Members of the Leeds LGBTQ community talked to Features Editor Brigitte Phillips about living with their identities, and the misunderstandings and misrepresentations that come with it.
And I can assure you that when your mother sits you down and tells you that you are sick, you need help, you are ruining her life and all of your achievements mean nothing to her, it hurts just as much whether you are gay or bi or any other gender or sexual minority.
If it wasn’t for persecution about my sexuality I wouldn’t be studying this degree, and I certainly wouldn’t be in Leeds. It’s strange for me to think about, that out of something negative has come something so positive. If you’d have asked me 12 months ago what the future had in store for me, I’d have told you I expected unhappiness, disappointment and, if I’m honest, probably a short end. Now I’m in a new country surrounded by people I love being around, I’m on my dream course and I have the best boyfriend in the world. For those who are unaware – living in Northern Ireland as any type of social ‘abnormality’ is pretty uncomfortable. It’s a society where less than 1/5 of our politicians are women, where abortion and same sex marriage are still illegal, and where our ministers deny evolution and climate change. It’s pretty backwards. So, as a young bisexual, things weren’t great from the off. Our First Minister’s wife denounced same sex relationships as worse than beastiality and there weren’t exactly an abundance of role models out there to look up to, especially not as a politically active person. So I began to gain a hunger to change that, and an interest in improving society for everyone. This is arguably where my interest in politics started, and my desire to reside in Northern Ireland ended. Whilst publicly using my role as a Member of Youth Parliament to lobby vocally on LGBTQ rights, I was dealing with the delicate issue of privately telling my friends and family I was bisexual. To all those who deride bi as being a ‘stepping stone’ or a coward’s way of coming out as gay, I can tell you that you are wrong. Your breathing is just as ragged, your palms just as sweaty, your heart just as worked up. And I can assure you that when your mother sits you down and tells you that you are sick, you need help, you are ruining her life and all of your achievements mean nothing to her, it hurts just as much whether you are gay or bi or any other gender or sexual minority. There is no ‘easy way’ to come out. And it’s little wonder that so many LGBTQ teens suffer from depression, as I do, or other mental illness. I also found backlash from an unexpected group – the LGBTQ community themselves. I had heard all the jokes – greedy, indecisive, the list goes on – but the dirty looks and dwindling friendships told me it might not have been all just jokes after all. I implore you all to not forget your bi friends in the struggle for LGBTQ rights. As a community we face unique difficulties and rampant misinformation. I’m okay, I survived, and I wear my battle scars on the inside as war paint in my fight to change to world. Many aren’t, and in this month we remember and we salute them. May they never be forgotten.
Photographs: Sam Broadley and Ruby Lott-Lavigna