Words by Megan Delaney
Brighton is the unofficial gay capital of the UK. Everyone here seems so unafraid to be themselves, free from any shame or questioning about who they are and what they do. It’s a beautiful thing to see and is one of the reasons I love being here. Despite being surrounded by some of the most vibrant and interesting people in the world, I still feel unsure about myself.
I’ve never defined myself as having any sexuality. When I have to fill out forms and get to the part about sexual orientation, it’s never easy to answer. Heterosexual has never fit, but growing up, it all seemed very black and white: either you were inherently gay or completely straight. I didn’t fit either box; I just found all people attractive regardless of their gender.
It feels embarrassing to admit that in the most liberal place I have ever lived, I’m still worried about the reaction that not being straight invites. Bisexuality feels like sitting on the fence with people around me tapping their watches to make me decide. It’s made me scared, to be honest, because despite things being better, the world still isn’t a neutral place for LGBTQ+ people to exist free of judgement or harm.
In my research for a recent essay, I found out how immigration laws since their inception have specifically targeted and discriminated against LGBTQ+ people, calling them “homosexual aliens” because they didn’t fit the mould. LGBTQ+ people have been excluded on the basis that not being heterosexual was perceived as a psychological disorder, such as under the US Immigration Act of 1917, based on the belief that homosexuality was a disease. The US Public Health Service classified LGBTQ+ people as having psychopathic inferiority or mental defects, and it’s something I’ve never really thought about before.
I sometimes feel guilty for expecting mixed reactions about my sexuality, but then I remember how the world has made it so difficult for LGBTQ+ people and how hard they have had to fight for basic rights. It was not until 1967 that the law was changed in England to decriminalize consensual homosexual acts taking place in private between men. With so much discrimination, I want to thank all those people who have dedicated their lives to trying to make the world a safe place for LGBTQ+ people. I think it’s easy to forget how long the struggle has gone on for and to just expect that things are equal. Thank you to all the people who protested against all the violent laws against LGBTQ+ people and worked so hard to make things better.
Learning about these exclusions helped me understand myself better. I now know that the certain shames I have felt about my sexuality and attempts to hide that part of myself have been fuelled by the awful treatment of LGBTQ+ people throughout history and my fears about facing prejudices relate to so many other people. There’s a certain power in knowing that I’m not alone and that my own confusion has never been about not knowing who I was. My confusion is just a manifestation of my fear of being treated differently, but I’m not scared of that anymore.
Image Credits: Mark Wordy on Flickr