No two Gays about it: Celebrating our sexuality in different ways

First things first, I am gay. That is not how I usually introduce myself on a regular basis but I believe it is important when talking about LGBT+ topics. As I am sure anyone reading this is aware, it is not a choice, it is not anyone’s fault and it most definitely is not wrong. In fact, its just an aspect of what makes me, me.

What must be made clear however, is that being gay,bi, lesbian or transgender is not everything that makes someone themselves.  Being gay doesn’t mean I am not intelligent, funny or male. It doesn’t mean I like typically feminine things. Just like all women don’t follow the stereotypical female tropes, I don’t follow the gay stereotype, I dont use skin creams, I don’t wear make-up and I don’t like shopping. In fact, at first glance, you might not realise I am a homosexual. I am sure that after meeting me you might suspect I was but that is not to say that all gay people are easy to spot.  Just like you couldn’t tell who is a diabetic in a room full of people, you can’t always tell who is homosexual or bisexual in a room. Yes, some gay people define their complete identities around their sexuality because it is an important part of their life, and, after centuries of homosexuality being illegal and still being stigmatized by some, who can blame them.

However, being gay is not something that defines someone, they define what it means to be gay. Some people explicitly portray themselves as gay,bi or lesbian while others keep that part of them personal. I make no secret of my sexuality but I also don’t bring it up all the time. For me, my homosexuality is a small part of who I am, I am not ashamed by it, nor am I overly empowered by it, it is just a fact, I believe that in order to stop stigmatization of all forms of sexuality, we should stop Othering our sexuality from heterosexualism and instead normalise it, there is very little difference in any of them any way. We all love and want to be loved by someone after all.

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‘For Bettel or for Worse’: What the Same-Sex Marriage means for Luxembourg and the EU

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What better way is there to celebrate Luxembourg’s decision to legalise gay marriage in January than their Prime Minister Xavier Bettel marrying his partner Gauthier Destenay? Not only does the marriage hold true meaning to the couple but also to Luxembourg itself; officially authenticating same-sex marriage into the country’s political history for all time.

Their marriage also signifies a defining moment in the EU’s history as he has become the first serving leader in the European Union to marry a same-sex partner but he is not the first government leader to marry a same-sex partner (that commendation goes to Iceland’s Johanna Sigurdardottir.  Although Luxembourg is not the first EU country to legalise gay marriage, it is approximately tenth to do so, (the legalisation can become complicated with some countries accepting same-sex marriage abroad and others needing further legislation to be passed) this is a giant step for equal rights nonetheless, as Bettel claims ‘Luxembourg can set an example”.

The wedding also signifies a huge change in public attitude towards homosexuality as, although it was a private ceremony, they were greeted with acceptance by the public afterwards. However, it is not surprising that the public would be accepting as a poll in 2013 found that 83% of Luxembourgers supported gay marriage. Additionally, it suggests that the prejudice towards homosexuality is not as prevalent as it would have been a few decades ago where an openly gay man would never have been voted into leading a country let alone marry his partner.

Xavier Bettel has been open about his sexual orientation in the past , he believes that  “what happens at home remains private”  thereby normalising homosexuality as something that does not need to be constantly pointed out. Perhaps Bettel’s marriage will lead to a revolutionary change in homosexuality in politics and urge other countries to follow the lead and ultimately accept gay marriage as a legal practice after all Estonia’s Taavi Roivas was present. With a poll conducted in September 2012 finding only 34% of Estonians supported same-sex marriage and 46% supported registered partnerships, is it time for Estonia to finalise the bills to legalise gay marriage?  To conclude, Bettel’s latest tweet about his marriage sums up the reason for gay marriage perfectly; ‘We just have one life, live it’.

Taking the Bull-y by the Horns: Tackling Abuse in School

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We have all been bullied in our lives, whether it has been through being teasing, abusive language or actual physical attacks. As much as we wish that the world has changed, it hasn’t much altered in relation to the school playground. Children are still being bullied today. But bullying doesn’t stop there. The name calling stops but the scars left by it can remain for years after; bullying from our past may even affect us today.

In secondary school I was bullied by a group who found it funny to spit on me which led me to gain an anxiety towards saliva; I found it difficult to use the same straw as anyone else when sharing a drink. It took approximately 5 years to overcome this. Another bully I suffered from was more the traditional verbally abusive one who, after school, began dating a close friend of mine. He has no recollection or is simply unapologetic as to what he did to me for 3 years of my life. My friend and him are now engaged with one another which unfortunately has made our friendship slowly dissipate as I don’t feel comfortable being around him. Despite the bullying I suffered from, I was lucky that I was never picked on for my sexuality which so many have been and still are; approximately 25% of lesbian, gay and bisexual students and university employees have been harassed due to their sexual orientation. It is no surprise then that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth have a higher rate of suicide attempts than to heterosexual youth with such famous cases being of Jamey Rodemeyer and Jadin Bell and the creation of the It Gets Better Foundation. However, it is not just gay teens that have been bullied to the extent that they feel their only way out is to commit suicide for example Megan Meier and Amanda Toddboth took their own lives due to the amount of bullying they were subjected to online.

With almost 45,000 children talking to ChildLine about bullying last year and the fact that many children tend to suffer in silence, bullying in schools is a serious issue. It has only gotten worse since the introduction of anonymous messaging on internet sites such as ask.fm. Bullying is not just seen in the playground but on our phones and computers; there is little escape from the harassment. Figures claim that online bullying has risen by a startling 87 per cent in 2012 so it is essential that children know that they are never alone. Bullying may never cease to exist as it is only natural for humanity to set up a social hierarchy whereby those who bully others are top of the pyramid similar to the ideology behind Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Our culture is obsessed with power over others and violence is a primitive response to achieve it. Our only chance to stay strong, find ways to reduce the impact it has on us, remember that all of us have dealt with our own bullies and rejoice in the fact that we have overcome the ordeals they put through. And if we haven’t yet?  Promise ourselves we will be more successful in life than they will be and forgive them. The world already has too much hate in it to hold a grudge.

(Be aware that there are scenes of self-harm some people may find disturbing near the end)

Insert Part A into Slot B – A Queer Misconception

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A recent interview I read with Russell T. Davies discussing his new drama Cucumber made me realise the assumption that society holds over homosexual relationships; that of anal sex. Anal sex is difficult to discuss without people concerning themselves over it being too graphic or unprofessional. This is mainly to the fact that it is a taboo when in fact discussing it should be just as acceptable as ‘normal’ sex is; if not more important due to this stigma.

Anal sex is usually linked to male homosexuality and gay men are thought to come in two categories; those who are the ‘bottom’ and those who are the ‘top’. This is a lie. Not all gay men actually engage in anal at all, in fact approximately only 36% of men report receiving anal sex and 34% report giving it. It is a choice and studies have suggested that the gay men that do, do not engage in it on a regular basis. Unfortunately this fact is mostly obscured from the general public as to be able to differentiate between the heterosexual ‘Us’ and homosexual ‘Them’ leading many gay men to feel pressured into engaging with anal sex when they may not have done so without societal influence. In this sense gay men may feel coerced into pushing the boundaries as to what they themselves feel comfortable with.

Additionally, the dreaded question all gay men have come to accept; ‘Are you a top or bottom?’ not only suggests that all gay couples participate in anal sex but also furthers that assumption. Especially when many gay sexual relationships do not keep to designated ‘roles’. It is simply tactless to ask such a question; the equal question to a straight couple would be asking what positions they adopt in bed. Not only is it crude but is also tactless to ask such a personal question when first meeting someone. It is as if homosexual men should be comfortable to discuss their sex life with a complete stranger because, once again, the cultural stereotype of a gay man show them to be promiscuous animals who can only talk about sex. This is complete nonsense of course because if all they did talk about was sex then the stigma of gay sex would be non-existent. The question is the catch-22 of the Gay man’s world; straight people want to know about their position in bed but are disgusted to be given more detail than that.

The actual truth is that anal sex is not a gay thing at all; it is true that more gay men do have more of it than straight couples on average but, according to a report in America, 44% of straight men and 36% of straight women admitted to having tried it at least once in their lives. Anal sex is merely a sexual act which came to be associated with the homosexual lifestyle and just like some heterosexual couples do not enjoy the idea of it, the same can be said for gay men.

It is a fact that some people find the thought of two men engaging in anal sex disgusting and so it is possible to see why today the act is still rarely discussed despite the increase in straight couples trying it. Yet, it is essential that the taboo on ‘gay sex’ be lifted. The most dangerous thing about sexual activity is being unprepared and unaware of the risks, thus with no one discussing anal sex puts not only gay men but straight women at risk too.

Feeling as empty as my Closet: ‘Outing’ Post-Coming out Depression

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One subject that exists in the shadows of publicised LGBT issues is post-coming out depression. Perhaps, just like any other form of depression, it is thought that, by simply accepting its existence tempts the Gods to inflict you with it like a curse. However, the truth is with nearly a fifth of adults in the UK suffering from some form of anxiety or depression, it is a common mental illness that can be helped if we stop the stigma that is put upon it. If we did, the depression some feel after coming out might be better known.

It is always suggested by everyone that by coming out to your friends, family and colleagues you will feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders and I do not disagree with that but nobody mentions how you might also feel after. Coming out is a big change as well as an important writ of passage so it would be glib to suggest people won’t feel a little odd afterwards and this ‘oddness’ might cause them to become depressed. I for one naively believed that by coming out, my life would alter completely; I believed that I would instantly find a man with a body that would make Adonis jealous, I’d automatically be more funny, witty and confident in myself and I would be hosting wild soirees surrounded by other immediate gay and lesbian friends. Obviously this was not the case.

Despite the amazing support I received from everyone I told, I felt like my life was lacking something. Nothing had drastically changed and life continued the way it always had other than the sense of freedom I had gained from escaping the closet door. Yet, it was this freedom that had made me depressed. By being honest about my sexuality I had opened up the flood gates into a much more authentic yet vulnerable world that felt too vast compared to the safe bubble I had now physically popped with three words; ‘I like guys’. Since my expectations of coming out had been too high I started to see myself as a failure.  I entered a rather distressing state which led me to a place I would not wish upon anyone. I could not understand why, after coming out, I was still single. I had significantly altered my life yet still felt alone. Luckily, I found help before it was too late but it is saddening to know that others have taken their own lives because of the same problem.

I cannot express how important it is to know that although coming out is a major stepping stone to a better future for homosexuals and bisexuals; it is not an automatic change. Although not everyone will suffer from post-coming out depression, there is a small chance that someone will. Since coming out is such a big deal, after it has happened, there is a void where so much worry and stress had been and it can be filled with a sense of nothingness. You are not alone, let things come at their own time and the emptiness of closet with you outside it will fill once more with a sense of belonging and happiness as you adapt to your new surroundings as an openly gay man or woman. It might not lead to a new you but an honest you.

Gays vs. “Gals” – Recognising the Common Enemy

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It is interesting what a weekly gossip and catch-up session can uncover. Amongst the social hubbub of drowned out voices and the clattering of teacups found regularly in one of my favourite haunts; the Costa Café hidden inside Waterstones, a friendly discussion between myself and my close friend Bryony took place. The question, you may ask, was most likely one that very few would even think to consider. As a gay man and a straight woman (please ignore the cliché) we discussed which group had been more oppressed in Britain; the rape of one’s wife was once legal whereas homosexual men have been arrested and even killed for their sexuality and both still find derogatory terms used towards them and are generally treated differently than the dominant heterosexual man.

Of course this discussion was in jest but it remains a curious thing that we both felt the need to compare a form of sexuality against a gender instead of seeing the similarities in our oppression. After coming to a stalemate, we finally came to the agreement that we should not be discussing the oppression of different groups but instead uniting against a common enemy; patriarchal Britain. I must make it clear, I do not mean all heterosexual men form this hegemonic ideology against women and gays but that it is generally societal norms and conservative views continued from generations before which have led to the continued subjugation we argued about.

In fact, it is difficult to pinpoint certain forms of sexism and homophobia as you truly cannot put oneself in another’s shoes exactly unless, of course, you are both. Since I am a male who defines himself as a feminist, I was shocked to discover that there were certain sexist things that I had not picked up on which Bryony had opened my eyes to. One of these revelations was that female tennis players are discussed by the commentators for what they wear as well as their relationships with men (Eugenie Bouchard’s interview at the Australian Open this year about which celebrity she would like to date comes to mind).

Men (and women) are naïve to so many forms of sexism because we have grown up surrounded by it at all times and so can find it problematic to identify it. Similarly, homophobia can sometimes be dismissed easily as well because it can be left unnoticed or unchallenged; the most obvious example seen within schools is the word ‘gay’ being used for describing something as negative, wrong or simply as an insult. But how many people notice how the majority of homosexual men are stereotypically portrayed on television, if at all, or how homosexuality is described in rap music? With lyrics such as ‘You fags think it’s all a game’ and ‘so gay I can barely say it with a ‘straight’ face’ in Eminem’s ‘Rap God’ it is clear that homosexuality remains stigmatized. I don’t mean to accuse Eminem or the majority of rappers of homophobia but rather blame society for allowing the practice of using homosexuality in derogatory terms, which rap exemplifies due to its gritty style.

From a childish argument between two best friends, a rather serious issue of overall oppression from heterosexual patriarchy was revealed. It is too easy to remain self-indulged in how the groups we belong to have been oppressed in both the past and present but we must open our eyes to how others are also being oppressed, after all, we both want the same outcome; a society that treats us all as equals no matter our gender and sexuality. If we accepted the fact that heterosexual patriarchal Britain oppresses all then we can join together to destabilize a repressive, backwards view from infecting another generation. It has been over 200 years; don’t you think it is time for a change?

Harvey Milk Day

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With the elections for European parliament taking place, it seems that a number of people may not be aware that today is also Harvey Milk day in California. The day commemorates the Gay Rights activist Harvey Milk who persevered in being elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 after three unsuccessful attempts and has been penned as the first openly gay man elected to public office in a major city. Although today is not a state holiday in California the day is celebrated by schools as well as the gay community.

After being assassinated by a Dan White, disgruntled city supervisor, in November 1978, Milk is considered both an influential figure as well as a martyr for the gay rights movement in America, despite his limited time in office, having served only eleven months in political power. Since his sexual orientation was prone to hate crimes that were inadequately responded to by the police, Milk put a lot of importance on the sense of community especially in his neighbourhood; the Castro District. By opposing the closure of an elementary school in the area, Milk showed how a neighbourhood mainly derived of homosexuals had the potential to welcome everyone, as the closure would mostly have affected the heterosexual community in the area. In doing so, Milk helped in proving that all sexualities could exist in harmony as well as show that a gay man was just as willing and capable to campaign for a better society.

Nearing the end of his short political career, Milk made one of his most important messages which still echoes to this day. He emphasised the importance of making gay people more visible. He suggested that by doing so, years of discrimination and violence towards homosexuality could finally end. Milk hoped that ‘every professional gay will say ‘enough’, come forward and tell everybody…’ to prove that homosexuality surrounds all lifestyles and should be treated as something which does not affect one’s ability to work or maintain a sense of professionalism. Most importantly, Milk wanted to express how gay people are in essence no different to straight people and shouldn’t affect community spirit.

By attempting to change how gay people were perceived by society that made leading a homosexual lifestyle dangerous, and sponsoring a civil rights bill that outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation, Milk is a true hero that gave his life for an improved society, not only for the gay community but for the entire city. His courage in standing up for his cause and persistence in being voted into power is admirable despite the number of death threats he received and the loss of his boyfriends; Scott Smith and Jack Lira. These losses can be put down to Milk’s perseverance to succeed in politics. Milk never stopped believing in his dream of unity and neither shall we; let his actions never be forgotten by commemorating him on this day, every year, not just in California but worldwide.

For more information on Harvey Milk & Harvey Milk Day please visit the Harvey Milk Foundation