To some, June is more than just a new Facebook react. To some, June is a memory, a celebration, and a call to arms. That is what this post is about.
History lesson: The month of June was chosen as Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, which occurred on June 28th, 1969. That night sparked a liberation movement against the anti-gay laws that prohibited the general existence of LGBTQI+ individuals. Individuals that had lived in fear of death for showing their pride. Considering that we are two years shy of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, the fight still exists. Though, I’m proud to say, we are now allowed to talk about it.
I was going to write this article based on my thoughts and experiences around Pride, but after precisely ten days of consideration, I decided to bring the community factor in. The LGBTQI+ community is a beautifully diverse community, since nature knows no bounds in it’s beautiful creations. So I decided to interview a few close friends of mine that I have met over the years about living LGBTQI+ and the need for Pride. We don’t represent the entirety of the community (I’d need more than just an article for that), but I hope that these responses bring in some much needed insight.
Can we talk about you? What do you consider to be your gender identity and sexual orientation?
Lisa: I’m a woman and a lesbian. I’ve never questioned my gender and I feel strongly female. I was a pretty hardcore born again Christian when I was young, so I suppresed my sexuality for a long, long time. I remember thinking thoughts about women and telling myself not to think like that and praying about it. When I eventually came out, I identified as bisexual and didn’t understand why I had to choose when I loved everyone equally. As time has gone on, I now identify as a lesbian. This might sound odd but one day I just stopped liking the penis!
James: Yes we can talk about me. I identify as a transgender male with a fraysexuality, meaning the closer I become to someone, the less of an attraction I experience. It’s part of the Asexual umbrella.
Matylda: I consider myself to be non-binary, and I identify as pansexual.
Marty: Of course! When I was 14, 15 I considered myself gender neutral. Now, at 20 I just consider myself male. I’m not sure if this was just a case of being young and trying to align my mind and soul – but sometimes I felt more woman, and other times I would feel more man. Looking at myself now, I don’t associate behaviours or social norms to any sex or gender in particular.
If you’re comfortable talking about it, what struggle have you faced due to your gender identity and/or sexual orientation?
Lisa: I think it was the initial coming out. My church was really against homosexuality, so much so a youth minister actually said that Aids was a punishment for homosexuals. I think it was at the point that I appreciated my church’s stance and the thoughts and feelings I’d been struggling with just all bubbled to the surface. I left the church, which is hard when all your friends are in the church and you spend 6 days a week there. This was the early 90’s and I’d just moved to Newtown, so I ended up finding a community where I felt comfortable. A lot different from The Shire where I grew up.
James: Um, multiple struggles really. First of all, both my parents took their time grasping the concept that my identity was not about them losing a child, but so much as gaining a son; Dad used to make harsh comments about transition and how it will ruin my body because I was ‘perfect the way I was’. When I was finally able to start hormone therapy, my doctor discovered a CIN-1 abnormality in my cervix, long story short, it has a chance to mutate and become cancerous over time/due to environmental exposure. It meant me waiting an extra year and six months to even consider starting therapy, and spending money on a specialists evaluation to ensure the hormones wouldn’t accelerate or increase my risks. But I’m apparently quite healthy so that’s fantastic. My orientation however has slowly changed over time due to hormones and varying factors; I used to identify as gay, but not so much anymore, and though I love my partner, I feel sexual attraction to others instead, so we have a very non-sexual relationship and he’s very accepting of my polyamorous nature, even encourages it despite the fact I purposefully have not added anyone to my dating/sexual partner list.
Matylda: I most often face ignorance of the existence of multiple gender identities and of sexual orientations outside the generic and [reasonably] understood “gay/straight/bi”. If I am ever open with someone about my identity/ies then i most often have to explain quite extensively about what it is that pan means, or /why/ i consider myself non-binary. It’s frustrating to say the least, and mostly i avoid being open about it because so many people are actively against the “idea” of gender nonconformity, and because it’s genuinely exhausting trying to validate yourself to people. I am also very feminine in my appearance, and I guess i look like a typical girl, which makes trying to explain my gender identity very difficult to people who have a perception of non-binary people as looking/acting – presenting – a specific way.
Marty: I am so lucky and privileged to have grown up around liberal and accepting family and friends so I haven’t faced many struggles in comparison of people before me, or living in oppressed countries. Of course I was bullied in high school. Add heightened hormones and other unrelated issues which resulted in my manic depression diagnosis didn’t mix well either but it definitely made me a more resilient person and for that, I’m grateful.
What is your view on the state of the world? In terms of acceptance and support in and out of the community?
Lisa: It’s changed so much but we still have so far to go. We’re lucky in Australia that homosexuality is no longer illegal, that by expressing ourselves we’re not locked up. There’s still hate and hate crimes though. I feel like we’ve come so far but marriage equality is just out of reach somehow. It saddens me that we don’t have this right yet. It seems so backward to be one of the last western countries to legalise it.
James: The state of the world isnt great, it doesn’t help that my Dad supports Trump and proufly dictates that to me everyday. In the community, the acceptance levels seem to fluctuate but for transmen, they really are quite high, though I see multiple ongoing issues within subgroups of the community that truly need to be resolved.
Matylda: There’s obviously a huge problem with a lot of societies at large that promote the idea that someone’s sexual orientations or sexual choices or gender presentation is somehow everyone’s business, and that issue is very much perpetuated through media and politics that places such emphasis on the /differences/ between people as opposed to the similarities. Furthermore, the impact of the church and many religious communities on overall governance is a barrier to any implementation of rights or equality. The attitude of “tolerance” is a problem too, because it implies that simply accepting the existence of someone is enough, but actually considering them as equal human beings is a bridge too far. There are problems within the queer community also; namely, the focus on cis white gay culture, the erasure of bi/Pan identities and claims of “not being queer enough”; ignorance of trans issues, but the elevation of drag culture; the almost complete lack of intersectionality, and the mistreatment of LGBTIQ+ POC – The pervasive racism and cultural appropriation that occurs. There are a lot of issues, and though i think that largely, the LGBTIQ community is filled with beautiful, supportive people, i also cannot ignore the fact that it caters very much to a certain model of “queer”.
Marty: The world is a beautiful place. Humanity, even at its core level s beautiful. There just happens to be bad apples that can ruin the tree for everybody else. In my humble twenty years on this Earth, I have experienced a massive shift in attitudes towards the LGBT community. Who thought that ten years ago, media like Born This Way, Queer As Folk or Orange Is The New Black would be a hit or that the majority of the developed world has marriage equality and other basic rights awarded to those who are LGBT?
And finally, what does Pride mean to you?
Lisa: Being free to express my queerness to the world. Being happy to be apart of such a diverse, beautiful community. Community. Love. Respect. Expression.
James: Pride means being who I want to be, whenever and wherever, with whomever I choose. It means being able to stand up and help someone who is lost in the LGBTQ+ community, and to stand behind those that want to have a say. Pride is being yourself, no matter the odds and having a whole global family that will be there for you no matter the cost.
Matylda: To me, Pride is freedom It’s a “fuck you” to the system. It’s a recognition of my privilege, in that if I so wished, i can be out and proud and myself, while millions of people can’t. It’s a celebration of how far LGBTIQ+ people have come, of how much was sacrificed, but also how much further we still have to go.
Marty: Pride to me, means more than just a celebration of the rights we have now. It serves as a reminder of those who have come before us and paved the way for everybody to love who they want and be whatever they want. Without persecution, without judgment, without fear, without second thought. I think sometimes that is lost. It’s always good to remember what we are fighting for in the first place, and to continue to fight for people and places which do not yet have the same rights as we do.
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