Seeing as I have a habit of writing about various personal issues and coming out on a series of topics, I suppose for this one I may as well, er, actually ‘come out’. It is not secret that I am an active member of the LGBT community and can often be heard harping on about equality and the like. But being a member of the LGBT community is only one facet of my life. People all too easily assume that being LGBT is the be all and end all of your life. And for some it is. But for the vast majority of LGBT people, their sexuality is only a tiny part of their lives. ‘Straight’ people are not defined by their sexuality. Yet for some unknown reason there seems to be a perception out there that all LGBT people are only LGBT and that all there is to them. And I have to wonder why? Is it because of LGBT pride marches that happen all over the world? This is an issue that comes up time and time again.
Members of the LGBT community are split in terms of opinions on LGBT Pride Marches (more commonly simply called ‘Pride’). Some people feel that it is unnecessary and draws attention to difference, thus alienating members of the LGBT. Others see it as a vital part of their expression and celebration of their orientation and an acceptance and embracing of difference. It is a tough one to call really. I can see and indeed sympathise with both sides of the argument. But I am very much in favour of Pride. I honestly believe it is so so important to embrace who you are and to be able to stand up loud and proud and celebrate it. I also think that right now there is a need for Pride. By this I mean that I believe it is essential that as a community we come together in a march of celebration that also highlights the fact that we are here, queer and still in need of equal rights. Someday I hope we don’t need Pride in order to highlight our inequalities, i.e. not allowing same-sex couples have the same marriage rights as a traditional heterosexual married couple. However, I would not like to see Pride die out even when we achieve equal recognition and protection under Irish law (or indeed anywhere in the world). I honestly truly believe that it is important to celebrate diversity and difference. I am a huge fan of events such as Mad Pride. I believe that the benefits of highlighting and accepting difference much outweigh the possible negative side effect of perhaps alienating people. Everyone is unique and everyone is different. I don’t think as a society we should ever not celebrate this.
So what other things can the LGBT community do that celebrate diversity whilst also including members of the ‘straight’ community? Well events such as Ally Week, held last week in UCC, and also being run all over Ireland as a national USI campaign, certainly help bridge the perceived gap between LGBT people and heterosexual people. The joining together of these two communities to work together on a common goal (equality) I feel breaks down these barriers of alienation. Campaigns such as these acknowledge diversity and difference whilst also working on the issue of exclusion and feelings of isolation from one and other. International events such as World Coming Out day celebrate the issue of having to go through the process of ‘coming out’, which can often be a very traumatic experience, whilst also celebrating the achievement of doing so. I also believe it highlights the fact that there is the need for LGBT people to come out, an issue that few heterosexual people have to deal with. These sort of events, coupled with a general openness to learning about each other, and accepting that there are indeed differences between us all and that not all of us are only our sexuality, is vital to breaking don the stereotypes that float around about members of the LGBT community. Yes we all have the fact that our sexuality is not the ‘norm’ and that we, for the most part at least, want to be recognized and treated with equality by law, but we are also individual with many multi-faceted layers to our personalities. I certainly think we are on our way to a more equal and accepting world, and I definitely believe events such as Pride, Coming Out Weeks, and the LGBT Ally movement are pivotal in moving us towards a goal of equality and inclusion.
So yes, I am a member of the LGBT community. But I am also more than that. I am a liberal leftie, enjoy pints and discussing sperm whales, a human rights campaigner, a dog-owner and many many other things outside of who I feel like sleeping with. And yes being a member of the LGBT community is incredibly important to me and something that I embrace and celebrate everyday, and march with pride on the streets, but that is not all I am. So I encourage you to celebrate diversity but also to be careful of not tarring us all with the same brush.