There are a lot of campaigns that have an angle, that examine a specific part of being any and all things L,G,B,T and plus in 21st-century Britain. What is your relationship with your family like? How much better is it now compared to 50 years ago? How can we help people who do not enjoy good mental health? These all have their place. There are wrongs that need to be righted and things that need to be said.
LGBT+ History Month – otherwise known as February – is a time to campaign, but it is also a time to record. And there are as many stories about LGBT+ people as there are LGBT+ people to tell them. So we wanted to try something slightly different. We gave no theme, no stimulus. We did not try to create a targeted message. We asked people to say what they wanted. Uplifting, upsetting, direct or profound: what you read on these two pages are the messages that our writers wanted to share with you. Short though they be, we hope that these four articles prove thought provoking.
For my part, I find LGBT+ History Month to be oddly named. There is a lot of the past that needs to be shared in the present, particularly when it was originally hidden from view. But we are still living in LGBT+ history. It has become almost trite to remark that much still needs to be done to advance rights for LGBT+ people, but that is because it is very true. Gay marriage was a prominent example of immense progress, yet it is often in the smaller things – the often still-hidden things – that we need to affect change. It is within families, on playgrounds, in bars and at office desks that the progressive spirit of much of what is now law must be felt.
The heightened prevalence of depression, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide among LGBT+ people – and particularly among transgender people – speaks of a community that is often ill at ease with itself and of people who do not like who they are. This would not be the case in a world where sexuality and gender were not the divisive issues that they very much can be. LGBT+ history is happening now, and it is still largely hidden. It is what makes this month an eclectic mix of looking forward and looking back, of celebration and introspection.
That said, one should never forget to celebrate. People are increasingly uninterested in the sexuality and gender of others. And in instances where they are, it is in an ever-more supportive way. LGBT+ people are visible to an extent that would have been unthinkable even when I was born, and it is fitting that we remember those who have done so much to create the world as it is today.
Events such as pride marches make queerness fun. Media personalities such as Sandi Toksvig, Tom Ford and Laverne Cox provide inspiration and assurance for people far from metropolitan laissez-faire. And the arrival of Pope Francis at the Vatican has forced cracks, however small, in the age-old and otherwise adamantine conservatism of the Catholic Church.
Change can come slowly or it can come quickly; it doesn’t always come when we expect it. And each LGBT+ History Month, I remind myself that a stonking good knees up can often be the best way to make it happen.
When Tom Daley came out via a YouTube video in 2013, a lot of the comments I saw on social media were along the lines of: “It’s 2013: why is this news?” This reaction wasn’t unique to Daley. The same question is still asked even two years later, and I can’t help wondering why people view coming out stories as being behind the times.
Before I came out to my family and friends I spent hours on YouTube watching other people sharing their coming out experiences. Seeing people I could relate to, speaking about things I was worried about and feelings I was experiencing was a huge comfort in a time where I really needed the reassurance.
Coming out is often so much more than telling your friends and family about your sexuality or gender. It’s about accepting yourself, and coming to a point where you feel safe and relaxed enough to share a part of your identity with other people whom you may have felt inclined to hide it from before. Coming out can be a very freeing experience, but it can also be incredibly scary. That’s something that shouldn’t be looked at lightly.
So don’t diminish coming out stories. They may seem unnecessary to some people, but they could reach people going through the same thing in an environment that is unsafe or unstable. They offer a huge comfort, a message of “you’re not alone”. It may be 2015, but the world is still a very turbulent place for the LGBT+ community and many people aren’t in environments where they feel safe to fully be themselves. Celebrate coming out stories, support them and keep spreading them. You never know who they’re going to reach.
People act like discovering your sexuality is just a sudden realisation. They act like coming out is a one-time thing. Maybe for some people, that’s the case – but not for me. I realised I was asexual at 15 and realised I definitely still wanted non-sexual romantic relationships not much after that. Two and a half years later, I learned I wasn’t all that picky on the gender of said romantic partner. And I’m still not sure I’m done learning.
My coming out has been similar: constant and on-going. It’s not a matter of saying it once and it being over with: every time you meet a new person and sexuality comes up, you come out all over again. My best friend found out about my sexual orientation as I did; we’ve always been the type to share every observation. My sister I told, the rest of my family worked it out – slowly, and not entirely.
It’d be easier, I guess, if I had a specific and well-known label I could slap onto myself. If coming out didn’t involve explaining what “asexual” even means, and then muddling through the explanation of my romantic orientation. But if I’m right, if it’s a learning curve, then I’ll get there in the end.
As gay people, we go through a lot. All of us have experienced some sort of adversity in our lives. A great deal of us will have been bullied in the past for who we are, and for some, even coming out to those that we love the most will have been a hard thing to go through. I don’t think people realize just how strong and brave we really are.
Luckily for me, my friends and family couldn’t have been more accepting; but I have been bullied in the past. I walk with quite a bit of sass as many of my friends will tell you. However, there is always still a part inside of me that worries. It is a part that is constantly aware of who is around me. Are there people who are going to say something? It is hard to always feel like you have to be on guard; yet I still carry on with my head held high, strutting my stuff each day.
I do this because the gay community inspires me to. It has taught me not to care what other people think. The immense sense of pride within me gives me the fight to embrace who I am and carry on as the camp, flamboyant and fierce boy that I am. It is something that I have learnt to do as I’ve got older, and it is because of those that are LGBT+. We are a group of people that are strong and resilient. Through hardship, we persevere, and I am truly proud of all of us – and proud to say that I am gay.