, featuring a beautiful shot of Jordan and Luca kissing. Stella posted the piece on her Instagram Stories, but the next day Instagram took it down because it ‘violated’ community guidelines. Even though it obviously didn’t. Nothing in the fine print even remotely implies you can’t post a picture of two people kissing. “Fully-nude buttocks”, sure, but, not a cheeky snog. So Stella, Olly from Years & Years, Jade Thirlwall from Little Mix and Glyn Fussell from Sink the Pink all took to the platform in anger. The next day Instagram reposted the shot and apologised to Stella: “It was removed in error,” they claimed.

So how does it feel to have your seven year strong relationship, “reduced to a community guideline,” as Jordan wrote in an Instagram post. “Censorship like this on any level has a really damaging impact on the community and perceptions at large, this cannot be taken lightly,” they tell us. “Also, this made us realise us that there is still a long way to go, and for this to happen in Pride month is even more poignant.” A long way indeed, judging by the amount of homophobic hate, including actual death threats, that Stella’s initial post received.

"If you’re just whacking a rainbow on whatever product you’re pumping out in an attempt to snag a juicy little pot of gold, while neglecting to address pre-existing issues within your company, it undermines the entire point."

While the pair received personal apologies from the platform, and think their show of solidarity with LGBTQ is mostly on point, they argue it’s an empty gimmick if the company’s going HAM on the delete button when they see same-sex couples going at it. No explanation has been provided by the company as to why it was removed in the first place.

It’s particularly poignant that it happened during Pride month, when much of the world is erupting in technicolour shop fronts and tees with saccharine slogans like “Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.” (Tell that to anyone who’s been forced through gay conversion therapy). If you’re just whacking a rainbow on whatever product you’re pumping out in an attempt to snag a juicy little pot of gold, while neglecting to address pre-existing issues within your company, it undermines the entire point. As the New York Times pointed out, Primark’s out here flogging rainbow sequinned bumbags and caps made in China, Turkey and Myanmar. You can go to prison for being gay in Myanmar.

“It's hard to believe that being gay has only been legal [in the UK] within the last 50 years, and Oscar Wilde was only pardoned for his ‘crimes’ in 2017,” Jordan and Luca continue. “Which makes you realise that Pride is still in its infancy.” And while they’re thankful that things have improved, and stress the importance of paying gratitude to those who fought for LGTBQ+ rights throughout history, it’s not done and dusted. “There is still a fight going on, and we are all part of it.”

It’s a fight that the UK Government are at pains to pretend they’re on board with. Just last week, Theresa May -- someone with a pretty shit history when it comes to supporting LGBTQ rights -- issued the government’s LGBT Action Plan. In it, she claims she was “shocked” to hear about same-sex couples avoiding holding hands, which betrays her fundamental lack of understanding of the discrimination the LGBTQ community face on a day-to-day basis. She says that they’ll appoint a national adviser on health inequalities, “so that the specific needs of LGBT people are at the heart of the National Health Service” -- never-mind that the Conservatives are simultaneously making massive funding slashes to the service. She wants pupils to feel comfortable “whatever their developing sexual orientation or gender identity” -- yet in March stood by an advisor who publicly outed a Brexit whistleblower.

As Jordan and Luca state, the plan is inadequate. “There’s still a long way to go.” LGBTQ activist Peter Tatchell echoed these thoughts, telling the Gay Times, “The biggest fail is the lack of any pledge to end the detention and deportation of LGBT+ refugees fleeing persecution in violently homophobic countries like Uganda, Iran, Russia, Egypt and Jamaica.” He also points out the lack of compensation giving to those who suffered under prior anti-gay laws. “They often lost their job, income and home. Many suffered mental breakdowns. Their lives were wrecked for decades. The government’s unwillingness to include compensation in its action plan is a huge let down.”

So, as usual, it falls to the community to keep pushing for change (and its allies, because the brunt of the fight shouldn’t just be borne by those marginalised). Which is why, in light of Instagram's censorship, Luca and Jordan are encouraging people to share their own same sex kisses. “We just thought we need a way to normalise this, and since Instagram was the catalyst for this news, lets use the platform for something good.” They admit it’s pretty tedious to be having to fight for this in 2018, but it’s evidently still necessary. “It’s important to be free to show love and intimacy in all of its guises, whether that’s a kiss or a pat on the head,” they conclude. “No one has the right to censor it.” So get snogging.