Why LGBTQ+ Social Spaces (that aren’t centred around nightlife!) are Crucial

Disclaimer – I am, by no means, trying to shame those who enjoy going to queer-friendly clubs! In fact, alcohol within reason can lead to further enjoyment, but that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be more LGBTQ+ friendly social spaces that don’t center around the nighttime. Also, in the UK at least, 18 is the age where someone becomes an adult. 

Having a safe space is important – especially if you are in a minority group. But I wanted to write about why safe spaces are crucial for LGBTQ+ people – especially if you are a young person under the age of 18.* This is because all to option, queer spaces for adults tend to be centered around alcohol and clubbing – and though this is all well and good, it is also crucial to remember that there may be queer people who don’t drink (like me), elderly LGBTQ+ people, etc. This then, unfortunately, adds to another problem that LGBTQ+ people may face – increased loneliness which may be because many queer spaces are centered around nightlife.  

Firstly, not everyone enjoys it – for someone like me, clubbing and alcohol aren’t really my thing, so having a safe space like Freedom Youth is crucial for me because they allow me to be in a queer-friendly, non-alcoholic space where I can still be myself. It also means that I can socialize with other LGBTQ+ young people in a safe space, without the presence of alcohol. Besides, allowing people to socialize with other people without the presence of alcohol means that everyone there will have a good time. 

Besides, I feel as though social media can help with this. Sites have a messaging system people can talk to each other – I’m a part of a few groups, and by talking to other queer people has definitely improved my social life – and the same goes for Freedom Youth. It also means that you get to stay in the comfort of your own home, and for some, this can be a very safe space. 

Secondly, it’ll allow fewer people to meet new people. By possibly going to places where there is the chance of there being no alcohol or loud music, it’ll allow individuals to meet and actually get to know other people – because you never know, you might find another person who shares similar interests. You might even find someone with a shared experience, which is great because it’ll mean that you feel less isolated, and you might even learn something.

So here are some ideas for non-alcohol safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people:

  • Queer friendly cafes
  • Queer friendly bookstores (bonus; with LGBTQ+ books of all genres!) 
  • Queer friendly film, book, TV clubs and general social spaces. – also, I’m aware that these will take a lot of time & money, but it is nice to think about what type of places we could have. I’m also aware that these places will have to be accessible for queer/trans people who are disabled / are neurodivergent (or both). 

 

 

 

The Power of Positive LGBTQ+ Representation

The positive representation, of any minority group (e.g. LGBTQ+ people, women, or people with disabilities) is crucial, especially with the power that the media holds. But I don’t want to talk about negative topics such as queerbaiting, because I’ve already covered it. Instead, I want to talk about the positive impact and power of positive queer representation. I can’t speak for everyone, but I believe that the media (especially media forms such as films and TV shows) can provide a positive outlook on underrepresented groups within society – and this is even better if these stories are told within those groups.

First and foremost, finding positive representation can massively help with normalization. By normalizing LGBTQ+ content, it can help any queer or trans person feel OK with being ‘different.’  Not only can normalizing be a massive factor with positive representation, but it can also be used as an educational tool – I believe that education is the most important tool for a person’s activism (especially for someone who might be just be starting out). 

But how do we positively represent the LGBTQ+ community? Well firstly, we have to avoid negative stereotypes and tropes surrounding – because while diversity has increased (and this is a positive in itself), many LGBTQ+ characters are still plagued with negative characteristics or storylines (especially queer female characters). For example, according to the Huffington Post, in 2016, at least 25 LGBTQ+ characters were killed off in TV shows – and the vast majority of them were either lesbian or bisexual female characters, and this only served the purpose of advancing the plot of a cishet male character. The plot can still be advanced WITHOUT these queer female characters dying, so this negative trope needs to go in order for genuine, positive representation to move forward. 

In addition, if this continues, it’ll also do more harm than good – because, in order for representation to move forward, queer characters NEED to have more positive outcomes for their storylines, because if cishet people can have positive storylines with happy endings, then so do queer characters. This is especially crucial for questioning people because if they only see the negative outcomes, then it will only make the situation worse for them. So in order to combat these negative tropes in the media, we need to emphasize more positive outcomes and representation – especially in media aimed at children and young people.  

Secondly, we need more LGBTQ+ stories told from actual LGBTQ+ people – this can have a powerful impact on how we view the queer community. If we allow members of the LGBTQ+ community to share their work, it’ll hopefully help people (both within the community and outside the community) to better understand each other’s experiences. It also allows space for people who are in more minority groups to share their experiences. So as a result, we are brought closer together – and that’s the whole point of ANY community, right? 

 

 

 

Bristol Pride 2019

Yesterday was Bristol Pride, and it’s the day in the year that I always look forward to it! I had a lovely day filled with lots of flags and good people (and walking). I first went to Pride in 2017 – and that was my first official Pride event. I couldn’t go last year because I was on holiday with my family and we didn’t get back until the day after (woe is me). But this made me more excited about Bristol Pride this year – and I had a lovely day! 

Here are some things I loved about this years Pride: 

  • The atmosphere: Bristol Pride had a lovely atmosphere, and I felt so safe during Pride because I had a whole community behind me (plus I was marching with my youth group, so I know they would have my back if anything bad happened to me).
  • All the flags: What I love about Pride is seeing all the flags, and that’s mostly because I’m a massive flag nerd. 
  • The people: All the people I saw / met / interacted with at Pride were lovely, so it added to my enjoyment of the event because I love seeing complete strangers and friends showing pride. 
  • Togetherness: Pride is about supporting all members of the LGBTQ+ – not just during Pride season, but all year – because pride is all year round.  The chance to be my authentic, queer self around other members of the LGBTQ+ community added to my sense of Pride, which I also try and practice every day. 
  • The signs/chants: I did see some signs and partake in some chants because we still have a long way to go in terms of having rights. Because equality takes standing up to people who are actively and openly homophobic/transphobic etc, we are reminding ourselves that Pride was originally a riot. The chants I did at Bristol Pride created a real sense of togetherness and community, which is a nice reminder given the current political climate surrounding our community.  
  • The Location: To celebrate 10 years of Bristol Pride (and 50 years since the Stonewall Riots), Bristol Pride was located at The Downs. Besides being a convenient spot for leaving (for me at least, since I can walk home from there), it is just a lovely location – and it really added to the overall atmosphere. 

What I’m trying to say is that Bristol Pride was a blast, and it’ll continue to be my favorite event of the year. It’s such a great event for the reason listed above – but the biggest reason for my enjoyment was the people I spent time with. I’m already looking forward to the next Bristol Pride event because I really enjoyed this year, and I’ve already planned for what I’m doing next year for Pride season. Here’s to the next season of Pride!

Happy #InternationalNonBinaryDay!

I am a proud bisexual nonbinary person who uses they/them pronouns – I’m lucky to be allowed to be my authentic self, but I’m aware that some people may not be able to be out and proud, so it’s crucial for those of us who can be out to talk about our experiences (if you want to, of course). But if you want to take a small step and support trans / binary people, you can start by putting your pronouns in your social media bios

Besides, please take the time to be proud of your nonbinary identity today, and every day by using their pronouns and remind them of their validity – this could be by correcting people who misgender them, or by complimenting their outfit.  

May your outfits continue to be awesome (both today and every day) and remember that I’ve written a piece on the brief history of the nonbinary flag here. But for my cisgender/binary trans readers, you can read about how to be a good trans ally here – you can also read my post on pronouns here.

 

My Pride Plans for 2020 (yes, I’m already planning ahead..)

Pride, as many of you may be aware, is my favorite time of the year – so I wanted to write about my plans for the next Pride season. It’s a time where you can hopefully celebrate your identity (though you can do that throughout the year if you can). So I wanted to write about what I want to do for the next Pride season because it’s fun to think about – and because why not?

In terms of pride parades, I’ll obviously be attending Bristol Pride because I live in Bristol – so it seems like a no brainer. I also might go to Trans Pride Brighton (but it’ll depend on how my first one goes – more on that when I actually attend my first trans pride event!) – and as much I would like to go to London Pride, I’ll have to sit it out due to expenses. In terms of other events, it’ll heavily depend on what’s on and when I’m available, so I’ll have to see! 

I also want to try and support more LGBTQ+ artists etc – since I’m currently unemployed (finding a job is proving to be difficult), I’m worried about spending all my money. But if I do get a job (anything within reason will do), I’ll hopefully have a bit to spend on patches and pins, as well as other pride related things. I also want to support more LGBTQ+ creators, especially those in other minority groups (e.g. disabled people within the LGBTQ+ community) so that I can help them get their work out there. 

But I’ve still got some Pride events to go to (e.g. Bristol Pride this weekend and Trans Pride Brighton next weekend) – and even then, I’ll be doing lots of things at those pride events! So here’s to next Pride season! 

 

Queer City by Peter Ackroyd (2017): A Book Review

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Queer City is a non-fictional book by Peter Ackroyd and is an insight into the queer history of London. The author splits and divides the history into specific parts of queer London up to the modern-day, and starts with the language. During the book, Ackroyd explores the origin of words like “gay” and “lesbian,” the author goes on an exploration of words associated with homosexuality. 

I was excited to read this publication, especially since I enjoyed my history GCSE – plus I wanted to find out more about queer history because unfortunately I wasn’t taught about any LGBTQ+ history during my education. So I was excited to delve deep into an aspect of history that I didn’t have any knowledge and experience with. Though what I like about Ackroyd’s book is that is an educational book, but it doesn’t focus too much on the academic side (unlike Queer: A Graphic History) – it is also quite short (it has 232 pages + bibliography and index) – I also liked this because then I would feel as though it would go on and on, so I liked the fact that it was quite slim. It also made the book more readable, which is another added bonus. 

Besides, I also love Ackroyd’s final statement in the book, ‘“This book is a celebration, as well as a history, of the continual and various human world maintained in its diversity despite persecution, condemnation, and affliction. It represents the ultimate triumph of London.’ These words at the back of the book is inspiring, and makes me proud of an aspect of queer history – plus it’s nice to learn about a part of history that isn’t Stonewall or the AIDS crisis (though the book does briefly touch on these two events later in the book). 

Furthermore, I also like the chronological order of the book- Obviously, the nature of using existing evidence means that Ackroyd’s research will tend to be on incidents that moved over into public knowledge and these will most likely be court cases when something has gone wrong. There’s the odd surprising fact, however. He states that in terms of population, there were probably as many “gay bars” in the 17th Century as in 21st Century London. It also just makes sense that you would go in chronological order for a majority of the book (though the evidence may vary). 

Though I do understand why people would understand why people wouldn’t be thrilled by the title, especially since the word ‘queer’ has been used in a derogatory way in the past, but it has been reclaimed by some.  Ackroyd also defends the use of the term queer as the word now commonly used by academics and “Queer Studies” appears in academia. I personally don’t mind the title, as well as the word ‘queer‘ because it is a part of our history – so I think it’s important to reclaim it. Again, I can understand why some may have a gripe with the term.

 

 

Pride Is All Year Round, not just June

Since Pride month has come to an end, I wanted to remind you that you should (if you are able), to be proud of yourself during the rest of the year. But don’t get me wrong, I look forward to Pride month every year as much the next queer person – its the one month of the year where you can celebrate diversity, self-acceptance, and inclusivity within the community (hopefully in spite of all the discourse). But Pride means lots of different things to lots of different people – and you don’t even have to celebrate that during Pride month. For some, it might be a time to celebrate how far they’ve come (for example, in terms of their transition), or it might be a time to reflect on how to support more marginalised members of the LGBTQ+ community – but no matter how you choose to celebrate, its correct.

However, I wanted to acknowledge about the fact that we’ve still got a long way to go, and that we should be celebrating our complex identities all year round – because pride is still crucial. Now, I’m very vocal about being  visibly queer, because by being yourself is the most radical thing you can do, and it is a way that you can be an activist. By being yourself, you may allow someone to come out, or at least give them the courage to be comfortable in their identity. Now I’ve been out and proud for a while, so I’m aware of the process, but I understand that not everyone can come out, so I know that I’m one of the lucky ones. 

We still have a long way to go however. It’s crucial that we support the trans community (especially since Pride was started by two trans women of colour) – but it’s still stands that we support the trans community because a). the media isn’t great on reporting on trans issues (at least in the UK)  and b). trans people still face a lot of discrimination. It’s also crucial that we support transfeminie people of colour, because they are the most marginalised members of our community – so it would be a massive disservice if we don’t support and raise up their voices. I’d recommend finding LGBTQ+ people in other minority groups and listening to them and raising their voices – because they know best about their experiences, so by sharing a thread on Twitter of theirs, or a blog of theirs for example,  you are using your privilege to give a voice to less privileged members of the LGBTQ+ people. 

Thirdly, and simple put, we still need to fight for our rights – even in 2019. Though we have made great strides in the UK for example (e.g. marriage between same sex in the UK has been legalised) – we still have a lot of rights to fight for (e.g. its still illegal to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community in many parts of the world). Even if you can’t help directly, you are not powerless – you can use your voice to share about it on social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram. 

You can continue to support queer creators year round, not just during Pride Month – especially since rainbow capitalism  unfortunately exists – so support actual LGBTQ+ creators, bloggers, film makers etc, rather than big corporations who take advantage of Pride month. 

Finally, try and balance partying and protesting – because whether you believe pride is a protest or a party– find a balance. I personally believe both can coexist, because it’s important to celebrate how far we’ve come,  but I also understand that we still have a long way to go.

I hope you’ve had a fabulous pride month, and remember that you should be proud to be yourself throughout the year, and not just June. 

Why You Should put Your Pronouns in Your Social Media Bios / Name Handle

Social media bios (e.g. what we choose to put in our Instagram or Twitter) – we all have the power to choose what to put, as this will give our followers a vague idea of what type of person we are (though this is also factored in by what we, for example, choose to retweet or post on our Instagram page). It’s not hard nowadays to stumble across a social media profile and can instantly see some aspects of the owners (carefully curated) online personality and identity. For example, I choose to retweet a lot of LGBTQ+ related stuff because that’s something I’m passionate about – so someone may guess that I’m very passionate about the LGBTQ+ community. 

But I’m getting sidetracked (as a media student and lover of the concept of identity, I could probably go on for ages about how people use social media to construct their identity, as well as identity and labels as a whole). Today I wanted to write about people, regardless of gender identity – putting their preferred gender pronouns in either their bios or, like I have, in their name handle. Before I get started, I have written a guide for cisgender people on how to be a good trans ally, which you can read here– so if you would like to go a step further, which I highly recommend you do, then please take the time to read it. I would also urge you to read my guide on how to use someone’s pronouns, for some extra added context surrounding pronouns.  

Now, what’s the point of using someone’s preferred pronouns? Well, firstly, then you know how to properly address them. The act of misgendering someone means that you are not using the pronouns that they have told you (for example, if someone were to use ‘she/her’ pronouns for me instead of ‘they/them’ pronouns, that would be misgendering). This can obviously make social interactions very stressful, and if happens over some time, it can lead to gender dysphoria (specifically a sense of social dysphoria). 

Additionally, though it may be awkward to put your pronouns in your social media bio or name handle (after all, you did spend a LOT of time carefully constructing your social media and internet identity and personality) – it normalizes the process if it’s done enough. It also lessens the marginalization of trans people. 

Though it’s a small, inconsequential action, it can have a big impact. Though it isn’t the same as showing up for trans people in the streets, fighting for LGBTQ+ rights, it is a nice gesture and I would even say it’s a nice start if you are thinking of getting into LGBTQ+ activism. 

The Return of They / Them Pronouns & Normalising Gender Exploration

Since the 19th December 2018, I have been using he/they pronouns as a way of expressing my, at the time, identity as a transmasculine nonbinary person. But as of late May 2019, I have felt as though this no longer feels right – so I will be going back to using the singular pronouns they/them/ theirs. 

I also wanted to write this because I wanted to look back at how far I’ve come in terms of my gender identity – since, so far, I’ve gone from being a cisgender female to a demigirl, to a transmasculine enby, to a nonbinary person. Honestly, I’m proud of how far I’ve come in terms of gender (despite all the hardships us enby folk face), and I could not be happier with all the support from friends that I’ve received, both online and in real life. 

Additionally, I just wanted to say that there is no wrong way to explore your gender – even if you end up identifying as a cisgender man/woman, the fact that you took the time to question this stuff is extremely brave, especially since cisnormativity is so ingrained into us as  from before we are even born. 

It also creates an unnecessary gender binary, both complete with rigid gender roles and expectations – which is why I think being trans is such an interesting experience – because, for example, binary trans people get to experience both ends of the gender spectrum (e.g. trans men will gain male privilege whilst trans women will lose it). However, I do understand that intersectionality plays a crucial role in one’s life, so you have to take that into consideration (e.g. the expected life span of a black, trans woman is statically 35 years.

But I do feel as though we need to allow people to explore and question their identity without the criticism of others – with all the dull discourse surrounding who and who isn’t ‘trans enough’, it honestly makes me less optimistic about the future of the trans community – we need to come together, especially at a time where we are constantly having our rights questioned and debated. It’s also crucial that we have supportive, genuine allies who will speak on our behalf when we feel we are not able to. 

Basically, we need to come together and raise each other up – not put each other down. 

My Pride Plans 2019

Pride Month is my favourite time of the year – it’s the time where we should be proud of our identities.  So I wanted to take the time to write about what I plan to do during this fabulous season. But before reading this, you should check out my post about  what to bring to pride, if you intend on going to any Pride Parades this year. 

I kicked off pride month by performing with my choir, Sing Out Bristol which was honestly a blast and I’m so glad that the audience enjoyed it. We then went to Queenshilling – Bristols Award Winning LGBT+ Nightclub (which was a first for me because I’ve never been clubbing, let alone an LGBTQ+ friendly one with gender neutral toilet). It was also my first big concert with them. 

In terms of Pride parades, I’m going to Bristol Pride, after having a pre Bristol pride BBQ and potential sleepover with some of my friends who are in the community. I ‘m also going to Trans Pride Brighton & Hove (again, this will be a first because I didn’t know I was trans until late August 2018). I also intend to go Pride in London and  to and possibly stay with a friend overnight. Though I do understand that there is a lot of discourse surrounding whether or not pride is a protest or a party, but I think that we can’t have one without the other. 

Obviously I also intend to support LGBTQ+ creators etc if I can, as you can read my thought on Rainbow Capitalism here. I also intend to be visibly queer as I can , because that is the most radical act an LGBTQ+ person can do (but obviously don’t feel pressured to come out – you can also read my coming out story here.)

So happy pride month everyone! Remember that your identities are completely 100% valid, and that Im proud of you!