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.

Movie Review: ‘Pride

8/10

Pride is a British ‘dramedy’ written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus. It depicts the true story of a group of lesbian and gay activists from London calling themselves L.G.S.M (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) who helped raise money for the families affected by the miners’ strike in 1984 during the reign of Thatcher’s government. Due to the National Union of Mineworkers’ worry of being associated with homosexuality L.G.S.M decide to go straight to the source and offer their donations to a random mining village in Wales; the Dulais Valley. With no idea how the locals will react in such a small, isolated village, L.G.S.M are invited to its town hall which results in an unlikely alliance between two oppressed groups during Thatcher’s time in power.

In honesty, I was hesitant to watch the socio-political and historical feel good film due to the fact that a number of similar films share a depressing tone focussing heavily on the negative circumstances surrounding homosexuality such as the homophobic brutality that took place in the streets. However, I was glad and very relieved to discover that Pride concentrates largely on the positivity of how two minorities can work together to attempt to oppose the government’s regressive actions. Although, it did contain some emotional scenes which aided in presenting the spectrum of public opinion at the time, it did so without losing its uplifting vibe. Similar to many of its peers though, the film is based on a part of history that very few people are aware of to do with the mining strikes of 1984 (my parents are both Welsh and come from the same area and had no idea about L.G.S.M’s influence on the area). However, what makes Pride such a must-see film is that it does not simply stop at informing the public of a group of forgotten heroes but attempts to change the public perception that is held over a very dark decade of British history as well.

I must make clear that the film is not only for homosexuals (or the Welsh); it is a film that can be enjoyed by straight people as well. It delves deeper than merely a movie about homosexuality; it explores several themes such as acceptance, community and struggle. Obviously it is these three themes give the L.G.S.M and the small Welsh village its similarities which help them accept each other.

With a plethora of celebrity actors merging with a number of lesser known actors such as Bill Nighy and Andrew Scott, Pride is not entirely a roar with laughter film but the audience will find themselves beaming from ear to ear throughout with, as the name suggests, pride.

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Gay Rights: The Forgotten Movement

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Let’s face it, the British education system could be worse, granted we have had some ‘interesting’ characters attempting to ‘improve’ it but in all honesty the average person on the street would make more an improvement than Gove ever did. In fact, here’s something I think would be worth adding to a specification in education – I call it the forgotten movement.

We are taught two major equal rights movements in school; Black Civil Rights and Women’s suffrage in the early 20th century. We are encouraged to remember those who struggled to achieve them such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Emily Pankhurst but one such movement that is denied much exposure is the Gay rights movement.  Are we to assume that people who fought for gay equality such as Harvey Milk and the Wolfenden Committee (a group I am certain a number of us have never even heard about) are not as important as the names we can all recall from our history classes? 

I must make clear that I do not believe that teachers are to blame for this overlook as I am perfectly aware that they already have a tough enough job being expected to teach troublemaking students and dealing with irate parents who do not understand that teachers cannot be blamed for their children skipping school and getting bad grades. I blame the education sector itself! Perhaps it is due to Thatcher’s introduction of Section 28 in Britain which banned the teaching of homosexuality in fear of promoting it in 1986 until its long needed abolishment in 2003 which has left a gap in the education sector. However, can we truly accept that such a major movement is still being ignored in all history specifications for over a decade now? With the upcoming release of Warchus’ Pride this year, could there soon be a change to this in the classroom?

Organizations such as Stonewall seem to have been just that; ‘Stonewalled’ out of children’s education and instead they have, under Gove’s ruling, been indoctrinated into the Church of England through the introduction of King James Bibles throughout British schools. It seems to me that rather than children becoming ‘corrupted’ for learning about homosexual liberal rights they have been forced to accept religious doctrine in school. The smell of hypocrisy is stagnant.

Shouldn’t we be enforcing equal rights in school? It is no wonder so many people remain in the closet for so long. Just because homosexuality is not as obvious to see as skin colour or gender does not mean it is not just as important. In fact, it is quite significant because of the fact that it can’t be seen. We can’t allow our children to grow up the repressed and naïve way we did. We all know someone in school that was bullied for being different, some of us even were that kid so surely the possibility to educate kids about what it means to be gay and what homosexuals have fought for in order to prevent just one kid from being verbally abused with homophobic slurs is worth the change.

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.