Community Featured

Monkeypox: What is it and Why are Queer Men Being Blamed?

Is it time to start hoarding the loo rolls?

Over the past week, news that Monkeypox is starting to spread around Europe has reached the headlines. And, the majority of stories are connecting gay men with the spread of the virus, which has led to a rise in homophobia on social media and in public discourse. But, how much attention should we give Monkeypox? Should we be concerned or has COVID-19 made us hypersensitive?

Monkeypox symptoms from SAT news

Firstly, its important to mention that Monkeypox is not a new disease; it’s been around for decades (since 1958 to be exact). The first outbreak of the disease was found in Monkeys, hence its name. And. it first spread to humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a large portion of West Africa.

This is not the first time that Monkeypox has spread beyond Africa. In 2003, the disease which causes a unique skin rash made its way to the United States following the importing of rodents from Africa. The disease then spread to American pets and people. Thankfully all those infected made a full recovery.

So, what’s different this time? Although health professionals are not predicting a COVID-19 style pandemic, there are concerns about the speed in which Monkeypox is spreading. Dr Susan Hopkins, a chief medical adviser from the UK Security Agency (UKHSA) told BBC’s Sunday morning program that “we are detecting more cases on a daily basis.” She continued, “We know there’s been a period of restrictions across Europe, and we don’t know where this infection has come from and how it’s come into Europe. There’s no obvious connection in our cases in the UK to a single event.” There are clearly a lot of unanswered questions regarding the virus, despite it being known to health authorities for decades.

Despite uncertainty, health professionals are suggesting that Monkeypox will not be a major pandemic in the same way that COVID-19 engulfed society – due to the nature of the virus. Dr Michael Heard, from the University of Southampton, explains the “very low” threat on Sky News over the weekend, “Monkeypox requires very close contact to transmit, this can be via respiratory aerosols, often it’s also via skin-to-skin contact, so the very notable blisters and rashes you get as a skin presentation, you can transmit via touching those. So I think the sexual networks we’re seeing here, the transmission is taking place within those sexual networks, but it’s important we don’t stigmatise these communities but of course we do need to raise public health awareness.” Dr Heard is referring to queer men who seem to be contracting the virus disproportionally to others.

Monkeypox symptoms from SkyNews

Sadly, news that “gay men are spreading the virus” has been plastered all over social media, as well as news corporations. Slowly. Monkeypox is being attributed to being a ‘gay disease’, and is a result of promiscuity. “Again all men. Certain kind of men again, isn’t it?” – says one homophobic comment on a Guardian post. “What on earth are these men up to?” says another, using a sarcastic emoji. The homophobia stemming from these reports are haunting echoes of the AIDs crisis. So, it’s important that the public are educated on the origins of disease, and not scapegoating communities out of frustration and pandemic fatigue.

Since the reports, UKHSA has decided to take action, “We are particularly urging men who are gay and bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay if they have concerns. Please contact clinics ahead of your visit.” Although it’s true that queer men are the most infected group of people at this stage, it does not mean they are responsible for the virus itself. Health professionals and journalists need to separate sexuality with the act of sex. Sexual contact is spreading Monkeypox, not homosexuality.

Monkeypox rash
Monkeypox rash from Getty Images

However, for many people who are just recovering from the anxiety and panic of coronavirus, Monkeypox has triggered the general public. People are starting to get their lives back on track following COVID-19, so it’s inevitable that anxiety and fear is increasing over news of a potential endemic. Despite this, we have a duty to not act in fear, and to not give in to toxic scapegoating.

“Monkeypox is not a gay disease,” said the World Health Organisation, in response to rising discrimination. “It is unfortunate that this still needs to be said, highlighting how little we have learned from previous outbreaks. Stigmatizing groups of people because of a disease is never acceptable. It can be a barrier to ending an outbreak as it may prevent people from seeking care, and lead to undetected spread.”

Everyone is vulnerable to Monkeypox. We must tackle this virus together.

Community Featured

Jake Daniels: Blackpool Footballer Comes Out As Gay

Jake Daniels: “I’ve been hiding who I am”

It’s no secret that a large portion of football fans make the sport a toxic place for different minority communities. Over the past couple of years, the sport has faced intense backlash with its handling of racist comments on the pitchside and on social media. So, it’s no surprise that so few footballers have come out as gay.

Jake Daniels
Jake Daniels from

At just 17 years old, Jake Daniels, decided to take the plunge and come out to his friends, family and team in front of the nation. Jake, who plays for Blackpool, is the UK’s only openly gay active male professional footballer. Speaking to Sky Sports, he said, “You being you and being happy is what matters most.”

Since coming out, there has been an overwhelmingly positive reaction. The Premier League tweeted, “the footballing world is with you.” And Trevor Birch, the chief executive of the EFL said, “We hope that this moment helps take us forward to a time where LGBTQ+ representation at all levels of the men’s professional game is the norm.”

Although there is an overwhelming display of love and support in the initial days following the announcement, the biggest concern is that hate will bubble to the surface in the long term. Even though a professional footballer coming out is a big step in the right direction, its unfortunately not enough to change the minds of a fan base who are overtly discriminatory.

“Since I’ve come out to my family, my club and my team-mates, that period of overthinking everything – and the stress it created – has gone. It was impacting my mental health. Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally,” he said in a statement. “I have been thinking for a long time about how I want to do it, when I want to do it. I know now is the time. I am ready to be myself, be free and be confident with it all.” There is no denying that Jake’s coming out is a watershed moment.

Jake has been raised in the sport that he loves. Since the age of 7, he has been signed to Blackpool FC but has only recently signed a professional contract. And, in May of this year, Jake made his first-team debut. As Jake climbs the career ladder, there is hope that he will inspire a new generation of queer kids to take up the sport.

Jake Daniels
Jake Daniels from

“But off the pitch I’ve been hiding the real me and who I really am. I’ve known my whole life that I’m gay, and I now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself,” he mentions in an official statement on Blackpool FC’s website.

By coming out, Jake Daniel’s has braved the first step towards bringing about a more inclusive sport. Its sadly inevitable that Jake will have an uphill battle and will have to deal with homophobic abuse from the public and fans. Hopefully the support of the past few days will overshadow the negativity and will motivate others to come out.

“Now is the right time to do it,” says Jake – it sure is.