Black History Month is important as it celebrates the heritage of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic people (BAME). Unfortunately mainstream media underrepresents this group, which can lead to false perceptions or dangerously ignorant notions. Black History Month creates an opportunity for the narrative to focus on this group. This is beneficial as reflecting on the past allows people in society to move forward, better informed. As someone who falls into both BAME and LGBT categories, sharing my own personal achievements as well as challenges will help with this issue.
For me, being of Caribbean heritage has made me feel an innate pressure to present myself a particular way. Growing up my parents, relatives, and close family friends all held strong cultural and traditional beliefs that influenced how we all felt about subjects relating to anything LGBT. Education about relationships and sexuality for me mostly came from friends, family and the good ol' internet!
With my sexuality, I had initially identified as gay then later realised (with support from Stonewall) that my sexuality was more appropriately articulated as bisexual. Unfortunately, coming out as bi comes with its own challenges, as many people don't understand bisexuality at all!
People often call bi individuals greedy, promiscuous, confused or say we're in denial of being gay. And I can tell you this honestly isn't true! (It is actually is quite hurtful).
Although I have always been open having same sex relationships, I felt a pressure to try and have a 'heteronormative appearance'. I falsely thought I couldn't get my nose pierced, be creative with my style of clothing or even grow facial hair! When in actuality, none of these things determine sexuality. I had subconsciously harboured internalized homophobic ideologies nurtured from my cultural environment.
Without realizing, I was using extra unnecessary energy on maintaining an untrue image for other people.
Fast-forward to now and IDGAF! (Google that if you need to). I've got my nose piercing and I grew that beard out and I feel more 'masculine' now, being free to be my true self.
So what happened?
Stonewall's Young Leaders programme certainly helped me reach this point on my journey.
One of the things that really stuck with me from participating in the programme was the mention of the 'good gay' and 'bad gay' ideology. That resonated with me as I could recall times where I falsely believed my own expressions of sexual orientation and gender identity were more acceptable or superior. Which I now know is just complete BS and couldn't be further from the truth.
I love my culture and it's a huge part of my identity. My Caribbean culture has helped me understand community spirit. It's aided in developing my humanitarian core values like compassion that I take into my career of learning disability nursing.
However, my earlier experience illustrates an evident reality: your background unintentionally risks inhibiting LGBT individuals like it initially did for me.
BAME & LGBT role models were never visible while I was growing up in the 90s. So I feel a compelling duty to share my journey. It doesn't matter whether you yourself are BAME or another protected characteristic reading this will hopefully will evoke appreciation for some the different privileges we all take for granted.