I was sitting on a train the other day, happily chatting away to my friend, when I became suddenly, acutely aware of my surroundings. I was talking excitedly about going to Pride events this summer, and hopefully volunteering at some of them; my friend was telling me about the best local drag shows and gay nights. A man twice my size started staring; we knew it was time to switch conversation topic. We were relatively unaffected but I was reminded of the privilege of safety when I returned home to find that the LGBT charity I work for had been targeted by radical faith groups online. We received torrents of abuse, hate speech and even video links which would show us ‘what happens to queers’. We are a small charity and many of our followers and members are young and or vulnerable individuals; fortunately, we were able to report the groups of people involved and prevent it from becoming any worse. However, it was a frightening experience and one which made me wonder if I am safe as a visibly queer individual in society.
I am privileged to live in a country where it is unlikely that I will be killed for being queer. However, according to studies by Stonewall, hate crime against LGBT people in Britain has increased by 78% since 2013. When I went looking for statistics, this astounded me. It shouldn’t have astounded me but straight people keep telling me how easy the queer community have things and I was (foolishly) starting to believe them. ‘There’s no need for Pride- nobody’s homophobic nowadays’. ‘Why do we need equality and diversity, it’s political correctness gone mad!’. ‘Well if you can have Pride then I don’t see why straight people can’t have their own’. These statistics are why ‘straight pride’ doesn’t exist. These statistics are why visible allies are important. These statistics are what remind me that we shouldn’t simply settle for ‘relative safety’; the baseline against which we measure our safety should not be ‘we probably won’t be killed today’.
These recent situations have reminded me that it can be tough to be in the LGBTQIAP+ community; it can be tough to feel accepted, safe and, simply, okay. But if you’re reading this and you’re young and worried, wondering what horrors might unfold if it turns out that you’re LGBT, or if you come out of the closet, I want you to know one very important thing: it is all worth it.
If you decide to come out, or if you realise that you’re queer or trans, it will all be okay and it will be worth it. There will be someone, somewhere who accepts you, even if that person turns out to be yourself. I’ve found acceptance and safety in the strangest of places: at a stranger’s party among people speaking five different languages; at University where I wrote extensively on non-binary and trans identities; and in my closest friend who lives 10,000km away from me and has shown me the value of true, unfaltering support.
The answer to my question of safety: I can’t predict the actions of others, but what I can do, is accept myself and be unashamed of myself no matter what. I can live without internalised homophobia and transphobia. I can live a valuable, worthwhile and happy life as a queer person.
If you’re from an area or situation where you are unable to be visibly queer for fear of your life, wellbeing or safety, I want you to know that you are supported, you are valid. If nothing else, I hope that you are able to find some solace online and in this blog.- AB
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this post, here are some helpful resources: