Brighton has long been associated in my memory as the seaside town.
My family would visit Brighton once or twice a year, since my early childhood.
My earliest memory would be having fish and chips on the beach, sunglasses and sunshine.
Much like the long British history it represents, Brighton would be the place that men, women and children retreat to for a seaside vacation, a family holiday and a break from the tumultuous, hectic life of London and other cities.
Growing up in London, you feel the hastiness of life, the pace and it’s hectic nature. However, Brighton is the place you come to be ‘reborn’, a place of acceptance and difference.
Many years ago, I remember seeing my first encounter with the LGBT ‘world’ that I and many other here would come to associate with.
A couple, holding hands on walking along the seafront, open and happy, gleaming in the summer sun.
One, several years older than his younger partner smiled, beamingly, at me. It would be much too clichéd to say that that experience ‘changed’ me, but it gave me a sense of welcoming acceptance, a trait that Brighton holds close to its heart.
I began at the University of Sussex, knowing full well its associations with close by Brighton, and I longed for that gleaming, happy image I saw all those years ago.
Growing up in a religious family and being LGBT gives oneself a massive sense of frustration and obstruction at having to ‘hide’ yourself.
Alas, as I began to associate more with the LGBT community, reading up on advice columns on ‘how to come out’ and the long list of friendly ‘helpful’ associations that are there for LGBT youth, I opened up to friends, and made friends along the way.
I lost friends too, but such is a low cost for the freedom and expression that being out, proud and LGBT brings.
Setting foot at my first Pride parade (London, 2011) I followed this with Brighton Pride, only a few weeks later, and everything seemed to fall into place after this.
I was drawn back to the seaside town I saw all those years ago, having grown and matured, come to accept who I was and how this was a part of me.
As we move into LGBT History Month, I cannot stress enough the support and friendships I made along the way. Brighton itself has a lot to account to this and, only 4 weeks into my second term at Sussex, I already feel like ‘I’m home’.
Brighton is a magical place, (there’s that dreaded cliché again!), but it makes sense. This city owes so much of its development and success to its thriving LGBT community and it gives me a massive sense of pride to be a part of that.
Thus, as we begin LGBT History Month, let’s not forget the people that have made this possible, reflect on the sacrifices that many have made, the support that people give, and the love that this town offers.