I recently took part in Tough Mudder, which is a “10-12 mile mud and obstacle course designed to drag you out of your comfort zone by testing your physical strength, stamina, and mental grit”.
Apparently though, it is not for Gays or Girls.
If trying to reach a remote field in the Oxfordshire countryside from London on a Sunday morning with rail engineering works going on, all before 8:30am and caffeine wasn’t traumatic enough, then the rude Sunday morning wake up call from the lycra-clad, bearded, muscular walking groins was.
Now maybe i’ve just lived in London too long and surrounded myself with liberal, snowflakey, Labour-voting, friends in a bubble of love and acceptance to even notice there is an alternative or perhaps outside of this bubble, anger and toxic masculinity are rife.
During the warm up for this muddy, sporting event there were two instructors serving warm-up exercises, blended with the occasional inappropriate joke and a dash of offence. Category is: Eric Prydz ‘Call on me’ with sexual harassment and homophobic humour.
There were two instructors, the first was bordering on ok, making us do a few awkward hip thrusts, sexual posturing, lip licking and prolonged eye contact with other contestants, but the sheer awkwardness was kind of funny. The second instructor (we’ll call him Oaf) was just offensive.
Oaf made a few jokes about how ‘this is probably the only time you can get to touch someone this way and get away with it’. There were camp, feminine hand movements all over the show. High-pitched voices and extra weight added to the ’S’ sound while talking, to make it absolutely clear he was trying to be feminine. Just to clarify; I am not describing a Carry On sketch. I thought It wasn’t just homophobic but also misogynistic; what is funny about femininity? Why mock anything feminine let alone a feminine acting man?
As part of the warm up, there was also a sort of comedy club routine where Oaf would call out people from the crowd, ask them where they came from, make a joke about how shit their town was etc etc, But then he called a man out in the audience, asked him who he had brought along for support, to which the gentleman responded ‘my girlfriend’. ‘What’s that?, your boyfriend?’ Oaf countered, which got a slight giggle from the audience…Just to clarify; we weren’t in a playground, this wasn’t 1991 and this was a field full of adults.
I just could not wrap my head around how this was funny, like where was the humour in a same-sex relationship? What is funny about two men together? Now I know, the classic knee jerk response would be along the lines of; ‘it was only banter, said in jest, meant no harm etc’ we’ve heard it all before, but in the absence of equality for LGBT people in the eyes of the law, even active discrimination and death sentences in some parts of the world; making an example of LGBT people to be the object of ridicule is anything but funny. Would it have been funny if Oaf had joked about his black or jewish partner? No, it bloody well wouldn’t have and quite rightly so!
Continuing the ‘comedy’ routine, Oaf then moved on to point out another man in the audience for kneeling down and how he’s ‘probably used to that’. Brilliant. Comedy. Gold. Again, I couldn’t see what was funny about a blowjob or perhaps it takes a less refined sense of humour, akin to fart jokes to see humour in the humble BJ.
Throughout the day, I didn’t once hear a woman; straight, Lesbian or otherwise find humour in going down on each other, fingering each other or sexually harassing male contestants and come to think of it, I don’t think I ever have in my life. But this is behaviour we readily accept from men, wrongly so. It’s about time we start calling it out, not only for the benefit of the female population but also the males too!
After the warm up, I completed the course, which was exhilarating and pretty much got on with my life, but I could not shake this feeling that something wasn’t right or shirk this feeling of responsibility to speak up and say something. So, I wrote an email explaining my grievance to Tough Mudder and to their credit, they responded saying my complaint had been escalated to a senior complaints handler (final response still pending).
The fact is that: LGBT people disproportionately suffer with mental health issues than non-LGBT people and this kind of humour and behaviour is one of the main culprits.
- LGBT+ people are at more risk of suicidal behaviour and self-harm than non-LGBT+ people.
- Gay and bisexual men are four times more likely to attempt suicide across their lifetime than the rest of the population.
- LGBT+ people are 11⁄2 times more likely to develop depression and anxiety compared to the rest of the population.
I know for a fact that I wasn’t the only Gay man in the audience that day and if I didn’t say anything, then I would feel invisible and that I didn’t matter. That we didn’t matter. Visibility of all types of gay people is the only way our community can break free of the shackles of heteronormativity. Until we all come out as our true, authentic selves and stop bounding round terms such as ‘straight acting’ and ’no fems’ and holding this notion of hyper masculinity up as the holy grail, can we ever be in a position of equality with our allies and make the LGBT mental health stats more on par with non-LGBT. In a society where 75% of suicide is male, it is not time to ‘man up’ but to ‘fix up’ and leave gender out of it. https://www.thecalmzone.net/help/get-help/suicide/