This is the second in a series of article for Pride month 2020. If you missed Stephen’s story you can read back here.
Pride for me has many meanings and brings up many feelings. Pride month is a time to celebrate how far we have each come individually and as a community and acknowledge how far we’ve come as a country.
From it being illegal to be gay in 1992, to our country voting for marriage equality in 2015 and all the progress in between.
Ultimately Pride is a show of support, it is a protest for equality and each Pride festival is an attempt to start more open conversations. It is us standing strong with those who are not treated equally, no matter what their sexual orientation is or where they are in the world.
It is a ray of hope for those who are still in severe danger due to inequality that things can change and that they are not alone.
Bisexuality & experiences of discrimination
But Pride is not just about our community and allies asking for equality, it is also about us as coming together and pushing for equality within the LGBTQ+ community.
As a Bisexual woman, I have felt prejudice within the ‘gay’ community as well as within the ‘straight’ community. Bisexual prejudices and stereotypes, or biphobia, exist and it is important to acknowledge and speak about this so we can learn and move forward.
I have been very lucky to have had extremely supportive friends and family and to be part of an LGBT group for young women, ‘Phoenix Youth Group’. Which later integrated with ‘Unite’, an LGBT group for young men, to become ‘UP Cork’.
Both were run at the time by a truly inspiring woman, Gillian Barrett and her boss, the amazing late Dave Roche. UP Cork gave us a safe space to express who we were and gave an open floor to discuss our struggles. We were given advice, help and support around sexual health, relationships and coming out.
Advice on coming out to family and at work
Dave Roche said two things during a talk on coming out that have always stuck with me.
The first is, you have thought about coming out for years, you have struggled with it and probably denied it and been angry about it. When you come out to your loved ones, they may never have thought about it before.
They could have an idealised life plan for you in their head because they love you, so remember that the same struggle you had with it could be the very same for them. They may need time and space to process, the same as you did.
Give them time and be prepared to forgive them when they are ready.
The second thing is, you do not only come out once, you will have to come out regularly. Every time you start a new job, every time you make a new friend, every time there is a new person in your life. Each time you’ll have to come out, so don’t worry you will have years of practice!
This group for me was a lifeline. I felt accepted and at home. It helped me cope with the people shouting insults at me in the street, the dirty looks, the objects been thrown at us, the feeling of not belonging, the feeling that you are less than the wider community.
I cannot imagine going through that part of my life without Gillian, the Youth Group and Georgia Smith, who came to join Gillian on her university work placement and never left. These people were my role models, teachers, counsellors, and friends and highlight the need to people in the LGBTQ+ to have support. Why is that support so important?
Have you ever worried about holding your partners hand walking down the street in case you are physically or verbally assaulted? Have you ever been in a club and had a quick smooch only to turn around and find that you are being videoed by strangers?
Have you ever been nervous in a new job to introduce your partner? Have you ever had a stranger scream insults at you because they don’t agree with you kissing the one you love?
Have you ever been attacked because you present as being part of your community? Have you ever worried that introducing your partner to your parents could leave you homeless or without a family?
I could go on, but the point is these things are very real, even after how far we have come. This is why Pride, and initiatives like this, are necessary to continue to open conversations, to build an inclusive and equal society for everyone.