Jack deplored humanity’s prejudices. Ever since he’d arrived on earth he’d noticed how intolerant its people were of anyone different from themselves. Never mind that they were all the same species, they didn’t see it that way. Earth’s population had divided itself into countless nations, each with its own language, customs, and often religion, and they despised each other for their differences.
That would have been bad enough, but to make matters worse, they all seemed to constantly be at war with each other over boundaries, beliefs, and disagreements over how each country governed its own population. Each one seemed to think that they were right while everybody else was wrong and should be forced to think, believe, behave, whatever, the same way they did.
It didn’t end there either. People were discriminated against because of their nationality, skin colour, religion, gender, and sexuality, among other things. In many places it was considered a punishable crime to love someone of the same gender. None of it made any sense to him at all.
In the place and time he came from, sexuality was considered as much a part of someone’s genetic makeup as the colour of their hair or the shape of their nose. Some people, both male and female, preferred women, some preferred men, while others had no preference at all. Sex changes were common and easy to obtain, and nobody was made to feel bad for being born with a body that didn’t match their gender identity. After all, if you didn’t like your nose you could have it surgically altered, so what was the big deal with having your whole body remade so that it was something you felt comfortable with? Nobody should be forced to live with physical traits that felt unnatural to them, no matter what they were.
Jack found it hard to imagine how such a narrow-minded race as humanity could have developed over a mere three thousand years into one of the least prejudiced races in the universe. Once out in space, humans had embraced the cultures they encountered on other worlds; relationships and even marriages between humans and members of other sentient species were an everyday occurrence by Jack’s time, and any number of individuals from any number of races could enter into a mutually agreed upon relationship without anyone batting an eye. One of Jack’s closest friends at the Time Agency Academy had left to marry three aliens, two other men, and four women, and the last he’d heard of the family, they were happily raising seven assorted kids together and running their own very successful business exporting luxury textiles. Everybody saw them as just another family, no different from any other, which was exactly what they were.
That wasn’t to say the wider universe of the future was completely free of prejudice. There were some planets whose inhabitants had a deep distrust of all other races, and wouldn’t allow any interaction between their own people and ‘inferior’ species for fear of ‘contamination’ of their racial purity. Despite that, Jack had noticed they were happy to import items made by those self same ‘inferior’ species, since their own people didn’t have the skills to create such luxury items themselves, or the resources to grow the foodstuffs they craved.
Nevertheless, despite certain sentient species being less open-minded than the colonists from earth, on the whole the universe of the future had very few prejudices compared to planet earth in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. All too often since his arrival on humanity’s home-world, Jack had found himself yearning for the freedom to love without fear of reprisal. So many times during the century and a half he’d been stuck on earth, he’d been forced to hide his relationship with this person of that, not for his own sake but for theirs. He hated sneaking around like that, hated not being able to proudly declare his feelings for someone he cared deeply about. It felt unnatural to hide love away like a dirty secret, but part of loving someone was making sure they didn’t come to any harm, and sometimes the only way to do that had been to pretend they barely new each other if they were seen together in public.
Progress had been made since those days, although to Jack it seemed to inch forwards like a drunken snail; three steps forwards, two back, then dither in place for a bit as if unsure of which way to go. For Jack it was maddeningly frustrating to live through, and yet even he had to admit that Britain in the early years of the twenty-first century was a lot less bigoted than it had been a few decades earlier. Perhaps for the first time on earth, he didn’t feel he needed to hide the fact that he was in a relationship with a man when they were out together in public, although Ianto was naturally more cautious than Jack, and less comfortable with what he called public displays of affection.
Sadly, even with Britain’s more enlightened attitude to same-sex relationships, that didn’t mean he and Ianto never had to deal with prejudice. Old habits died hard; ingrained intolerant attitudes were still proving hard to overcome, especially among the older generations and certain devoutly religious groups. More than once on dates he and Ianto had endured insulting remarks, been refused service, spat at, or even been threatened with bodily harm. Jack knew such incidents made Ianto uncomfortable, but the young Welshman was no shrinking violet. He always stood up for himself and spoke his mind, despite the embarrassment he felt at having attention drawn to the two of them. Ianto behaved in such a mature fashion most of the time that Jack often forgot just how young he really was.
After one such incident, when a group of yobs pelted them with rubble from a nearby demolition site, Ianto was quiet and withdrawn as they made their way home through the nighttime streets.
“It won’t always be like that,” Jack assured him. “In the future a lot of the prejudices people endure now no longer exist.”
“I know,” Ianto replied quietly, “but it’s like this now, and it’s not just us getting picked on. Thousands of people around the world are in the same boat, and in a lot of countries it’s so much worse than here. People get thrown in jail or even executed for the ‘crime’ of being in love! How can anyone ever think that’s right? Knowing that things will get better sometime in the future doesn’t help the people who are being discriminated against now!” He gave a frustrated sigh. “I know it’s unrealistic, but I want all those changes that are going to take place in the future to happen today.”
“Nothing wrong with wanting that.” Jack wrapped his arm around Ianto’s waist, tugging him close and pressing a kiss against his temple.
“I know that too,” Ianto said with a wry smile, leaning into Jack’s embrace. “It just doesn’t help anything. Change takes time, and some people are… resistant. Meanwhile, all these nasty, petty prejudices are causing pain and suffering to so many people and it makes me feel useless. I can protect the people of Cardiff, and sometimes further afield, from aliens and dangerous technology, but I can’t do anything to protect people from the hate thrown at them by their own species.”
“That’s not entirely true, you know. There are things you can do; be a positive role model, for instance, stand up to prejudice wherever you find it, speak out for the rights of all minorities and make yourself heard. You should be proud to be who you are and let other people see that. Don’t hide away, and don’t back down.”
“That’s not going to make much difference though.”
“Oh, but it will, because you’re not the only one, Ianto. There are thousands of people around the world doing the same things, and more are making themselves heard every day. This is still only the beginning, there’s a lot of work yet to be done, but you have an advantage over everyone else; you know the people of earth will get there eventually. No matter how hard it might be, it’s well worth being involved in the journey. In the end, love will always win over hate.”
Ianto was silent for a few minutes, deep in thought as they walked. Finally, he nudged his shoulder against Jack’s. “Let’s not go home just yet.”
“Okay. What d’you want to do?”
“How about we go down Churchill Way and mingle? Find a club, dance, have a drink or two…”
“Sounds like fun, we can definitely do that.”
“Good. I feel the need to be among like-minded people so I can recharge my ‘dealing with bigoted idiots’ batteries. Those yobs earlier dented my confidence a bit.”
“I noticed. Still, rather that than denting anything less resilient, like your head,” Jack teased. “Good thing they were too drunk to hit what they were aiming at.”
“Was it very bad of me to wish that a Weevil or two would show up and want to play?”
“Maybe just a little bad; wouldn’t want to inflict harm on the Weevil population when they’ve been behaving so well lately.”
Ianto snorted softly. “You’re right, we really wouldn’t want to disrupt the current Weevil harmony; it wouldn’t be fair on them,” Ianto agreed solemnly. “How about a small meteor instead? It would give the yobs something else to think about.”
This time it was Jack’s turn to snort with amusement. “Have them running around telling everyone the sky is falling?”
“Something like that.”
“Maybe if you ask the Rift very nicely it’ll oblige.” Jack grinned and winked. “I think it has a bit of a thing for you.”
“Bits of lots of things, in my experience. Usually broken in some way.”
Jack nodded. “Travel by Rift can be a bit rough on delicate machinery.”
“It’s not too gentle with living beings either; no wonder Weevils arrive cranky.” Ianto laced his fingers through Jack’s and tugged. “Come on, you, enough random talk; let’s go dancing, create some good memories tonight to replace that other thing.”
“I’m liking this plan! Lead the way, Mr Jones.”
Jack smiled to himself as they headed towards the bright lights of Cardiff’s gay clubs. If more people shared Ianto’s attitude, the battle against prejudice and intolerance would be half won already.