Time for the Swiss to stand up to hate

January 28, 2020, 2 Comments

Image from

I’m often asked what’s it’s like to be a gay man living in Switzerland. My usual answer is it’s not Holland but luckily it’s not Russia. In America, I changed this to it’s not Massachusetts but luckily not Alabama. In other words, it’s ok but it could be better.

Switzerland is a tolerant place but toleration isn’t enough. Hate exists here the same as everywhere. And that too is tolerated until the people say otherwise. I know from experience.

I’ve been verbally abused in the street and in shops, on social media and by email, all for being gay. I’ve been told I should be deported and castrated (possibly he meant the other way around). I’ve been asked to ‘leave my sexuality’ at home when giving a talk. I’ve been told I shouldn’t mention my boyfriend when speaking in public. I’ve even had a customer demand a refund on my book once she realised it was written by ‘one of those people’.

So yes, it could be better. Tolerance can evolve into acceptance, and one step towards that is for the Swiss to vote Yes on 9 February. Yes to accepting parliament’s decision to include sexual orientation in Swiss law on discrimination. Current anti-racism legislation only covers race, religion and ethnicity. Time for that to change.

The new legislation was challenged by right-wing parties, saying it was an attack on freedom of speech, and they collected the 50,000 signatures needed to trigger a referendum. Swiss voters now have the final say.

Should a hotel owner be allowed to refuse a gay couple a room? They can’t refuse customers who are black or Jewish, as that’s against the law. But currently it’s ok to do so if they’re gay. The same goes for saying (in public) that gay men can be treated by being beaten up; that would be a no-go if you were talking about a racial or religious minority.

Yes it’s a minority with such views but it’s a minority that knows it can say or do what it wants because society lets it happen. That can change when the law protects everyone equally. It doesn’t mean that hate or homophobia in Switzerland will vanish, but it might mean I can hold hands in public again. We stopped because we got fed up with the comments and stares (thankfully never more than that, though that happens here too, sadly).

In Switzerland I can’t get married and I can’t give blood. But I should at least be protected from discrimination in everyday life. That isn’t too much to ask.

2 Comments on "Time for the Swiss to stand up to hate"

  1. Sandra Thursday January 30th, 2020 at 12:41 PM · Reply

    Let’s hope Swiss people will emulate Australians who voted overwhelmingly in favour of same sex marriage in December 2017!

  2. Ribbon Thursday September 10th, 2020 at 02:53 PM · Reply

    As a swiss, I am proud that we made that first step succesfully (though not that it took us this long) and hope that this peaves the way for even larger decisions, such as gay marriage and even the right to adopt as a gay, male couple (I think with female couples it’s already a possibility).

Leave a Comment