“LGBT people have to work harder to be listened to, have to work harder to get anything done and that is a sad fact of life as it stands”

An old Stonewall campaign (C) STONEWALL

I have not been the greatest member of the LGBT community.

When I was in my teens and early 20s, I was privileged to be in very liberal environments. I went to a high school where I was the only out gay person and my degree was in the creative field. I was surrounded by like-minded and open-minded people. This led me to believe that talks of microaggressions and homophobia were exaggerated. I even wrote articles against allowing gay marriage in churches, questioning Pride parades and deriding camp men. I look back on that time with great regret and shame as, now I am older, I have actually studied LGBT history. I understand the plight of LGBT people around the World. And, on an increasing scale, I have myself felt the effects of subtle homophobia and microaggressions.

It is difficult sometimes to try and decipher if how you are being treated is because of how you are acting or because of who you are. I often wonder if becoming more “woke” has made me hyper-alert, like I am deliberately seeking it out. I have experienced frequently in my work life, moments where I have felt dismissed. I have been told I am “emotional”, told to stop being “a diva” or called “sensitive”. Yet, I have seen straight male colleagues be treated completely different. I have never once seen two straight male colleagues have a heated debate and either of them be called “emotional” or a “diva”. I remember having a heated discussion with a senior manager at one company I worked at and I was providing him with perfectly logical information. He was having none of it, kept telling me I needed to “chill” and stop being so “sensitive”. I eventually phoned a colleague and explained what had gone on and then, when he arrived back to the office, I stood and watched him explain the exact same points to the senior manager that I had raised, who then wholeheartedly agreed and went ahead as I had advised!

But here lies the problem; is it my approach or my sexuality? Nobody I’ve ever worked with in my entire work life has ever outwardly expressed homophobia. I have never been made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Yet, I have frequently found myself turned down for promotion, talked down to, dismissed and patronised. I am a very passionate person and, when I care about an issue, I express that strongly but I have seen other straight colleagues behave in a similar manner and they don’t receive the admonishment I do. I remember once having a conversation with a friend who said they felt LGBT people have a ‘chip on their shoulder’. It was a point, many years ago, I would’ve agreed with but now I completely disagree. You just need to look at what is happening in the world. Gay men are still beat up and abused regularly in the UK.

In 2016/2017 there was a 27% increase in reported hate crimes based on sexuality from the previous year. That’s just what gets reported. I have had friends experience situations such as not being allowed in a bar because he was “too gay” or be yelled at when they held hands with their boyfriends. These situations are still very real. You have the President of the United States banning transgender people from serving in the Army. You have gay men in Chechnya being rounded up to be tortured and murdered. You even have people like Jacob Rees-Mogg being glorified on Twitter and lauded as a next potential leader because of how “quirky” he is when, in truth, he doesn’t believe in gay marriage. Is it any surprise we’re so vigilant? It is important to learn from the mistakes of the past to ensure that history is not repeated.

I will never truly know if how I am treated is because of my approach or my sexuality. It is something I refer to as “gay paranoia”. The problem here is that I even have to wonder. It is 2018 and I have to actively be aware of microaggressions or potentially dangerous situations. LGBT people have to work harder to be listened to, have to work harder to get anything done and that is a sad fact of life as it stands. But how can we change that? The way I see it is that we must try and stand up to homophobia, we must celebrate our Pride and more importantly, we must vote and encourage our friends to vote. We must support pro-LGBT candidates in local and general elections.

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My dream is that the future generation never has to worry that they won’t even have a chance and that their ideas and ideals will be judged on merit and on nothing else. But right now, I am going to just keep learning and keep hoping. I am also going to do my best to check my own privilege especially in comparison to other LGBT people, particularly Trans and BME LGB people, and just hope to see change in my lifetime.

I am inspired by LGBT youth and LGBT activists of today who heroically stand up for what is right. Yes, I have been a poor advocate in the past but I plan on making up for it for the rest of my life.

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