When you’ve been working on the internet long enough, you cease to be shocked by what online platforms will do to get a few thousand clicks. Someone “pouring” their curves into a string bikini? Sure. Women’s stomachs analysed for errant bulging, while journalists find 50 ways to scream “Is there a BABY in there?” It’s all old hat, at this point. Which is why, I suppose, they’ve started getting creative. People rapidly losing or gaining weight isn’t quite the draw it used to be, so we are turning to children’s games from the late 1980s to provide our outrage content.
“FINGER length may reveal a person’s sexuality, a study suggests,” The Sun reports. (Note: please be wary of anything claiming to be “a study”, especially if it’s only merely “suggesting” something, rather than proving it.) “People whose ring finger are the same length are more likely to be straight,” a helpful diagram explains. “Those whose ring and index fingers are different lengths are more likely to be gay.”
This is, apparently, to do with testosterone exposure in the womb, which is (according to some biologists) more likely to make a person gay. It’s actually a theory that has been kicking around for years, but has been thus far limited to Medium articles, short items in populist science magazines and seven-year-olds screaming, “You’ve got GAY HANDS!” at one another. Basically, no one has found a reason to take this theory seriously. In fact, it’s been found that a much more accurate way of discovering if someone is gay is by asking them if they are indeed gay.
It might be easier to roll your eyes and go, “Well, that’s The Sun for you!” if this stuff wasn’t actively harming LGBTQ+ youth, and if the suicide rate among queer adolescents wasn’t so terrifyingly high. Ultimately, every time a “lighthearted” story like this graces The Sun’s homepage, there’s a corresponding trickledown of children who are asked to show their hands to their classmates to see whether the theory is true. You are singled out if you “seem” gay, your hands then examined for the telltale signs of your supposed genetic abnormality. Your hands are either proof the theory works or proof the theory is bullshit, depending on what the playground has already determined of your sexuality.
It’s bizarre, really, because I remember these news stories coming out when I was a kid – I think most of us do. I had no real sense of who I was attracted to, but I still examined my hands, concerned that the pointer on my right hand was longer, but my left hand was level. What did this say about me?
We are told that bullying is all part and parcel of growing up, and then we are told that these kids are dying
“Every time there was a story like this in the news, I was forced to test it in front of my schoolmates by someone. On more than one occasion, I was then singled out as being a ‘batty boy’,” says writer Scott Bryan. “These moments stick in your mind, even years later.”
“This is literally a thing everyone said in school when I was young and it was hell,” says Rowan Ellis, The Pool’s own social-media manager and LGBTQ+ YouTuber.
When your identity is still forming, you are much more likely to believe what people tell you about yourself, rather than what you know about yourself. You read your horoscope fiendishly, looking for some shards of personality to grasp on to. You adopt hobbies so you have something to write in the “Write down your favourite hobbies!” space in your diary. And if you’re gay, you might find yourself in the position of having everyone telling you that you are gay before you have the emotional tools to come to it yourself. What does it feel like when, before you’ve had the chance to develop a relationship with someone, you’re clattered over the head with playground chants that tell you that who you are and how you feel is an abnormality to be singled out, examined and poked fun at? How does that affect the shape of your identity, before you have a chance to even figure out what that identity is?
There’s a tendency to think that when publications like the Daily Mail or The Sun use headlines like this that it’s ridiculous to even discuss them. “What your waist size says about you!” is gracing the Mail’s cover today and, honestly, I don’t have the patience or the sanity to even get into this paper’s Scarlett O’Hara-level concerns about 19th-century femininity and what pregnancy does to the female form. It doesn’t bother me any more, because I’m an adult woman who knows who she is, and that self-knowledge is firm enough for me not to extend it to my waist size. I’ve been alive long enough to not even see this shit any more, to the point where it barely even enters my radar. But queer kids don’t have that luxury. Queer kids don’t get to choose what they allow on their radar, because their radar is invaded every day when their peers come running up to them, screaming words they barely understand the meaning of. Trans kids are told they have a mental illness; gay kids are told its a “phase”; non-binary kids are told to shut up and pick a side. We are told that bullying is all part and parcel of growing up, and then we are told that these kids are dying.
Come for me, The Sun. I can take it! I can read every single gross article on your horrible website and still like myself at the end. Kids don’t have the same luxury.