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Embracing LGBT+, How Far Have We Actually Come?

Sexuality has been thrust into the spotlight more than ever in 2018, but how much of that has been for the better?

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“There is lots of research and evidence that shows that visibility is lacking in the mainstream media. The places we do find better LGBTQ+ coverage is on social media, vlogs/blogs and self-published materials, but these can be hard to come by”  Dr Ali Hanbury, The LGBT Centre Manager.

We’ve teamed up with The Proud Trust, a life-saving and life-enhancing organisation dedicated to helping the youth LGBT+ community, to highlight our societal attitudes towards these groups of people.

I fall into a bracket that has never faced any kind of questioning or backlash from society. Being a straight man, it’s near-impossible to comprehend the challenges that may face a person coming to terms with a sexuality that is anything other than straight.

For others, it’s been much less straightforward.

Of the 53 countries in the Commonwealth, 37 of them still criminalise homosexuality.

For some perspective, that’s 70% of the countries, said to be united by a shared democracy and human rights beliefs, where you face breaking the law because of your sexuality.

From the outside, at least in the UK, it appears we’ve generally embraced the LGBT+ community. Of course though, what do I really know?

After putting out a call for people who had faced some kind of adversity during the ‘coming out’ process, it didn’t take long to be met with the heartbreaking realities that people still face.

“I had a heavy religious background so anything out of the norm was considered wrong and even the norm was something not to be discussed.”

“I had a crush on a girl in my class in year 8 and I felt like this was such a shameful thing. I never told anyone.”

One of the biggest ‘oppositions’ of sexuality has always been and likely always will be religion.

For something that can offer so many a solace, a pillar of stability in a person’s life, few things in the world cause quite so many issues as religious beliefs do. Sexuality is one of the biggest.

“When you are brought up in such a tough environment nothing shocks me anymore.”

“I had my house vandalised and horrendous things wrote about me but I expected all of that. If close members of my family knew I don’t think I would ever be spoken to again.”

“I feel guilty about my choice every day. It’s hardwired in me to feel that was from years of brainwashing.”

Describing the story as tough reading wouldn’t begin to do it justice. I feel genuinely guilty, I’ve had it easier than I’ll probably ever appreciate. It makes you blind to how this situation is the reality for a lot of people.

And for what? The gender of the person they choose to love? We constantly laud over our advancements as a society, yet this is going on every day? If we can’t embrace something so basic then what are those advancements actually worth?

“Everyone’s coming out story is different and it’s your own choice to make your own decisions.”

“Hiding who I am to keep peace with some people isn’t a cowardly choice. It’s what I choose to do so I can cling to some part of my family. there is a world of support out there, join a community of loving and understanding people and they will replace the hate or shame you feel, if you do feel that way.”

“Some will even replace the nurturing element you might have lost from parents. You can’t make everyone understand something from your point of view so accept that, but always keep an open mind.”

It’s impossible to not be blown away by the resilience. Though it only reinforces that this kind of attitude has become a necessity for more people than we realise. And whilst this particular person has found some element of comfort in her choice, that’s far from the reality for others.

The harrowing reality is LGBT+ adolescents have the highest rates of suicide attempts. Mental health struggles have become synonymous with LGBT+ people, particularly in younger generations.

Stories like these make it abundantly clear why this is the case.

We discussed with Dr Ali Habury, The LGBT Centre Manager about the progress that has been made and how far we still have to go.

“There have been some great gains in LGBTQ+ equality but sadly many people still face discrimination and invisibility. Society as a whole still has lots to do to be fully embracing of the range of LGBTQ+ identities.

“We often see very limited and ‘normative’ representations of gay men for example, but there is still many areas we need to work harder in. Examples include, competitive sport, legal services, health services etc.”

It’s essential then, that as a society, we not only learn to accept one another, but ensure we’re better equipped to help those who may not have the comfort of family or friends.

That’s exactly why organisations like The Proud Trust are more important than ever. Though many of us won’t even be aware of the struggles much of the LGBT+ community go through, groups like this are doing incredible work in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of these individuals.

“Dedicated LGBTQ+ spaces serve as a validating and safer space for many young people and adults. It’s a place where they don’t have to assume another identity or be ‘on guard’ to change the topics of conversations or avoid questions.”

“Young people tell us that their lives have literally been saved by coming to the youth groups at The Proud Trust, or that they no longer need to access mental health or psychiatric services. Simply being understood by people with similar identities goes a long way.”

If you, or someone you know are affected by anything in this article, head over to The Proud Trust website where you can find a ton of helpful information.

Now in its 30th year, the LGBT+ Centre is looking to rebuild its base, you can help the more than worthy cause over on their Justgiving page.

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