Tag Archives: Gay Lesbian and Bisexual

Do you wanna hear a queer love story?

Small child reading book

Tiny Me!

Doing a degree in Philosophy completely ruined my love of reading. As a child I devoured books, reading 2, 3, 4 at a time. The library was my happy place. And then aged 19 I trundled off to University, where my degree required me to read incessantly and in time I totally lost my passion. But as time passed I’ve decided to give it another go, and this is where this story starts for me.

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Where them girls at? [girls at? la da de da laaaaaa]

I have a confession. I am not very good at films. ‘Sunshine on Leith’ was my idea of a life changing film and so let’s be honest, high culture is just not my thing. When the LGBT short films at the Glasgow Film Theatre came into my field of vision I was torn: I will basically go and see/do/dance at anything remotely queer, but short films sounded all a bit high-brow. What could I lose?

The Glasgow Film Theatre is super cute tucked away just up Sauchiehall Street and well worth a visit if you’ve not been. Big comfy seats, a cute (if somewhat compact) bar upstairs, but I would recommend taking your own snacks. It was Sunday night, which I personally think is the perfect night for peanuts and movies, but apparently Glasgow disagreed. The screen was very quiet, like  handful of people quiet. And men in abundance. Queer women: where are you?

The films were all finalists from the Iris Prize – an LGBT film festival in Cardiff (see I’m learning). As a total rubbish film-goer I was amazed at just how much could be conveyed in ten to fifteen minutes. And, as someone with quite a short attention span and a vivid imagination for filling in the gaps in quite sparse storylines – I loved it!

I won’t lament over all the details of the films, but as a quick rundown. A beautiful coming-of-age story about a young romance between two young disabled men in ‘For Dorian’; a heart-achingly personal story from Gustavo from San Francisco about his night-time transitions into Donna, and his inspiration: ‘My mother’; a surreal film, including an interpretive dance called ‘Gorilla’ about two young men defining their budding new relationship; and ‘Boys Village’ about the ghost of a child, trapped in time, watching the camp in which he died in destroyed by 21st century thugs as he sought out his first kiss across the boundary of life and death.

But it was ‘Burger’ that really struck me. Set in a chippie at kicking out time, ‘Burger’ provided a snapshot into the lives of three groups of friends. ‘Burger’ was incidentally queer, as opposed to explicitly so, but resonated as I am a habitual eavesdropper and often end up in a chip shop at the end of a night out. The setting reminded me slightly of Canal Street, and the combination of bright lights, dance-dishevelled clothes, and make-up coloured tears struck a chord with me – definitely worth a watch if you get the chance.

Iris Prize Tickets

I think it’s really important to support queer events, and I would go to the opening of a queer envelope. The positive portrayal of queer people in the media and mainstream culture is so few and far between that I want to support it when there is opportunity. But there was just one itsy bitsy thing that annoyed me: there were no women who sleep with women represented. Let me repeat that for you: no women who sleep with women. Five short films, and…

not one single woman who sleeps with women

Queue a train ride back to Edinburgh with me planning all the films I was going to shoot which would only feature women who sleep with women… The fact is I might have a fab imagination, but I can barely take a holiday snap on a disposable camera without causing a disaster, let alone make a short-film. However, you dear reader, you are probably far more competent at life than I and so if you are indeed a budding film maker and think you might have a fab idea (or even a vague idea) for a short-film featuring women who sleep with women, then please (please) check out: http://www.irisprize.org/submissions-guidelines/

 

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The World as I know it

Ok, so I am coming up to my 24th birthday. Exciting, right? When I was little I had always imagine that my 24th year was going to be my best year. 24 has always been my favourite number: my birthday, the age my mum was when she got married. I was convinced that by 24 everything was going to be settled. I’d be married, a house, a cat (several cats), and a perfect job. As a little girl, with no particularly object of marriage in mind, I had not even thought about the fact that the law in my country would not allow me to marry!

At every age there are different challenges, I feel like my 20′s have been a time of big change. There have been tons of firsts. First smear test. First moving in with partner. First serious thoughts about marriage, pets and children (mainly pets). First full-time job. First spell in hospital. Some obviously more exciting than others… I have chosen, decided, prioritised, and taken full ownership of my future. With this also came  worries about rent, food, impending unemployment and it’s all been a bit much!

This is how I feel! Photo by Popitz: http://tinyurl.com/jw4psrh

This is how I feel!
Photo by Popitz: http://tinyurl.com/jw4psrh

I was delighted therefore to see the publishing of Stonewall’s ‘Gay in Britain’ report (http://www.stonewall.org.uk/documents/gay_in_britain.pdf). The report surveyed 3.7 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people across the UK and asked them about their perceptions and expectations of public life. The conclusions were bleak. People are considerably concerned about homo- and bi- phobias across virtually every area of public life from medical care to social care, from housing to their working environments, and most upsetting for me, in education. A huge 83% of people worried that their sexuality would put their child at risk of being bullied at secondary school.

This report has left me with a lot of thoughts, feelings, but mostly unanswered questions. Obviously, it is awful that a huge proportion of our community is concerned about such vast parts of their lives, that people may be making choices in response to these concerns and therefore limiting their lives. I wonder the strength of these concerns. I want to know what has fostered them, if they are based in experience, sensationalist media headlines or anecdotes shared between friends. I think the homo- and bi- phobias in school have a huge amount to answer for. Not just because school is hell for a lot of us, but because those hellish experiences go on to shape our expectations and taint our perceptions.

From my personal experience, although I have had isolated experiences of homophobia, this picture of Britain thankfully does not match my own experience. I have spent the last six years coming out in various different contexts and if I am honest it has not often been public authorities where I have faced discrimination, moreover individual idiots (in the street, friends of friends, etc.). From friends’ anecdotes, I am aware that I am in a fairly privileged position to say the least. but this is my experience. This is not to say I’ve not worried about a number of the things highlighted for concern in the report. Of course I have, but it is just worrying because I am a champion worrier, not from negative experience. And, I guess this is why research like this somewhat disconcerts me. It convinces me that I have something that I should  be worried about, and this I don’t like!

I hope that this research will soon enough be followed with some further qualitative research to work out where these worries are coming from so we can begin to tackle them. But, for now, I want to say to the little me’s of the world that worry themselves sick about coming out, about what life will be like as a queer and about how people will judge me, that life is often not as difficult as we imagine in our most anxious moments. Yes there is discrimination. Yes some people are horrible. But, things can be fabulous. Every complaint made. Every person willing to teach or stand for office. Every child born. We slowly break down this discrimination by saying that we will not tolerate it and in doing so we change society piece by piece.

Photo by The Green Gables: http://bit.ly/17e0W77

Photo by The Green Gables: http://bit.ly/17e0W77

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Sorry, no lesbians allowed here…

So at age twenty, after never having had experienced any personal homophobic attack in my life thus far, I always though ‘phew, I’ve passed the high school stage with no problems, what’s the worst that can happen now?!’… I held that thought until this morning. Never would I have thought that the first person ever to be homophobic towards me was a professional.

I recently reached that beautiful stage that I received a letter from my doctors and had all my male friends giggle and say ‘ahhh I bet it’s for a smear test!!’ So firstly that’s not very reassuring, in fact it’s terrifying. Do I really want a random woman sticking something up my vajayjay on first meeting, before noon on a weekday…not really, is the answer. However, I persevered and made an appointment as it’s my own health that’s in question after all. After days of thinking about how traumatic the experience was going to be (can you tell, I’m a bit of a drama queen), my male best friend said “don’t worry, she will have seen it all before”. Yeah thanks, I feel so much better after that. Really, I do.

As I walked into the room I was hit with so many questions I thought I was in a quick fire round of a game show:

“How old are you?” “Are you sexually active?” “Are you on the pill?!” “Have you had this test before?”

We certainly weren’t off to a good start on the ‘try not to freak out’ front. So after telling her I’m not on the pill, and watching her confused reaction when I told her I haven’t used contraception, I told her I don’t sleep with men. You’d have thought at this point that I’d told her I was sleeping with turtles as she looked so baffled. It could just be me, but it is normal to be a lesbian, yes?

I'm sorry, it's not you, it's me! Photo by: Phil's 1st Pix: http://bit.ly/19whbRe

I’m sorry, it’s not you, it’s me!

Photo by: Phil’s 1st Pix: http://bit.ly/19whbRe

 

Anyway, she let out a slight “ha!” and said that I wouldn’t need a test then as I hadn’t had sex with a man before….however, now comes the interesting part: she said that should the situation change within the next few years, that I should come back and get tested. Hold on a second…so she’s basically just told me that if soon enough I see the light, she’ll be happy to perform. I don’t think so, lady!

How does she think lesbians have sex, by kissing?! Surely she should have started with “Have you ever had penetrative sex before” then things would have been so much simpler.

So I left the surgery absolutely baffled, and also rather upset/frustrated. Why was I singled out as different? Why was I not entitled to this? All that working myself up for nothing. Although I have decided to go back and get a test, but not from that nurse again. I think I’d make a point of asking for a non-homophobic nurse to do the test on me this time, and see how they respond.

So a word of advice, if you’re going for a test, don’t let the nurse tell you you’re not eligible just because of your sexuality. Do try to tell them otherwise, and if that doesn’t work then I suggest putting in a complaint. It’s 2013, should a professional really be judging you on your sexuality?

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The Gay Agenda is Proud: Rhianna

This week, in the lead up to Glasgow Pride, we decided to interview some of our writers to find out what Pride means to them!

What’s your name, age and where do you come from?

Hi Cilla, my name’s Rhianna, I’m 25 and I’m originally from Ely but I live in Glasgow

Why did you get involved in the Gay Agenda?

I am very opinionated. I think we need more outlets to discuss issues for queer women in the UK

What do you write about?

Queer issues, trans* issues and books!

Photo by John: http://bit.ly/17ByjOy

Photo by John: http://bit.ly/17ByjOy

What do you do in real life?

I’m about to start an MRes in Equality and Human Rights, I work in a museum and I read a lot of books.

Why is Pride important to you?

It’s a really good platform for campaigning on the current issues for queer and LGBT people and you feel part of a community out in the street. You know you can hold hands with your girlfriend and won’t get shouted at for it.

What is your best and worst part of pride?

The people are the best bit. Everyone’s so happy to be out regardless of the weather or whatever else might be going on. The worst bit is all the commercialisation. All the pubs, clubs and the like that turn up to promote their drink prices and don’t give a shit about the protest part. Pride isn’t about pubs.

What’s your must-have item for Pride?

Rainbow clothes! I don’t fit in for many reasons – one of those is my fashion sense or lack thereof – and it’s nice to not be judged for wearing rainbow flares. Well not too judged.

If you had a placard for Pride what would it say?

“Gender Extender”. Actually it would probably say “Fuck gender binaries”.

fuck gender norms and barriers

What’s you Pride soundtrack?

Androgyny – Garbage

Best ever Pride you’ve been to?

The all merge into one actually. Probably Pride Glasgow a couple of years ago. I can’t remember what I was getting a petition signed for but I got a few hundred signatures and talked to loads of people. It was great.

What are you proud of?

I’m proud of us. I’m proud that we fight for our rights and how we fight for them. We are creative campaigners: we march, we blog, we have catchy chants, historically we’ve staged die ins and kiss ins. We are a movement changing the world one chant at a time.

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The Gay Agenda is Proud: Sarah

What’s your name, age and where do you come from?

My name is Sarah, I’m 24 soon to turn 25 and I’m half French half English.

Why did you get involved in The Gay Agenda?

I got involved in The Gay Agenda because I was taken in by the idea of putting forward LGBT women-focused topics without necessarily having to be heavily involved in things like politics. I think The Gay Agenda is a fab way to share everyday thoughts and ideas with women that I more closely identify with.

What do you write about?

I’m in charge of the style & beauty column, there’ll be posts on fashion, tried & tested beauty products, lifestyle chats etc.

What do you do in real life?

In real life I’m a spa and beauty therapist.

Gay OK

Photo by Charlotte Bakken: http://bit.ly/13Ysh8M

Why is Pride important to you?

Ironically pride wasn’t much of a big deal for me until last year. In actual fact I’d never attended one and wasn’t bothered about doing so, I’m even slightly ashamed to say that given the chance to go I would’ve most likely said no because the whole concept cringed me out slightly. But then I met my current girlfriend who loved going -more for the meeting up with mates and the drinks part to be fair but still- she took me along and it was actually a really good laugh! The atmosphere with the music and all the colours is like a mini rio carnival and it wasn’t half as ‘tacky’ ad I thought it’d be! Following on from that I went all out -no pun intended- and went on to do a video for Scotland’s equal marriage campaign. I guess as I get older I appreciate the efforts and steps necessary for the welfare and rights of LGBT people, of which I belong to, so I can’t leave everyone else to do all the work for me!

What is your best and worst part of pride? 

The worst part of pride is probably the sometimes questionable taste in fancy dress. The best part is definitely the sense of belonging and unity and of purse the night out!

What’s your must-have item for Pride?

My must have item for pride would be those coloured bead necklaces.

If you had a placard for Pride what would it say?

If I had a placard for pride it would say GAY IS OK!

What’s you Pride soundtrack?

My pride track would be a pitbull remix-don’t judge me 

Best ever Pride you’ve been to?

Well my best ever has to be my only one -edinburgh- but I’m positive that will get topped up soon!

What are you proud of?

What am I proud of? I’ve got a couple things that jump up at me: my spa & beauty therapy diploma and the things my girlfriend Leo’s achieved after some seriously rough times and finally on a more light hearted note I’m pretty pleased with myself that even while holidaying in St Pete, Russia, I managed to find the only gay club in the city! Complete with a dark room and their very own -absolutely stunning- drag queen. It’s completely irrelevant that it took about 30mins and 3 wrong addresses to get to it…

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Born this way?

Coming out is a process, I admire those who have – I can openly say that I most certainly haven’t. We struggle and struggle, often in silence, and then we have our moment where we just know. Whether gay, straight, bisexual, or whatever, we are born this way and we will die this way. Or maybe not that’s not quite right? Surely this can’t be the only explanation.

I believe that sexuality is fluid.

 When you are discovering who you are and who you want to be with, you go through phases of trying to find exactly what you identify as. Trying on different labels until we find the one that fits. It’s not that our sexuality is fluid, it’s that we haven’t found the right label yet.

But what if our sexuality could continually change throughout our lives. I mean everything else does: our tastes in clothes, or music, or food. But more to the point, our own personalities change throughout our lives – I believe that our sexuality is one of the biggest aspects of our personality.

I always knew from a young age that I wasn’t straight – and that was fine, more than fine! As I had an interest in both men and women, it was right to assume that I was bisexual, right?

fuck gender norms and barriers

And I was bisexual. For a while. As I grew up something started to not feel quite right. I had fully accepted myself  as bisexual, that had felt like a perfect fit, but now I wasn’t so sure. I had completely returned to square one of the ‘Who am I, really?’ path. Upon much more contemplation of what I potentially am, I completely broke down. It drove me nuts as I, like so many of us, had to deal with such disgusting discrimination. I felt dirty, I was hurt – I could hardly look at myself in the mirror. It took me over a year before I spoke to anyone about sexuality again, even now; most people have no idea that I am not straight.

I think that sexuality is something that changes and develops as we get older.

Our needs, wants and desires change throughout our lifetime – once again, take this with a pinch of salt (or perhaps a bag). Some people’s needs, wants and desires change little throughout their lives and then other’s change so dramatically. I think this is a really normal thing to happen to everyone who is ‘queer’ in one way or another. After years of wondering, ,  questioning and after many tears were shed, I identify as a pansexual. It was after several years of meeting new people of new genders and sexualities, having seen their beauty individually I began to notice things like gender less and less, it is now something that doesn’t even occur to me. Ever since trying on the pansexual label, I’ve never felt more comfortable in my own skin – even if you and only a few others know it.  Who knows – my sexuality could change in the years to come – I highly doubt it though – I think that my preferences might shift to a certain extent, but within the pansexual umbrella.

Sexuality, along with so many other aspects of our personality change and develop with time. If you are lucky enough to just know, and understand who and what you are, then I am rather envious. For those of you who are still searching for yourself, it’ll come with time.

Keep talking.

Keep reading.

Keep thinking.

You’ll get there in the end.

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I’m not homophobic but…

Last week I experienced lesbophobia in a space I had previously thought of as ‘safe’. Big deal, we’ve all been there. However, this was different. It wasn’t violent – they expressed their hatred in words and they were good enough to speak at a reasonable volume so that’s a plus. What was different about it is that this person didn’t think they were homophobic.

I’ll summarise this conversation for you briefly.

Her: yadada yada yada relationship chat.

Me: Oh yeah I live with my partner.

Her: Oh how long have you lived with your boyfriend.

Me: I’ve lived with my girlfriend for just over a year. Recently we moved together which felt like a bigger deal than moving in together or maybe it was just more stressful haha.

*awkward pause*

Her: Oh I didn’t like to presume *looks at me quizically with a face that says ‘but you don’t have horns – you look just like me!‘*

Her: *insert awkward rant about sin* followed by this line

I have lots of gay male friends. I get they can’t help being gay but you know it’s different with them *pointed look at me*

So I cut that down and paraphrased a lot but the gist was that it’s ok to be a gay man – they just can’t help themselves because, you know, men are pretty or unstoppable sex machines or something. On the other hand, women should know better. Lesbians are doubly deviant. They have the audacity to be women and always banging on about equal pay or some other awful fight for rights and they are lesbians always asking to get married. Married! ‘The nerve of them’ heteropatriarchal society says to me.

Is lesbophobia homophobia I hear you ask fictional reader?

Well yes and no. I often use the term homophobia as a catch-all term for lesbophobiatransphobiaqueerphobia and biphobia as well as the traditional use of the term for homophobic attitudes to gay men. However, using it as a catch-all term may not work when it is also used to refer to one group of gay men.

After experiencing this lesbophobic abuse I text my girlfriend to tell her I’d just experienced homophobia because my first thoughts were that’s what it was. I don’t believe this lesbophobe’s discussion of gay male friends was a simple ‘Oh I can’t be homophobic because I know this gay/met one once/saw one on TV and wasn’t repulsed’. It was much more disturbing. She was telling me that men have the freedom to love who they like but women should be grateful to be loved by men and stop messing things up for all the other women.

This got me thinking that maybe I shouldn’t use homophobia as a catch-all term because there are times when we aren’t all in this together. Don’t get me wrong, I love the inclusivity of the queer and LGBT communities but sometimes I experience specific lesbophobia and queerphobia. When I’m told I don’t need a smear test because I’m a lesbian, that isn’t homophobia. When I’m out with my trans friend and we need to find a different pub because there isn’t a bathroom they can use (or they get kicked out of one), that isn’t homophobia. When I hear for thousandth time that so-and-so is ‘actually’ gay but they think being bisexual is more socially acceptable, that isn’t homophobia. When I have to defend my definition of queer lesbian yet again because I’ve been too honest with someone that likes the gender binary more than real people, that isn’t homophobia.

Of course we should tackle homophobia but we should remember that there are situations that homophobia doesn’t always cover depending on your definition. There is also a bigger issue here that knowing that one gay person or being gay doesn’t mean you can’t be biphobic, lesbophoic, queerphobic, transphobic or homophobic. Although I love queer communities, I have found LGBT groups can be pretty biphobic, transphobic and queerphobic.

Are we all in this together?

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Hello Gays!

Having heard so much about the Gay Agenda in recent press, we thought if there’s going to be a Gay Agenda we want to have written it! So we are! The Gay Agenda is written by queer women in the UK, for queer women. So however you define take a look and get in touch at thegayagendauk@gmail.com or on twitter @thegayagendauk.

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