Someone does or says something that is grossly homophobic. Sometimes there’s outrage, sometimes there isn’t – either way there’s a number of people who remember that and the label “homophobe” is now attached to that person. A number of people, especially GBLT people, are not too pleased with them and will avoid them if possible.
Through a need to salve their conscience, improve their reputation or even (most incredibly rarely) a genuine need to be a better person, the homophobe asks how they can make it right. What do they have to do to no longer be considered a homophobe?
Well, your first problem is that people have different metrics – so don’t assume that just because you’ve pleased one GBLT person or organisation that everyone else is going to sign off on that.
But if you’re going to ask me what it would take for me to not consider you a bigot any more? Well, that’s going to vary from event to event but it would, at minimum, include:
An actual apology (not a non-pology or excuse and one that admits you are actually wrong. And an apology alone won’t even come close to me not considering you a bigot) that also doesn’t call your actions a “mistake”.
Not repeating your behaviour
Using any power you have to prove you have changed (politicians making pretty speeches but not actually changing policy or votes? Homophobes playing the PR game)
No appeals for “a second chance” or “trust” you are owed neither
Not profiting from your apology or your gestures of redemption
These are the beginning, the bare minimum, before I will even consider no longer thinking of you as a homophobe
But, y’know what? Sometimes I don’t have an answer. Sometimes I really can’t think of anything you can do. Or nothing you can do until an opportunity arises that may, indeed, never arise.
Yes, that means your homophobic words and deeds may have me and people like me deciding you’re a nasty bigot we want nothing to do with and there’s nothing you can do to change that.
This is not my problem. These are the consequences of your actions; if you are a bigot, people will treat you as and regard you as a bigot. And even if you want to change, no-one’s obliged to treat you differently until they’re satisfied that you deserve it – which may never happen. That’s not their fault. You are the one who showed your bigoted arse. People are treating you accordingly – no-one owes your forgiveness, no-one owes you an easy way out. No-one owes you ANY way out. You can ask how you can make it right – but sometimes you can’t, and if you can, it’s not my job to give you a plan on how to do that.
Here’s the thing, it’s not actually my job to pave the road to your redemption.
You’re the arsehole here. You, carelessly at best and wilfully at worst, displayed your bigoted arse for all to see.
You hurt people, those people are pissed at you – it’s not their job to forgive and forget just because you want them to. It’s not their job to trust you again. It’s not their job to play nicely with you. They don’t have to “forget” or “get over” what you’ve done. No, no matter how many “milestones” you think you’ve achieved or how much you’re congratulating yourself on the awesome progress you’ve made in not being an arsehole and not even if you have a full crowd of dancing supporters who are willing to sing your praises.
They forgive only when – and if – they want to and think they should. And if you ask “what will it take to be forgiven?” and get the answer “there’s nothing you can do.” Then so be it, you don’t get forgiven. I repeat this because it can’t be emphasised enough: it’s not actually my job to pave the road to your redemption. I have no duty to rehabilitate you, to repair your reputation, to sing your praises or to try and erase your misdeeds. I have no duty to help you to do any of those things for yourself either.
If I call you a homophobe, this isn’t me volunteering to be your personal life coach to be a better person, nor am I volunteering to be your PR manager to guide you on how to make all the criticism go away. I’m certainly not volunteering to approve your conscience-salving gestures.
You are not owed a step-by-step guide for being absolved of your bigotry. You’re not owed absolution at all. Sometimes you’re going to have to live with it, sometimes you’re going to have to accept that the evil shit you said/did is going to follow you for the rest of your days.
Deal with it. Because I have zero obligation to embrace a scorpion to give it a chance to prove to me it won’t sting me. Again.