Tag Archives: Stonewall

First snog

Stonewall is 25 this year.

Happy birthday Stonewall!

I’m 25 too although not for much longer. I’ll be celebrating my birthday tomorrow by heading down to a local protest against victim blaming rape and sexual assault survivors.

Stonewall is also celebrating,

“25 years of campaigning so that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are free to love and be loved”,

with a ‘first SNOG’ campaign. Now in theory I can get on board with the campaign:  supporting change so that anyone can kiss their partner(s) wherever they like sounds great to me!

lipstick kiss

I live in a country where I can kiss my partner without fear of criminal charges or state persecution. In practice this isn’t so simple. In reality we can’t have our first, second or 3456th snog out in the street. We don’t often hold hands and rarely kiss in public unless we’re in an area we’ve experienced little or no abuse in. My partner isn’t out about her sexuality to the customers in her place of work because many of them are homophobic so if I walk her there we’ll hug goodbye.

This isn’t uncommon for many queer couples.

When we kiss in the street we out ourselves and we make ourselves a target. Of course I would love to be shouting from the rooftops that I love my girlfriend and I’m out to many people but as a matter of  self-preservation I just don’t want the abuse  that comes from kissing in the street. I don’t want the fear of violence that comes from loving who I love.

IMG_1507

Stonewall has joined with SNOG, a frozen yoghurt company I’d previously never heard of probably because they only have shops in London and some Waitrose sell their goods (according to their website my closest SNOG is 120 miles away). Anyway they have launched rainbow coloured froyo (that’s what the kids call it yeah?) to raise money and ‘awareness’ (I have issues with awareness raising campaigns, ask me about it sometime). You can take a selfie in their app which is downloadable and um get involved in um changing the world. How again? Oh raising money (by texting SNOG to 70300 which gives Stonewall £3) that was it. I knew there was a link to activism somewhere…

Stonewall is trying here but it just doesn’t reflect reality for many of us. Our snogs are hidden, behind closed doors, sneaking in and sneaking out, in darkness and in fear. I’m sure all these predominantly heterosexual cisgender celebrities taking SNOG selfies feel like they’re making a difference here but you aren’t making people kissing their partners any easier. You aren’t changing the world and I’m not sure if this campaign is even trying to. Even the word snog has all these connotations of teenage fumbling and for me all my teenage fumbling was conducted in a mess of confusion about my gender and my sexuality that I tried really hard to keep a secret in a very small town. I’d maybe like this campaign more if it was aimed at all those teenagers currently negotiating their first snogs but it appears to be aimed at adults looking back and I just don’t understand why.

Maybe on my 26th birthday I’ll hold my girlfriend’s hand on this protest. It’s late at night. It’ll be dark. Maybe next year Stonewall will have a birthday I’ll feel I can be part of. Maybe I’ll be less cynical and eat frozen yoghurt.”

 

 

 

 

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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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