Queer Freedom…

I rarely listen to podcasts, but I have just listened to Queer Freedom: How can we be both held and free? by Glennon Doyle after it was recommended to me. I would definitely say it is worth listening to.

It is about having faith and being gay, something that is still contentious even in 2022.

I admit that I am not someone who would describe themselves as religious as I have grown up seeing the negative impact it can have on the world and society which I think is a shame. At the heart of faith is a shared belief that can create strong community bonds but with that it would appear that there is often a price to pay.

I think I have always wanted to feel a sense of belonging, but I realise that I have never truly felt as though I belong. Growing up I liked the idea of being a part of a church because of the sense of community and I liked the idea of what having faith should stand for. However, I soon became aware that you would only be welcomed with loving arms if you followed their rules and lived your life how they expect you to and even as a child this didn’t sit right with me and so, I became sceptical of religion. 

The bible has been interpreted in so many ways by so many different people and then these interpretations have been fed to thousands of people who like sheep have followed what they are being led to believe are the ‘rules’ of life.

I wonder if these people truly believe what they are being told whether they crave belonging to a community so much that they will overlook certain aspects or whether they may find it easier to live their lives in accordance with certain expectations and rules rather than having to think for themselves? I can see how any of these options could appeal especially as it can be hard and scary to be different, to stand our ground or fight for what we believe in, and I know only too well that people have a desire to belong.

I know that we can all be ignorant at times, particularly if we are completely unaware of something and sometimes, we are not aware of our actions or the impact these can have on others. To some extent I could forgive people for not knowing what they are doing but I would hope that if people were aware of their actions that they would alter their behaviour towards others even if it was something they didn’t necessarily understand or agree with. 

One thing that Glennon says is that ‘we’ll never be ok if we don’t talk’ and she’s right. When I was listening to the podcast it really struck a nerve with me when she talked about how taking children to a church which is openly homophobic and not having the courage to find a different church or stop going allows children to soak up the shame and hatred and then it’s too late, the damage has been done.

I’m sitting here wondering where I picked up on religion having such rigid rules and this feeling of churches not being as accepting as they are made out to be at such a young age? I’m also wondering where my fear came from when it came to being gay? I spent years feeling ashamed as if I had done something wrong and that I had to hide it. It took me until the age of 33 to fully accept my sexuality and not worry about people knowing.

Fortunately, I have now got to an age where I am no longer prepared to be judged for who I am…it is my life, no one else’s and I believe I have a right to be happy and to embrace who I am, as does everybody else. Don’t get me wrong, I still have niggles…I sometimes wonder if people are looking or judging me as I walk hand in hand with my partner but equally it makes me happy to do that so why shouldn’t I and if people are judging I don’t actually care.

It saddens me that society and religion have a lot to answer for and that many people have felt that they have to choose between religion and themselves. As Glennon says, it shouldn’t be a choice between god or love, nor should we ever be told that god won’t love you if you are gay.

Yet so many churches still reject the idea of homosexuality and even if they appear to be ok with it, they still expect you to live your live by certain rules. People have had to make difficult choices to leave their church and their community which can be incredibly painful, but they have been left with no other choice but to remove themselves from a toxic and traumatic environment in order to put themselves first so that they have a chance to grow and be true to themselves. 

It is sad, because undoubtedly the vast majority of Christians are kind-hearted people who genuinely think that they are doing the right thing and if they knew how much harm they have caused they would be mortified. I think I find it hard that people of faith can be so lovely and supportive towards others but at the same time they can’t let go of what they really believe to be true about sexuality.

The podcast talks about how we are allowed to disagree with certain things such as climate change but that we do not get to disagree with someone’s identity, instead you are rejecting someone. It is our choice to love someone or to reject them and it is not Christianity that stops you from loving others because of who they are.

It talks about how those who reject our identity and those who have homophobic beliefs (even if they are private believes) contributes to homophobia. Sometimes it may be through ignorance or fear of others’ opinions, but that fear rubs off on others and I think that was probably my experience growing up. 

I loved it when Glennon said that we have to stop being afraid of small minded people – it’s true. Why do we let these bigoted people have so much power?

She talks about how we need to create a world where we don’t have to throw away what we need and that we can have faith and also be gay and be true to ourselves. That if anyone or any organisation asks you to abandon yourself or those you love, you should cut those ties.

Despite knowing all too well the damage that religion has caused and how heart-breaking it is to know the pain it has caused someone I love, I would be open to becoming part of a community of faith that is open and accepting of homosexuality.

I really admire Glennon Doyle for keeping her faith whilst being an activist for gay rights and modern Christianity.

It’s a sin

So nearly a year after It’s a Sin was released in the UK, I have finally watched it. For those of you who haven’t watched it, it’s a drama set in the 80’s in London about the lives of a group of gay men and their friends during the HIV/AIDS crisis.

To be honest I must have missed all the hype when it was released as I only recently heard about it but then again, this time last year, I had a lot of stressful things going on. I also wasn’t sure if it would be my cup of tea as I knew it was going to be sad and I often watch light-hearted programmes or comedies as a way of switching off. However, after being told how good it was, I braced myself for tears and gave it a go. Within minutes I was hooked and ended up binge watching the entire series!

I loved the characters and thought the actors were incredible, I loved the music and thought it was very well written. You had a sense of how much fun they had and the true friendships that were made during this time and I envied them. Don’t get me wrong I obvious don’t envy the darker side of the story, in fact I found it heart-breaking to watch.

This killer disease that seemed to appear out of nowhere that was only affecting gay men was bound to cause huge controversy for everybody. Like the character Ritchie (played by Olly Alexander) I can see how you wouldn’t believe it and would think it has been made up as a gay disease. However, very quickly it seemed to be affecting more and more people as friends and colleagues went home never to be seen again.

When one character, Colin (played by Callum Scott Howells), became ill it was devastating as he was such a shy and reserved man who had lived a more reserved life in comparison to his friends. I loved his Mum though who despite living in remote Wales and no doubt being even less aware of gay life she stood by him throughout his illness with absolutely no judgement, it was clear that she loved her son unconditionally.

Of course, I believe all parents should love their children unconditionally, but this isn’t the case and nor was it with Ritchie’s Mum who prevented him from being with his friends and boyfriend whilst he was dying despite him asking for him and even worse, he died on his own. Quite rightly Jill who was his best friend told Ritchie’s Mum that it was her fault that he was on his own when it died, and I can’t imagine the pain she must have felt knowing she was staying nearby at the time.

I thought Jill (played by Lydia West) was an amazing woman! She stood by all her friends, was an HIV/AIDS activist and spent a lot of time visiting gay men who were dying in hospital alone. I take my hat off to her. Jills character was based on the life of Jill Nalder who played Jills Mum Christine, in the series. I wonder how she felt filming the series, I imagine she may have found it rather emotional, but she made a massive difference to the lives of gay men and their families.

Unsurprisingly the first episode was watched by over 1.6 million viewers which shortly went up to more than 18.9 million. Which made it more surprising when I discovered that originally Channel 4 refused to produce it. To me, there’s nothing in the series that shouldn’t be watched by anyone…we’re in 2022 for goodness sake! Surely by now, everyone is aware of HIV/AIDS and different sexualities??

For anyone who still struggles to get their head around sexuality other than heterosexuality, it isn’t a choice, no matter what you believe. Just like our eye colour, ethnicity and skin colour, sexuality is not a choice, it’s who we are. The only reason people may question or fight it is due to fear. Fear of judgement, fear of losing ‘friends’ or ‘family’, fear of never having children.

The best thing we can do for future generations is to normalise different sexualities from birth so that they are aware of it and know it’s accepted. Surely the most important thing is for our children to feel loved and supported no matter who they are.

Pride month

When I think of pride, I think of Pride festivals…. I remember going to the very first Pride in Hull which was held 20 years ago. I cannot believe I was only 14! We marched through the streets of Hull, and I remember feeling liberated and happy to be part of this occasion. However, it was tainted for me by a member of the public who decided to hurl abuse at us. Maybe this is why I didn’t return to Hull Pride again until 2 years ago when I went with my best friend and our girls. I love the fact that she was happy to come with me and did not care what people thought. Due to Covid restrictions it wasn’t held last year and has sadly been cancelled again this year, but fingers crossed it will return next year.

I clearly wasn’t put off Pride festivals as I decided to be a rebel and went to London Pride aged 16 on my own!!! I didn’t know anyone who was going or in fact anyone who lived in London but that didn’t put me off. I think I would be more anxious now but then I just went to enjoy the atmosphere, be surrounded by like-minded people and to have a good time.

I know that times have changed (well…mostly) and that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is more widely accepted but I still find it hard. Being a lesbian is a part of me, but it does not define who I am.

I first knew I was a lesbian when I was 14 years old but going back 20 years the internet wasn’t how it is today so I couldn’t google, ‘am I a lesbian?’ or find support easily. Being home educated and not seeing many people my own age didn’t help either. I remember being told as a teenager that being a lesbian was no doubt a phase. I struggled not having people to mix with or talk to about it and ended up turning to the internet to try and find people.

It is funny what seems important to us as teenagers/young adults and for as long as I can remember I knew that I wanted children. At that time, I also dreamed of a white wedding and being the blushing bride. At a time where it was difficult to meet people and knowing that I wanted to ‘fit’ in caused me internal conflict which led to some dark times. I spent a few years trying to convince myself that I was straight, telling myself it would be ok as I would ‘fit’ in and could be the blushing bride and have children.

And I ended up meeting someone who I was in a relationship with for quite awhile during that time and he was lovely, the perfect gentleman. I knew I loved him but more like a brother or a best friend than anything else. This made it easier in a way as I genuinely enjoyed his company and my family adored him, but it was also hard, as despite my best efforts I could not live a lie and so I had to end the relationship. By the age of 21 I could not hide the fact I was a lesbian any longer despite knowing at the time that this meant forgoing the possibility of being the blushing bride and not knowing if I would be able to have children.

I am pleased that I had the strength to follow my heart despite it not being the easiest decision.

For some reason I still find it hard to be open about my sexuality which in a way frustrates me as I know in the past it has become more of an issue because I have tried to hide it. I know this is because I am afraid of judgement. Although I know that I would not want to be friends with people who are homophobic I also like to be liked.

When I was married, I used to struggle when people asked me what my husband was called or what he did and so I used to talk about them as ‘they’ to try and avoid the fact that I actually had a wife. Starting a new life, after leaving my abusive relationship, has given me opportunities to change how I present myself and so I am trying to be more open and honest with people. So when people assume that because I have children I must have been with a man or that I only came out after having children, I correct them.

I sometimes wonder if people would make the same assumptions if I looked like a lesbian – not that I am saying there is a look, but I know some people assume that all lesbians are butch and so because I am feminine people may assume that I am not a lesbian.

Now that life is returning to some sort of normality I would like to try and meet new people but when it comes to joining events, I get nervous and despite wanting to go I struggle to put myself out there, after all, who knows what opportunities there may be or who I may meet. I know this is something that I need to get over and I would like to learn to be proud of who I am.

I truly hope that people are becoming more accepting, open minded and less judgemental. I remember someone saying that the worst thing that could happen to their child is if they were gay, I wholeheartedly disagree. As a parent, I hope that my daughters will be happy in their own skin, and I will love them regardless of their sexuality.

After all,….