Hi, I’m Diego! I’m Beingwell’s UX/UI Developer and to commemorate Pride Month I’ve hijacked this post and sent our copywriter for a mindfulness break while I talk about Pride. To give you a bit of an introduction to this month, let’s flashback to 1969…
Imagine being in a club every other weekend or so and suddenly a police raid happens for no apparent reason, it happens in the only place where you can dance, kiss, hug, hold hands and be yourself without thinking you are being judged or at risk of being discriminated against.
These raids were pretty common, there was constant abuse from the police to the point the LGBTQIA+ community got tired of them and in June 1969 at The Stonewall Inn pub, riots and protests erupted to fight back against this unfair abuse. Pioneering acitivists of Stonewall include Marsha P Johnson, a black drag queen, and Sylvia Rivera, a Latina transgender woman, without whom, LGBTQIA+ liberation may have taken so much longer.
What does LGBTQIA+ actually stand for?
The LGBTQIA+ acronym is ever growing and evolving and stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, plus. The plus bit is important to be inclusive to everyone such as people who identify as polyamorous, demisexual, ally, or genderqueer, for example. There are loads more, have a nosey here to find out about these and other identities.
(There is also the even heftier LGBTTQQIAAP - but a lot of people feel that’s a tad too long.)
So, a bit about me
I was born and raised in Ecuador in 1995, in a culture that is still very much finding its way to accept the LGBTQIA+ community. I was surrounded by homophobic language and the idea that ‘being gay isn’t ok’ was a recurring thought in my head. I had no example EVER of what a well-adjusted or even openly gay person was like. I felt like there was something wrong with me, so I hid. I put on an act and would laugh along while thinking, “oh that’s me’’.
Coping was a real struggle whilst growing up, I felt very alone and my mental health suffered. I read a study recently that over half (52%) of all LGBT people have experienced depression, 46% of trans people have thought about taking their own life, and 72% of bi women and 56% of bi men have experienced anxiety, in the last year alone.
I wish I’d have had someone to talk to back then about my feelings, I wouldn’t have felt so alone if I had.
Almost 3 years ago I started coming out to my friends and just one year ago I completely came out to my entire family. It was a process of acceptance (and it still is), not just from the people that surround me, but also me accepting myself.
Does Pride Month matter?
I’ve never been to a pride parade! Nevertheless, I understand and value how much Pride Month commemorates years of struggle for equality. It’s really validating and important to celebrate and recognise that not everyone is straight or identifies with the gender assigned to them at birth. Since moving to London, I’ve found a very different vibe around sexuality, gender identity and acceptance. The people I've met and friends I've made accept me for who I am. I don’t feel the need to ‘come out’ to everyone I meet. Although I’m not gonna lie, because of my past, I still struggle to use the pronoun ‘he’ when I refer to my partner because in my head I still get judged for it.
I love the fact that I have a community, and that there are people that can help me learn and understand how to accept myself. If it wasn't for them I wouldn't be able to talk freely as I am doing right now.
So back to the question, Pride does matter, because seeing and talking about our experiences in the LGBTQIA+ community makes a difference. Everyone should feel comfortable and safe being themselves wherever they are. It’s still illegal to be gay in 69 countries, and in 5 it carries the death penalty!
Over the years though, celebrating Pride has grown in popularity, which is brilliant but also presents a few problems. Whilst we stand by watching companies selectively jumping on the bandwagon for a few weeks, as a community we live our truth and support each other all year long. Pride is just the visible tip of LGBTQIA+ liberation.
We’re all individuals, right? So why are we stereotyping?!
Coming out to my family made me reflect that we are more than our sexuality, gender, or labels. The acceptance has come along in leaps and bounds, but why do we as a society care whether someone is gay, straight, bisexual, non-binary, transgender, etc? We’re increasingly valuing individuality, uniqueness and the impact that has on how we lead our lives. Not all women have children anymore, not all men are the breadwinners, not all humans identify as being a ‘woman’ or a ‘man’. Yet, we still see sexuality and gender identity as something that defines members of the community, when it’s not someone who fits into the box of heterosexual cisgender (straight people whose gender identity and expression matches their biological sex assigned at birth). We shouldn’t care how people identify their gender or sexuality. There is so much more to a person.
I don't want to be put in a box, I don't want to be generalised as ‘Diego the gay guy’, not because I’m ashamed of it, but because I believe that I am way more than who I sleep with or love. I want to be seen as Diego, the UX Designer who loves music, dancing and video games. A good friend said:
“Let’s just be proud of who we are as individuals, not just as the labels we fill”.
You can do this and you will always have support
I’m aware that not all of us have the same privileges to be in the place or time that suits who we are. But trust me, if there was something I would’ve loved to be told back then when I felt alone is that you will always find someone else that might be going or has gone through the same thing you are. Reach out - there are communities, groups and places to meet people like you, online or in person. Have a look here and find what support works best for you. As well as having a great support network, I also love watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race for representation on TV (and a bit of drama!).
Find your people who accept you for you - the whole you, not just your stereotyped identity!
If you’re struggling with your identity, please remember: You deserve love, respect, happiness, success, and support for being your authentic self. Take care of yourself, today and every day. Our world needs you. I’m sending love and hope.
Diego’s dynamite advice: If you or someone you know is thinking about coming out, be confident and secure, not apologetic and ashamed - there’s nothing wrong with you. Remember you won’t please everyone. For more information, top tips, and support visit Stonewall.org.uk