This month, countries around the world recognise the equality of those who identify under the LGBTQ+ umbrella in what is known as Pride Month. This is a snippet into my journey as someone who takes pride in being a young, gay man.
“Some people might say that I came out at quite a late age. I was 16, and in my first year of Sixth Form but up until that point I had really struggled to come to terms with my sexuality. It was something that I was aware of, but I constantly denied it to myself, and I know that a lot of other queer people face the same challenge no matter what their age. I think the thing that helped me was moving up to a more mature environment at college and being surrounded by peers and family members, especially my mum and brother, who were understanding and loving; they made me realise that it is perfectly OK to be who I am, and that I should never deny that.
Going on to university and being old enough to finally go to the LGBTQ+ bars, I was in a world that was completely new to me. Up until that point, my experiences had been limited to just gay and lesbian and not much else. It was amazing, surrounding myself and living with different cultures and making friends from all walks of the community really brought forward a notion of self-love and self-acceptance of my sexuality that I had not felt before; so much so it allowed me to come out to my quite masculine dad, someone who I was very scared to talk to about such things. But my worries were dismissed as he has been a very supporting figure and is always wanting to learn about what the right thing to say is and saying how things have changed since he was younger.
After university had finished, that is when the real world hit me! I was about to leave my comfort zone of friends and nights out at ‘The Scene’ and actually start adulting. One of the major things that does stand out to me when applying for jobs is the equalities form that asks you to put down the sexuality that you identify with. Now to some people that might not seem an important thing, but when I was looking for work to fund everything, I didn’t want something like that to be the difference; obviously, workplaces are not legally allowed to let this information influence decisions, but it is something that plays in the back of my mind whenever I see that checkbox. After I finally got my first ‘real’ job after uni, here at Wilberforce, I then had to deal with thoughts of how my colleagues would react. How would students react if they knew that their support assistant was gay? It is an external struggle that the LGBTQ+ community face on a daily basis, all that time spent on coming to terms with who I was seemed to come undone, and I was back in a place of doubting the way I presented to others. And those of you reading who have similar acceptance anxiety experiences will know what I mean when I say we are probably the best actors in the world when it comes to presenting as straight to be ‘accepted’ by peers.
In the first week or so of being at Wilberforce, that was all put to bed. The college staff and students couldn’t have been more accepting of who I am. This led to me being more comfortable in classrooms and the way in which I interacted with everyone, even gaining the nickname ‘Sassy Dan’… that could also have been because I worked with another member of staff called Dan and everyone needed a way to avoid confusion between us (although I think there’s a clear height and muscle different there anyway). Over my three years here I couldn’t have asked for a better set of people to work with; sexuality is never an issue here and we accept diversity in all forms.
As I have grown older the world has changed a lot and things, more so in the western world, have become a lot more inclusive and accepting towards those who identify as LGBTQ+. However, this post has been just a small insight into my own story – it still doesn’t mean that discrimination against our community doesn’t exist, because it does, whether in the form of small, ignorant digs or outright homophobic/transphobic attacks. For me, Pride month is something that should always exist as not only a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community throughout the world, but also as a reminder of those who have come before us and paved the way for us to be able to live in a more accepting world.
To anyone that has just sat and read this and feels confused about their sexuality/gender identity or is having self-acceptance issues, please know that (and this is going to sound very clichéd, but it’s true) you are perfectly normal (if there is such a thing). Being different to others is all part of life and what makes you yourself. Whether you are Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian, Transgender, Asexual, Polyamorous, Gender Fluid, Non-Binary… whatever you identify as you are welcome here at Wilberforce and I would encourage you to use this month to celebrate who you are.”