Allies or enemies? Harry’s unveil results of new study for Pride 2018

If you’re a straight man reading this it’s probably hard for you to imagine what being a gay man actually feels like. I’m not talking about what it feels like to be intimate with another man (a study conducted by the University of Quebec found that nearly half of all men have had same-sex fantasies so that’s unlikely to be entirely beyond your comprehension) but what it feels like to be treated, often on a daily basis, as though you are a freak, an outsider or a defective; to be bullied at school for a sexuality you probably haven’t come to terms with yourself; to be discriminated against, shamed or embarrassed in the workplace and threatened in the street for the way you walk, talk or carry a bag. Or to live in fear of publicly showing affection for the person you love just in case it results in an unscheduled visit to A&E. It’s probably hard for you to imagine having to select what clothes you wear for a night out based on how likely they are to trigger a homophobic attack. (A gay London barrister lost four front teeth last year simply for wearing bright orange brogues so that’s always a consideration.)

These things, though, are still the daily experience of many LGBTQ people across the world – and not just in countries famous for their intolerance towards the LGBTQ community like Russia, Jamaica and Iran – but in the U.S. and U.K. too. Yes, huge advances have been made in terms of LGBTQ rights in recent years (marriage equality is the most obvious example) but there’s still much work to be done, not just in terms of building upon hard-fought-for rights but, as politics becomes increasingly polarised, to ensure that those rights aren’t reversed by retrograde legislation or executive order.

It’s why ‘straight allies’ – heterosexuals who actively support the LGBTQ community – are crucial because that work can’t be done by LGBTQ people alone. Minorities have always needed the support of majorities in order to flourish. It’s an uncomfortable truth to many in the LGBTQ community, but it’s a truth nonetheless. And before you ask why you should bother offering support, bear in mind that it’s actually to everyone’s benefit. In my experience, the best and most prosperous societies tend to be those that harness the unique skills, talents and life experiences of all their members, embracing and utilising them for the good of everyone.

To discover the state of straight ally-dom in the U.K. grooming brand Harry’s commissioned pollsters Ipsos/MORI to survey over 2,000 British 16-75 year olds as part of their Pride campaign for 2018. Dubbed the ‘Proud Allies’ study once the data came in, it aimed to examine the relationship between the straight and LGBTQ communities and to explore what it means to be a straight ally in 2018. A slew of surveys appear around Pride ever year, focusing on the LGBTQ experience, but the Harry’s survey takes a different approach, looking at things from a different angle. And interesting reading it makes too.

In broad terms, the research reveals a majority of heterosexuals have embraced the idea of same-sex marriage, are unfazed by the prospect of a child coming out to them and are ready to leap to LGBTQ people’s defence in the face of homophobia in the street. A significant number even said they’d happily attend a Pride event if asked.

And although the news may sometimes seem full of stories about homophobia, prejudice and inequality the results of the survey offer a slight glimmer of hope and a more positive and optimistic view of straight people’s relationship with the LGBTQ community, with the vast majority of people already ‘instinctive allies’.

Especially encouraging was the response to a question about how people would react if a child came out to them. Coming out is never easy for an LGBTQ child – fear of a negative reaction often delays the decision and causes significant psychological pain – but encouragingly only 1 in 10 straight people said they’d be ‘disappointed’ if their child came out to them. One in five said they’d feel ‘trusted’ to be told, 18% say they’d be ‘proud’ and a similar amount said they’d actually be ‘happy’. Thankfully, and in a sign of how attitudes are changing, the least common reaction was ‘disgusted’ – a response expressed by just 2% of people. It’s often difficult for people to comprehend how any parent could actually be disgusted by their child’s sexuality but as any LGBTQ teenager who’s been thrown out of the family home because of their sexuality knows, it’s a response that’s all too real, even in 2018.

Also encouraging were straight people’s reactions to homophobia. A whopping 79% of people said they’d do something if they saw a member of he LGBTQ community being verbally abused in the street because of their sexuality, with over half saying they’d intervene directly to stop an attack. If true (and bear in mind with surveys there’s sometimes a gap between what people say they’d do and what they’d actually do) that’s pretty much ally-dom in action.

Of course, there’s still progress to be made. Although the study revealed that over 80% of straight people felt comfortable around lesbians and gays, slightly less were comfortable around bisexuals and the figure dropped significantly, to just 63%, when it came to transgender members of the community. The very fact that the survey included a question about feeling ‘comfortable’ around LGBTQ people at all is an indicator of quite how much work remains to be done.

What was also noticeable from the study was the gender divide. Although men do score pretty highly when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ community, women are still more likely to know someone who is LGBTQ; more likely to attend a Pride event if asked; more likely to support straight ally schemes in the workplace and more likely to respond positively to a child coming out as LGBT than men.

Education remains an issue too. Right across the board the survey revealed that the better the education the better the acceptance of LGBTQ people, echoing a controversial Australian study by the University of Queensland which highlighted a link between cognitive ability and attitudes towards LGBTQ people. Respondents with education to A-level, for example, aren’t just twice as likely to know someone who is openly LGBTQ than those with no formal qualifications, they’re also far more likely to be sympathetic towards issues that affect that community.

The study also revealed that there are improvements to be made in the workplace. While 73% of LGBTQ people think that more companies should have straight ally schemes to tackle homophobia, less than half (43%) of straight people think it’s a good idea. Encouragingly, however, that figure improves amongst younger people, with 56% of workers aged 16-34 saying ally schemes are a good idea.

For me, though, the most important finding from the study is also the most basic and glaringly obvious: that actually knowing someone from the LGBTQ community – whether as a friend, family member, colleague or neighbour – drastically increases the likelihood of you being supportive of them. Only 9% of people with close LGBTQ friends or family, for example, would have a negative reaction to a child coming out, whereas that number leaps to 17% amongst those who know no LGBTQ people. And knowing an LGBTQ person affected the results positively across the board. Familiarity, then, breeds not contempt, but acceptance, awareness and understanding. It’s a bit like sushi: when you have absolutely no experience of it it’s unfamiliar and scary but once you try it, it’s really no big deal (wasabi burn excepted).

Ally-dom, however, is a contentious issue in the LGBTQ community. There are those who say, with some justification, that straight people shouldn’t have to be nudged into being decent human beings.  Others sneer at ally-dom as nothing more than virtue signalling. There are some who don’t even want the support of people they view as enemies because of the life-changing homophobia they’ve encountered. Companies and celebrities that (rainbow) flag their straight ally credentials, meanwhile, regularly find themselves coming under friendly fire from the very community they’re hoping to reach out to. When an organisation is simply exploiting the community for commercial gain without contributing to it in any meaningful way that’s entirely justified but I worked closely with Harry’s on their Pride campaign and know that they are not one of those companies: their commitment and support for diversity is genuine and their activity around Pride well thought out and three-dimensional.

Truth is, every single company that rejects bigotry and casual homophobia is making a small contribution to a larger, greater goal, while every celebrity proclaiming support, however shallow or headline grabbing it may seem to the naysayers, is setting a positive example to millions of fans, many of whom will never have seen someone offering support to a member of the LGBTQ community. The ultimate goal, of course, is a world where people being different matters so little there’s actually no need for allies. We can but hope. In the meantime, though, every single one of them (and yes I’m looking at you here) is worth having on side.

So how do you actually be an ally? Well, that’s easy. You don’t have to deck yourself out in rainbow flag and join a Pride march (though the study did reveal that nearly a quarter of straight men would attend a Pride event if asked so feel free to – you’d be more than welcome). Instead, you just need to challenge stereotypes and homophobia and be supportive through deeds as well as words.

Don’t put up with ‘harmless’ homophobic banter in the workplace, locker room or in the street. Call out your kids if they use pejorative terms like ‘that’s so gay’ and don’t just be be woke – be real. Support your gay friends by offering trust, acceptance and empathy. Defend them against injustice, abuse and inequality in the same way you yourself would expect to be defended against those things. Be like the majority of men in the study who said they thought the best way to support LGBTQ people was to treat them the same as everybody else.

Most importantly of all, support your child if they come out to you as LGBTQ. Parents might not be an LGBTQ person’s first straight ally (that’s often a trusted friend at school) but in some respects they’re the most important allies of all because if the people who brought you into the world can’t be your ally who else is going to stand by you unconditionally? If you’re a parent your love and acceptance will shape the psychological wellbeing of your LGBTQ child for years to come. No, scrub that. Not for years: for life.

I began this post by pointing out how difficult it must be for a straight man to understand what it’s like to be a gay one – or, in actual fact, like any member of the LGBTQ community –  but in reality it’s not that big a leap of imagination: you just need to ask yourself whether you, your brother, sister, child or best friend would like to endure any of the horrific abuses I mentioned at the top of this piece and, if the answer is no, all you need to do is ensure that no member of the LGBTQ community endures them either.  That’s what it means to be a proud ally.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, it’s just Jean Paul Gaultier’s new Superman edition of Le Male Eaux Fraîche

gaultier-superman-1

The arrival of a new Limited Edition bottle of Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male Eaux Fraîche each spring is one I always eagerly anticipate – mainly because you never quite know what they’re going to do with the bottle next. This year, they’ve teamed up with DC Comics for a superhero theme, with Superman adorning the men’s fragrance and Wonder Woman emblazoned on Le Male’s female counterpart, Classique. As ever, it’s eye-catching, collectible and huge fun and is guaranteed to fly off the shelves:  Superman style.

Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male Eaux Fraiche will be available from March 27th priced £58 for 125ml Eau Fraîche Natural Spray.

GT Shopping: a one-stop destination for all your style and grooming gear

gt-shoppingWhen it comes to looking good and dressing well we all know that it’s all about the edit: about choosing just the right products for your skin, a fragrance that reflects your personality and clothes that suit your very personal sense of style. But with so much out there to choose from it’s sometimes difficult to know where to begin when picking out the perfect moisturiser, fragrance or new winter jacket. Which is where GT Shopping comes in handy. A new site in partnership with Gay Times Magazine, it helpfully points you in the direction of the very best fragrances, skincare products and grooming gadgets on the market (along with some of the most stylish menswear picks and a whole lot more)  so you don’t have to go trawling  the internet to find just the product you’re after.

gt-page-1A lot of the products I mention in my monthly male grooming column in GT can be found there but that’s just the tip of the iceberg and you don’t have to be a reader to use the site, though there is an option on there to subscribe to the mag and get regular (very useful) style updates if you wish.

So whether you’re looking the perfect new fragrance for yourself  (bottle of Tom Ford  For Men anyone?), something to wear for an upcoming party or are looking for the perfect gift for a loved one GT Shopping is the place to head. To see what’s on offer go to shopping.gaytimes.co.uk.

 

A Grooming Guru/Octer Sponsored Post

Take a voyage into darkness with Beaufort London’s Fathom V

fathom-v-1If there’s one thing that’s predictable about new launches from British fragrance house Beaufort London it’s their unpredictability. So, although the name of their latest creation, Fathom V, suggests something aquatic what’s delivered is far more unexpected  and intriguing.

Fathom V’s cleverness lies in its ability to take the concept of an aquatic fragrance and turn it on its head. Instead of following the bright and breezy, surf’s up approach that so many marine scents take, it plots an entirely different course, taking the wearer on a dark, foggy, Gothic adventure that conjures up images of dark, 17th century sea ports full of smugglers, ships with moss-covered hulls and illegally obtained barrels of spice. Sure, there’s a bitter sea saltiness to it but as a fragrance its predominantly earthy, mossy, green and aromatic in nature, with hints of crude oil, lilies and petrichor – the unique smell that rises off bone dry earthy soaked by rain. All in all it’s a delightfully complex, contradictory fragrance and one that I can imagine someone like Nick Cave wearing. For that reason alone I absolutely love it.

Fathom V is available now, priced £95 for 50ml eau de parfum, from beaufortlondon.com

 

NeoStrata Smooth Surface Daily Peel Pads: like time travel in a jar.

FullSizeRenderI’ve used scores of skincare products in the 16 years I’ve been writing about male grooming but in truth there are few that bring about quick, noticeable changes in skin texture and feel. So I’m always delighted when something – like these NeoStrata Smooth Surface Daily Peel Pads  – does. As well as featuring 10% glycolic acid, which helps remove dead skin cells and speeds up cell renewal, they also contain the patented ‘wrinkle-filling’ Aminofil which is essentially a combo of amino acids meant to support the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid – two other things which can help improve the overall look of skin. The pot itself comes with 36 dry pads which you drench with the glycolic solution they come with and then you simply wipe over your face (avoiding the delicate lip and eye area) each night after cleansing. For guys, unfamiliar with using cleansing pads to remove make-up as we are, this might initially seem an alien way to apply a product but you soon get used to it and it’s surprisingly satisfying.

In the past I’ve found that physical face scrubs – even the finest, most gentle ones – can irritate my skin so I’ve become a fan of chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid but it’s fair to say that not all have agreed with my skin. No such problems with this product though. Although the instructions point out that you may experience a brief tingling sensation on application (something that’s common when using Alpha Hydroxy Acid products, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin) I’ve yet to have any problems with these pads. Unlike some glycolic resurfacing products you don’t need to wash the face 20 minutes after using the neutralise it either which is a big plus. And although formulated for daily use I’ve found that two-three times a week is enough for me.

With cell turnover slowing down as we age anything that helps speed up the renewal process is a boon in my book and I’m happy to report that my skin hasn’t looked or felt this smooth since I was, oh, about 8 months old! Recommended.

 

 

John Varvatos turns things blue with brand new fragrance

JOHN VARVATOS ARTISAN BLUI’m a huge fan of the John Varvatos fragrances and it’s a real shame the designer doesn’t have the same kind of name recognition in the UK as he does over in the States because if he did I’m sure his fragrances would be much more popular than they are. They certainly deserve to be best sellers. The original John Varvatos Artisan fragrance is lovely (see a brief review of it here) and each successive addition to the collection, like Artisan Black and Artisan Acqua, have brought something new to the portfolio.

The latest addition, the limited edition, Artisan Blu, is all about bottling an aquatic, summery vibe so think Mediterranean herbs, summer flowers and the kind of crisp, clean wateriness that evokes summer hols and balmy evenings on the beach  – a very comforting thought as I write this on a cold and grey February afternoon believe me. As ever, the bottle, comes encased in a handcrafted rattan sleeve – in this case deep blue and, appropriately, reminiscent of fishermen’s nets.  One to put on your spring fragrance list for sure.

Top notes: Bergamot, Bitter Orange, Lavender, Chayote, Basil

Heart notes: Palmarosa, Clary Sage, Geranium, Iris, Orange Blossom Absolute

Base notes: Patchouli, cedarwood, parasol pine, tamarisk, pistachio tree resin

John Varvatos Artisan Blu is available from Debenhams from 1st April priced £49 for 75ml eau de toilette.