Why Pride?

I am going to admit something I am ashamed of: I have never properly attended a Pride parade. There, I’ve said it. I am a 29 year old lesbian and I have never properly been to a Pride. I have been in London for Pride twice; both times I have missed the parade, wandered past stages and had a few drinks in Soho. For my local Pride, in Norwich, I have been in the city on the day but haven’t watched the parade or heard any speeches. I actually DJed a local gay club on Pride a few years back: what a night. So I am not a Pride novice but everything so far has been on the periphery. 2017 Norwich Pride will be different.

I recently put a question out on Twitter about what Pride means to individuals within the LGBT+ community and the responses were enlightening. Many people discussed how Pride events were about remembering our collective history and the struggles of the past. Others talked about it being about standing together in support of those LGBT+ people around the world that are not given the rights who are in Britain. Some mentioned that Pride is about visibility and raising awareness of the diversity within our society. The overwhelming majority of responses talked about Pride being a celebration. 

This discussion on Twitter led to me question why I hadn’t properly attended a Pride. The answer is embarrassingly simple: I hadn’t felt the need to. In the past I have, at times, felt embarrassed by my sexuality, as though it was something to hide; I didn’t feel like it was anything I wanted or needed to celebrate. How wrong I was.

In exactly a month today, Norwich, the city in which I live, holds its 9th annual Pride event that continues to go from strength to strength. Last year thousands of people lined the streets to celebrate the diversity of our ‘fine city’ with many local businesses and services supporting the event.  Those involved have work tirelessly to ensure the event continues to grow and that the celebration attracts a wide audience. The 2017 event is set to be bigger and better than the last.

This year I plan to pop my Pride cherry: I will be using my Twitter and instagram to report live from Norwich Pride, bringing the action to you as it happens. I will be looking around the different stalls, listening to inspiring speeches, watching the parade and sampling the Norwich nightlife. 

If any of your reading this live close enough to join us then please do; Norwich is a wonderful city with amazing architecture, a thriving university and a refreshingly liberal outlook. I feel immensely proud to live in a place that is so vibrant and that encourages such an open celebration of diversity. 

On the 29th July I, and the rest of Norwich, will be honouring LGBT+ history, raising awareness of those less fortunate than us, celebrating our differences and having a great deal of fun doing it: come and join us! 

A note to my 16 year old self

Dear GG,

So, sort of strange, but this is your future self writing.  You are actually 29 now which may seem old to you, but it is a pretty cool age to be.  At 29 you are married, own your own home, have two cats and teach history in a high school.  I have referred to you as ‘GG’ as you have actually just started writing a blog called ‘The Gutsy Gay’.  This is an anonymous blog primarily about gender and LGBT issues that you share on a social media platform called ‘Twitter’.  Actually social media is a pretty big thing in 2017; it’s a bit more advanced than the MSN conversations you have.  Anyway, I have digressed.

I haven’t written to tell you too much about the future, I actually want to give you some advice about your present.  Sixteen is a pretty important age; you are about to sit your GCSE exams, choose your A-level subjects and I think you have just started your first part time job.  However important these things are I want to support you through the feelings you are having.  At around this time you are beginning to question who you are attracted to; those conversations your friends have about boys don’t feel quite right to you.  You haven’t put your finger on it yet but you have started to look at girls differently.  I know you feel different because I remember those song lyrics that you have plastered over your revision folder; am I right in saying that Avril Lavigne features quite regularly?

Over the next couple of years you have many things that you need to figure out but I want to tell you it will be okay.  I know that one of your biggest worries will be your family and how they may react.  This is probably what most people questioning their sexuality or gender identify will worry about the most: you are not alone.  Let me reassure you that, whilst things won’t be plain sailing, it will work out in the end.  At 27 you got married to an intelligent, kind and feisty woman; that’s right you have a wife!  Your grandparents, parents and extended family were all at the wedding; they love you both dearly.  There will be some ups and downs over the next few years but stay true to yourself and do not deny who you are.  Be honest with people.  However hard the conversation is or however much you think they don’t want to hear what you have to say, honesty is better than lying or hiding from the truth.

You are starting to build a bit of a following on ‘Twitter’ and you asked some people for nuggets of advice they would give their 16 year old self.  I think some of their advice will help you.  Firstly, never be ashamed of who you are.  Being gay is something to celebrate and be proud of: don’t hide.  Secondly, follow your heart.  Be bold and tell people how you feel; if there is a girl you like then tell her.  Never internalise your feelings.  Lastly, be heard, not silent.  There are many injustices in this world that need to be put right.  Always stand up for what your believe in and use your voice to share your opinions with others.

You are about to embark on the greatest journey of self discovery: enjoy.

Love from your 29 year old self.

‘Miss, are you gay?’ Part two

As stated in the prequel to this post I did not deal with this question well in the early stages of my career.  Actually, I dealt with it appallingly.  I denied my sexuality and set a precedent for how I may tackle similar questions in the future.

Fast forward a few years and at no other time has a student asked me explicitly about my sexual orientation.  However, there have been circumstances where I have been able to discuss my partner with students, both past and present.  The most notable time was on last year’s ski trip in Italy.  Another teacher and I were talking one night with two students.  My colleague was talking about her boyfriend and one of the students said to me ‘Miss, are you with anybody?’.  I was able to confidently say, “Yes, well actually I am married”.  The conversation continued and I disclosed that I was married to a woman.  It was as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders; it felt great to talk about my sexuality.  It was exactly how I wanted it to happen: natural and met with complete acceptance, as I should have assumed it would have been.

I wouldn’t say I am openly out with students; it isn’t something I feel the need to declare.  It is not something I feel the need to talk about freely, in the same way I wouldn’t expect any professional teacher to talk openly about their private life.   I have been questioning the need that people in the LGBT community have to come out and tell people about their sexuality, especially since watching the film ‘Jenny’s Wedding’ that I have previously blogged about.  In a truly equal society there should be no greater need for me to announce my sexuality anymore than my heterosexual neighbour.