It is bizarre to grow up as a queer person in this generation. Personally, I feel that I have been part of a huge shift in changing perceptions and consequently have been equally celebrated and ignored as a queer individual in the past decade or so.
Growing up in a small town meant that anyone who didn’t fit the mould of being cisgender and straight stood out and were treated as an outlier. I remember people in school shouting slurs at me and spreading rumours about me back when I hadn’t even come out yet. These same people now actively follow me on social media despite calling me out for being ‘different’ and it is definitely a testament to how times have changed in the recent past.
Being present online helped me reach out and meet many people who identify variously on the LGBT* spectrum. I’m so lucky to be surrounded by people who honour my identity and love me for it. Sharing my own experiences with other queer people helped me to come out and become part of a huge family that developed from a mutual understanding of each other. I would not be in the same position today had I remained ‘in the closet’ so to speak- my life would have been completely different.
I would always encourage people to come out if they are ready and it is safe for them to do so. To live your full truth and to openly love and be who you are, makes a huge impact on the world; you have the power to inspire people, even those who don’t know you directly.
It is important to listen to each individual’s story and therefore I will not try to be a voice for the entire community. I also acknowledge that my privilege means that my story is easy-going in comparison to some. For example, in places such as Yemen and Iran, being gay can still lead to imprisonment or death penalties. Furthermore, trans women face a 4X higher murder rate than cisgender women and 84% of the transgender murder victims in 2017 were people of colour. To ignore these statistics would be disregarding a huge part of this community and it is so important to use every platform to educate people on the struggles of LGBT* people in the present day.
For change, education on LGBT* people should be extensively taught in schools and there should be more services dedicated to those who need help regarding their sexuality and identity; especially for those who face discrimination or lose homes and families after coming out.
Furthermore, mainstream media and politics need to involve more LGBT* representation. For example, Munroe Bergdorf, a transgender woman, who openly spoke about discrimination and subsequently became part of the LGBT* advisory board for the Labour party. Also, children who grow up as LGBT* deserve to have role models who reflect how they feel and identify; I remember having no-one to relate to in the media growing up, and it creates a sense of being ‘different’. Having people who represent those who aren’t just cisgender and straight in the public eye changes perceptions and creates a more equal representation of those who are often ignored or face prejudice, and it would mean the world to future queer generations.
It has been life changing to become part of such a beautiful, wonderful community and to meet so many different individuals and I wouldn’t change who I am for all the money in the world. However, we still have such a long way to go as a community, and I hope that I can help change the world, however small my part may be.
By India Emery-Oiller