I think I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to creating your own personalised bubble both online and in life. Decorating your daily life with positivity, freedom and openness makes for a happier space to flourish in. Ignorance is bliss which is why I don't shy away from tough topics, keep in the loop on current affairs and I'm increasingly forcing myself to challenge and fight back certain narratives that slip into my bubble be it on the internet or in the real world.
I've just watched 'Murdered for Being Different' a factual drama looking at the death of 20 year-old Sophie Lancaster who was kicked to death in a park by a gang of kids she didn't know as she was trying to protect her boyfriend Robert Maltby. The pair were randomly attack for simply dressing as Goths. It was a heartbreaking watch. Whilst this vile hate crime took place ten years ago, what shocked me most was the statistic which was included at the end of the film, that in 2016 there was almost 70,000 reported hate crimes in the UK alone. The highest figure since records began.
This made me question deeply the direction the UK is going in. In recent years the political landscape has been shaken up massively. In the year that the UK voted the leave the EU, Donald Trump was also elected president of the United States - this country has rejected his rhetoric so strongly that it's widely reported doesn't want to set a date for his state visit in fear of facing huge protests. In contrast, following the EU referendum result there was a surge in reported hate crime. It just doesn't add up.
We have seen so much progress on many issues before and during my lifetime. In my quarter of a century on this planet, I've watched the first black president of the United States serve two terms, I've watched same-sex marriage legalised here in the UK and I've just seen the most diverse parliament in British history be elected. Life seems so much more free, accepting and open in so many ways on so many topics from disability to LGBTQ+ and mental health to religion. So why does it seem like the threat to that progress and our freedom to be ourselves be under increasing threat?
I don't have the answer. It's a mind blowing situation. What I do know is that this is the United Kingdom and here we often celebrate difference, being different is beautiful, it makes the world an exciting and interesting place to inhabit. We can dress the way we want, go to an American rock show, eat Japanese food and then go for a pint. We have the right to be ourselves and we will exercise that right in the face of any threat be it terrorism or hate crime. I speak as someone who dresses pretty uniquely, has dyed hair, listens to everything from metal to hip hop, is battling a mental illness, is disabled and is a vegetarian.
Of course, different can be scary, it can be daunting and shocking. But that doesn't give anyone the right to spit abuse, throw punches or whatever else makes them feel like they are some big hard b*stard. Because I'll tell you now, being different is hard, whether you choose to be or are born different you're swimming against the current and those waters can be unforgivingly brutal and it takes real strength and an unthinkable level of courage to live different.