February was LGBT History Month, a time to remember and celebrate LGBT history as well as look at areas where society still needs to move forward in terms of equality.
As the month comes to a close, young adults of the LGBT community shared their stories and what this month means to them.
Joe Cooper, 20, said LGBT History Month is a time to remember and look forward.
“It’s about all the people who fought for all the rights I’ve got. Rights for marriage; rights to have kids; rights to be who I am.
“For me it’s a time to respect those who have fought for the privileges I’ve got now. They’re people who have risked their lives. They’ve gone against the grain.
“There’s still a lot of things we need to do. You can look back at how we’ve progressed and think about what we still need to make equal in the world.”
Cooper described how being LGBT affects how he interacts with the world.
“You’re always cautious, for me anyway. How you act, how I act around people. Being quite camp, for me, can be quite negative. People can perceive it as quite a negative thing. I try and just be myself, but at the same time I still panic about what people think about me.”
AJ, 21, also feels cautious when meeting new people because of their identity.
“It’s kind of scary, because you don’t know if this person’s safe. Can I be who I truly am, even though it’s not that much of my outward identity. It’s little things, like would I be able to hold my partners hand? Can I do this without being stared at? Will I be rejected a job? All these different things.
“It definitely affects how I interact with people. It affects who I make friends with because I think all of my closest friends are in the community as well. I gravitate towards those people because I know I can be me.”
AJ also want others to understand that LGBT people aren’t a new phenomena.
“It’s always been there. Just because there wasn’t a word for it a hundred years ago doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. It’s not like, people now more than ever suffer from asthma. You didn’t know how to diagnose people with asthma years ago. Just because these new words and terms are appearing doesn’t mean these people didn’t exist two hundred years ago. It’s not a new thing. We’ve been around for quite a while.”
Karnpakkapas “PoonPoon” Jirapongtanabech, 21, talked about coming to terms with her identity.
“At first, I don’t (sic) know what I am. I came out to my mom like two or three times. First I tell her, ‘Mom, I’m a lesbian’ when I was really young, like 14 or something like that. Or maybe younger than that, in Kindergarten I told my mom ‘I like my teacher’ and she was a woman.
“Then I liked a guy, but for me I can fall for a girl more easily than a guy. I can also fall for guys but he has to be really, really nice. And when I discovered I like I guys, I told my mom I also like a guy, so I’m bi. The last time, I discovered I’m also demisexual.”
PoonPoon comes from Thailand, where gay marriage has not been legalised. This is where she hopes to see more progress:
“I would like my country to allow LGBT people to marry and have kids, because right now we can’t. It’s not like people don’t want to change, they just don’t care enough to change it.”
Holly Keller, 24, and Abi Oliver, 24, have been together for almost four years and are getting married in the autumn. This has allowed them to reflect on how society has changed for LGBT couples and where it still falls short.
Oliver said: “Well, when we actually got together, gay marriage wasn’t legal in this country. When it was, it was a big thing. I knew people who had been together for years and years and years, who went out and got married on that day because they could.”
Keller described how being a same-sex couple affects marriage preparations.
“I think planning the wedding has been really interesting. When we went dress shopping the other day, I got to the stage where I felt the need to just blurt it out.
“Obviously we want to try on dresses, but we don’t want to see each other. So I sort of walked in and I went ‘We’re buying dresses for the both of us. For a wedding. For the same wedding. And we don’t want to see each other. Because we’re gay.’
“Because the thing is, every single time we’ve done it something comes up. We went to our venue and the guy was like ‘Oh, you’re supposed to bring your husband to this’, and Abi said, ‘Yeah, she’s right here.’
“Looking for rings, we said we both want a wedding ring. ‘So you’re both getting married?’ Yes. ‘When are you getting married?’ Second of August. ‘Oh, that’s lovely, the same day?’ Yes, yes, same day. And it just kept going and kept going. Sometimes we just see how long it can go on for.”
Oliver summarized what she wanted others to understand about their relationship: “[It] is no different to anybody else. There’s not a guy and a girl. That always irritates me. ‘Who’s the guy in the relationship?’ Nobody, that’s the point.”
Joel Carter, 20, believes LGBT History Month is a time to be grateful for what’s been done for those that are LGBT today, but also a time to see what still needs to be done.
He said: “The people back in the 70s who went to pride, who had the abuse shouted at them, who got beat up in the street for being them; I can reflect on them. I look at that and think, ‘I can be who I am today, I can be out and open and not have any fears about that.’
“That’s special to me, the fact that those people fought for that. They fought for the right to be themselves, which means now I can be myself and be proud of it and not have fear.
“We have a long way to go still. I think this month helps you to reflect on that as well. Although we’ve come this far, there’s still so much more to go. Although a lot of the stereotypes are gone and it’s a lot more accepting, there’s other aspects of the community that are just completely forgotten about. Trans rights, that needs to improve so much. It’s ridiculous, that definitely needs to be sorted out.
“Although a lot of hatred towards people in the LGBT community has gone away and I don’t walk though the streets in fear, but I know people that do.”
While the 2018 LGBT History Month has reached its conclusion, the struggles and victories of the LGBT community continues year-round. As the year goes on, the hopes of these LGBT people centre around further equality and acceptance.