[Image description: open top bus with a large group of people dressed as film and TV characters and drag queens. One person is holding a sign saying 'Batman loves Robin']
Article and photo by Sophie
Coming out is weird. What’s weirder is then being in a relationship which people perceive as straight. Trying to come to terms with your feelings is hard and it shouldn’t be a big deal if you like guys, girls, both, neither or everyone in the spectrum.
For me, coming out wasn’t something that put my safety in jeopardy which I am incredibly thankful for which I feel privileged to say. Of course, that is only regarding the response of close family members and doesn’t apply to how other people around the world may view my way of loving people.
After learning different terms and teaching myself the difference between sexuality and gender I felt much more comfortable knowing I wasn’t alone in my feelings. As an anxious person I overthought my emotions and considered not having romantic engagements with anyone; realising I wasn’t straight; confused things even more for me. I followed people online and watched YouTube videos on people coming out for months before approaching a friend about what was going on in my head. Luckily, they had been through a similar thing so I wasn’t scared to tell them but it was nerve wracking saying it out loud. After that I told my mum whilst we were talking about a related topic and she was super cool with it and although I was more worried to tell my dad it went down pretty well with him too.
There was never a moment of me telling someone I liked girls and boys that made me feel in danger or ashamed and since becoming friends with a couple of very open people, who understood exactly what I was feeling made the whole thing became less of an admission and more of an announcement; something to be proud of. It did come with a certain amount of concern and sadness, however, as I kept seeing news stories of LGBTQ+ people being attacked in public and certain religious organisations preaching hatred. To this day I can’t understand why someone can hate someone else based on who they love and how they want to present themselves.
Nevertheless, I continued learning about the community I now felt part of as well as understanding my own mind and body more. I joined the LGBTQ+ support group at school, raised money for Educate and Celebrate, as well as teaching my family about the community and going to my first Pride in 2017. It was an amazing time, one which I will never forget. It was scary for my parents as they didn’t know if something bad was going to happen to us but luckily I didn’t see any protesters in London or felt at risk at any point. We had an incredible time and I loved embracing my gayness, which I didn’t fully feel like I could back home.
The months following my coming out in 2016 meshed into the rest of my future and I thought less about my identity being something to define and more about embracing me as a person. I experimented more with fashion and makeup as well as engaging with activism online. I went through a few crushes in this time which was still confusing (but more for the fact I was feeling things for people rather than “omg I fancy girls”). It wasn’t entirely received by family as something more than a strong friendship which angered me slightly but I’ve come to reflect on them learning alongside me. As time went on and feelings passed I started a relationship with a boy and this is where stuff seemed to get a tad more complex for me.
Since not having a proper relationship before this new step into life was scary as well as fun. The main thing that I noticed from it was that people kind of perceived me differently. My family was obviously engaging with it as this person became an important part of my life but they didn’t show the same engagement in the initial stages as to when I was discussing a girl. Likewise, in my own head there was a constant battle of ‘oh no, you don’t look gay enough’, ‘people will think you’re straight’, ‘all this understanding of your feelings are going to waste’ and oh man was it a rollercoaster.
There wasn’t a moment when I felt ashamed to be with a boy or that I wished he was a girl or anything like that but it was as if my identity was stripped away and I was purely viewed as straight in this heteronormative world. And I hated it. The fact that I could publicly show affection to my partner and not suffer a prejudice consequence because of it was another reality check I had with myself. I want to present myself as queer but it’s painful to know that I could be putting myself in danger. What with the recent horrific event in Camden of a lesbian couple being violently attacked for not kissing on the demand of a group of men shook me to the core. It’s disgusting that this behaviour still occurs and the oppressive nature of cisgender, heterosexual men visciously perpurtrates our society and it is entirely unacceptable.
I’ve become more vocal about these feelings since coming out of said relationship as I’ve had time to remind myself that I like more than one kind of person. With the influence of my partner not being entirely understanding of the LGBTQ+ community was also something that caused my insecurity to be heightened. He was open to learning though and I ensured I used accessible language for him to understand what the community is all about and how everything is a spectrum and what I may feel might not necessarily apply to another queer person. We went to Pride together in 2018 with one of my friends I went with the year before. I think this allowed him to see how important it is to be vocal about sexuality and although it didn’t spark complete understanding and empathy straight away it at least allowed him to see how important it is to be an ally.
I would say that my sexuality is one which is based on the connection I have with someone not necessarily what’s between their legs or their gender. This is something I felt like I had taken away from me when I was out holding hands with my partner or at parties together because although I would never want to uphold the stereotype of bisexuals being greedy or wanting threesomes all the time in a way it would have been easier because it would highlight to people that I don’t just like one kind of person. I would be bold enough to say that things were problematic but I didn’t feel entirely accepted in the relationship at points based on me liking girls as well. I stayed true to myself and since going through the breakup I’ve regained confidence in knowing that I’m not heterosexual and never have been.
I’m proud of my sexuality and the history behind getting the point we are now where I can freely tell people that I am gay. I will continue to be an advocate of teaching people about the LGBTQ+ community and the importance of acceptance and not profiting off of non-straight people, which is evident in companies during Pride month. The most vital piece of knowledge I can give is just not assuming people are straight because, despite significant developments in acceptance, a lot of us still view the world as heterosexual and that is largely not the case.
The following are some descriptions of just a handful of identities but please bear in mind that this is fluid and people can identify in whatever manner they wish so don’t take dictionary definitions as gospel (and man* and woman* are not cis-exclusive):
LGBTQ+ = an acronym for a community which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer. The plus represents the inclusion of all the other identities. Sometimes seen as LGBT/ LGBTQ/ LGBTQIAA
sexuality = the sexual/ romantic/ emotional/ spiritual attraction you have
gender = a social and cultural construct of what constitutes being a ‘man’ or ‘woman’ based on masculine or feminine characteristics perceived by society
gay = experiencing attraction to some members of the same gender. Commonly used to refer to homosexual men but is used as an umbrella term by people in the community
homosexual/ gay = a man who has sexual, romantic, physical and/ or spiritual attraction to other men
lesbian/ gay = a woman who has sexual, romantic, physical and/ or spiritual attraction to other women
bisexual = a person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical and/ or spiritual attraction to their own and other genders
pansexual = a person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical and/ or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities/ expressions
demisexual = a person with little or no capacity to experience sexual attraction until a strong romantic connection is formed
demiromantic = a person with little or no capacity to experience romantic attraction until a strong sexual connection is formed
asexual = a person who experiences little or no sexual attraction to others and/ or lack of interest in sexual relationships/ behaviour
aromantic = a person who experiences little to no romantic attraction to others and/ or lack of interest in romantic relationships/ behaviour
transgender = a person who is transitioning, or has transitioned, from living as one gender to another
non binary = a person who doesn’t abide by male or female presentation and feelings as
gender fluid = a gender identity best described as a mix of two traditional genders where they may feel more one way than another and fluctuates
agender = a person with little to no connection to the traditional system of gender
bigender = a person who fluctuates between traditionally gender-based behaviour and identities
gender queer = a gender identity label often used by people who do not identify within the binary of man/ woman.
gender non-conforming = a gender expression descriptor that indicates a non-traditional gender presentation. Identifies outside the gender binary
intersex = a term for the combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones and sexual organs and genitals that differs from the two expected patterns of male and female
questioning = an individual who/ time when someone is unsure about or exploring their own sexual orientation or gender identity
queer = an umbrella term to describe individuals who don’t identify as straight and/ or cisgender. Previously used as a derogatory slur but has been reclaimed by the community