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When it comes to LGBTQ+ History Month, I find myself both thinking about the wider history of the community, and reflecting on my own history within it; the challenges and difficulties I have faced when it comes to accepting myself and my identity as a member of this absolutely amazing and uniquely wonderful community. I find that an important part of my journey has been to do with representation and seeing other people like me in the world being accepted for who they are and so I thought I would share my thoughts on this topic, and why I find it to be such an important issue to me personally.
There is one moment in my journey that stands out in my memory when I am thinking about my identity. It was one evening at home when I was told by my mother that one of my cousins had come out as gay. I remember this as it was the first time the topic had ever really been discussed at home, and it was around the time I was questioning my own identity. I remember feeling very comforted by the fact that nothing bad was ever said about my cousin, and nothing ever changed with how we talked about him or how he was treated when we saw him at family gatherings. It made me more confident in myself and my own feelings, both because I could see that my family would accept me regardless, and because it was so important seeing other people like me. Until that day the only person I knew who was a part of the LGBTQ+ community was one boy at school. I have always thought that because I never got to see anyone like me, and I never got to understand that my feelings were normal, it caused my own journey to be much harder and it took much longer for me to accept myself for who I am.
This experience taught me just how important it is to have LGBTQ+ representation in people’s lives, and how important it is for members of the community to feel like they are seen and they are represented in the wider public. This is for two reasons.
The first is for the members of the LGBTQ+ community who need to know that they are not alone and that they can be accepted in the world in which we live without being discriminated against or thought of as lesser for who they are. It can also be incredibly beneficial to some people to learn about more identities and less common identities that they may not have been aware of, as that might help them feel more comfortable in their own identity. It is also vital to know that what people feel is completely normal and that they should be proud of who they are no matter what identity they wish to call their own.
The second is for those people outside of the community. When I was young, the most common use of the word gay was when it was used as a playground insult. This is due to the fact that being gay was seen as some strange thing that meant you were different, even though half the people using the word did not even know what it actually meant when they used it. It is my belief that this is due to the taboo around the topic of LGBTQ+ people, especially when it comes to young people. The fact that people view it as something to be discussed in hushed voices and kept out of young people’s knowledge means that when they do learn about the LGBTQ+ community, it is strange and unusual and something that has always been hidden from them, which can lead to them thinking it must be wrong and those who are part of the community must be wrong as well. This can lead to young people discriminating against and even possibly bullying people for being who they are, or for even exhibiting LGBTQ+ stereotypes or any non-heterosexual cisgender stereotypes. By increasing representation it allows children to learn that being LGBTQ+ is not unnatural or strange, and as a result, they will see that it is not something to be shunned, but something to be admired when someone is able to be proud of themselves and their identity.
By helping to normalize the LGBTQ+ community and make them a common occurrence in day-to-day life, we can help people realise that they are part of a wider community and they are not strange or unusual. We can also help people understand that being LGBTQ+ is not something to find strange and worthy of discrimination and should instead be supported as much as possible to help make sure that nobody feels alone or like an outcast.
So next time you hear someone complaining about how people just seem to be shoving LGBTQ+ characters into their favourite TV show, or you hear someone calling a celebrity attention-seeking for coming out, just remember: there could be a young person struggling with their own identity and trying to figure out where they fit in the world who could really benefit from seeing they are not alone and that the people around them should accept them. And you can take my word for it, as I am one of many who spent far too long thinking I was alone.