TV Personality and Campaigner
For many gay men and women, being abused for the way they are is their normality. That is no longer good enough in 2019, argues TOWIE’s Bobby Norris.
For Bobby Norris, an openly gay 32-year-old man and a star of ITV’s reality show, ‘The Only Way Is Essex’, homophobic abuse is part and parcel of everyday life.
Receiving both online and offline attacks purely due to his sexuality is normal for Bobby, with online trolls often describing how they’d like to kill him.
“I’ve been sent death threats, really graphic stuff. People saying they’re going to stab me with an eight-inch machete or an 11-inch machete. I don’t know why they’re so obsessed with inches!”
Despite his playful tone (perhaps a coping mechanism to dampen the effects of such vile abuse), Bobby knows that, for those less well supported or able to cope, being singled out for your sexuality can have a devastating effect on both the individual and those close to them.
That’s why he’s trying to ensure that, in future, the law will protect victims of similar abuse.
His online petition to make online homophobic abuse a criminal offence has now reached over 150,000 signatures, meaning parliament will now debate what’s been dubbed ‘Bobby’s Bill’ on the 1st of July and have the opportunity to enshrine it in law.
Why online abuse is a grey area, I don’t know. So much of our lives are spent online now – and frankly our laws need to reflect that.
Helping parents of homophobic abuse victims
After receiving messages from parents whose children had either taken their own lives or come close to doing so because of the online homophobic abuse they’d been subjected to, Bobby asked himself what he could do given the platform and voice his fame affords him.
“Because I’m 32, when I do get abused on the street for walking around with a Louis Vuitton handbag or whatever, it ain’t my first rodeo in terms of getting homophobic abuse. I’ve been through it before.”
“But some don’t have that experience on their side. People get to thinking there is no way out; that they’re alone and isolated. I don’t think it’s fair that people go through that. That’s why I’ve campaigned and spoken out against it and why change has to happen.”
Policing online abuse shouldn’t be that hard
At present, attacks due so someone’s sexuality can be dealt with by police if they occur at home, at school or in the workplace.
However, the online abuse that’s so common with social media playing an increasingly prominent role in our lives, is much harder to deal with, meaning people often suffer in silence.
Bobby can’t understand why any right-thinking MP wouldn’t vote in favour of making the proposed change.
“Why online abuse is a grey area, I don’t know. So much of our lives are spent online now – and frankly our laws need to reflect that.”
“If I was to walk down Oxford Street and threaten to kill someone, you’d expect that to be investigated, wouldn’t you?”
It’s hard to escape messages on your phone
Bobby knows that our phones and social media can be a huge force for good, but they also mean that going home is no longer an escape from those looking to inflict harm.
The message to the trolls from Bobby is clear. Change is coming and he won’t stop until he feels people are adequately protected.
“Ironically, the abuse I’ve received has intensified since I started the petition. I think the trolls know this is their last roll of the dice.”
His advice to those either suffering themselves or those who are close to someone who’s been targeted? Don’t accept being alone in your struggle.
“Anyone out there who is going through that online abuse: speak about it. Whether it’s a mate, your parents. Speak to someone. You’re so not alone! So many people go through that same self-doubt you’re feeling, but it can get better. Keep being proud of who you are.”
You can sign ‘Bobby’s Bill’ at petition.parliament.uk