I remember a senior manager at work a couple of years stating “Pride is nice but do you need it? Surely it’s just a reason for a party?”.
Yes, to some it is a party. A celebration. But it’s nowhere near as fun or as open for LGBTQI(+) people as you might think. Things have moved on tremendously, but I still do not feel I have the same rights or “opportunities” as my straight peers.
Let me explain…
I never really came out to my family. Many years ago my parents (well my mum), had questioned me about my sexuality and when it happened it was not entirely a surprise.
Was I ready to be confronted by my parents? Not really. But the opportunity presented itself and I had to be honest with my parents and myself.
This was probably 26 years ago and to this day I have never had “the conversation” with my dad, I have never needed to. He’d met my ex, my husband and all of our friends and family when we tied the knot. Sexuality never came into the equation.
My parents were happy as long as I was happy.
When considering the South West of England, my parents, I believe are the exception to the rule at home. It is a lovely part of the world, frequented by many tourists but it is stuck in a time warp. It’s however a little unfair to single out the South West. Of all the places in the UK, I have ever encountered homophobia in public was Brighton, one of the most “gay-friendly” places in the UK.
Things have gotten better but the fear, the homophobia and the backward thinking are still very much alive at home.
On a call with our young niece a couple of months ago she referred to me as “Aunty Keith”. I laughed it off (why did I do that?). She realised she had caused some offence and then replied “it’s ok, it’s not a problem that you’re gay!”.
I do not for a minute believe this is what she thinks or believes, but rather these are the opinions she hears from those around her. This illustrates that homophobia is still present in the adult population back home (and elsewhere).
So why bring this up?
Because I want people to realise it is hard to be who you are. For all the rhetoric, for all the good intention and all the corporate bluster, being “something different” makes you different. Being LGBTQI(+) means you are “different”.
With all the news about people feeling like they are in minorities that need a voice, it feels like all of the hatred is aimed at white males. Imagine how this feels as a gay white man?
Colleagues have had conversations with me about their political or social views and spoken to me as a straight white man. They assume I take the viewpoint they are presenting as a straight white male. Do I choose to correct them? No. Why? Because it’s exhausting.
It’s exhausting to have to come out over and over again. It’s exhausting to be pigeon-holed into a category you do not necessarily fit. It’s exhausting to then replace your position in a pigeon-hole they would understand.
Why do I have to offer an opinion, and continually have to come out to people to ensure they understand my true point of view?
I believe that we should all be able to live a life that is right for us as individuals without judgement, criticism or cynicism.
Normally I do not worry about telling people I am gay and to be honest, I do not feel it is anyone else’s business but I recently received a promotion.
If I were in the office and with the people who know me, then I don’t think there would be an issue. However, I have inherited a team that are based around the world.
At first, I was referring to Richard as “my other half” or “my partner” so as not to offend (mainly, in my head, due to religious opinion).
A young member of my team (who has met me in person and I thought knew me quite well), commented to me the other day that “I didn’t originally realise you were gay!”. She meant no offence but why did it even need to be said?
Do I have to “act straight” to be accepted in business but then have to automatically introduce myself to everyone as “Hi I’m Keith and I am gay…” just to ensure people see the whole picture?
As Pride month kicked off this year I took stock and wondered why I had chosen to not be open about my marriage. My gay marriage. I guess I was probably tired of the looks, the pauses or explaining myself. I was tired of coming out. Again.
So I ask myself why should I be tired? If corporations and the world is celebrating Pride then surely there is no longer a problem. But there is.
I have decided honesty is the best policy and have stopped the lazy labels. Now when I talk about Richard I talk about “Richard”, “my husband” or “he”.
If people pause, need to register this, then it is there a problem, not mine.
I have not openly mentioned being gay on my site before because I was afraid of the comments or was concerned that people might discredit my work simply because I was gay.
This made me think about all of the times I have stressed about coming out. All the sleepless nights, the worry that my friends would disown me, afraid I would lose people I loved or worse end up hurt or someone being violent towards me. (Thankfully and fortunately for me, this has never happened).
At 47 I couldn’t care less and can defend myself but the worry is still there, the hurt is still there and the unnecessary need to have to go through continuously coming out is not going away.
That is why we need Pride. Until I can have a conversation, introduce myself as “a person of no consequence” like all the straight people in the world then there is still work to do.
The world is forever evolving but please let’s not fool ourselves by believing that adding a rainbow to your logo matters. It helps with the visibility of the community and lends an air of “support” but it won’t stop those conversations and that fear. It won’t mean I can be comfortable holding my husbands hand in public. Or sit on a park bench and kiss him, just because I love him. Because I can’t.
The fight for equality will remain for a long while yet. The world has gotten better for some, but not for all. There is still much to do.
(Photos taken at two separate Pride events in Paris)