LGBTQ+ History Month - Dan's Experience
I grew up in Doncaster and attended one of the larger schools in the area. But similar to many places in the North of England, my school experience wasn’t exactly diverse and neither was my town. I fell into echoing the thoughts and feelings of my classmates at school despite knowing deep down that it wasn’t really me. What I mean by this, is that growing up male in a Yorkshire, ex-mining, largely working-class town; I felt a lot of pressure to uphold and represent the ideas of masculinity so that I wasn’t singled out by people around me. Due to the lack of diversity and representation at my school, I heard a lot of derogatory or homophobic language being said like it didn’t mean anything and like it wouldn’t hurt anyone.
This got better as we grew older. We broadened our experiences, were educated on the topic, and friends and classmates came out as gay, lesbian or bisexual, not to abuse or persecution but support and love. Yet I still felt that pressure. I’m not gay or bisexual, I just enjoyed being more feminine but because I am straight, I was made fun of for doing things slightly outside my gender norms. I kept all this to myself and tried to experiment more with clothes but not draw attention to myself. I didn’t really think much about it until I started my first year studying History at the University of York.
There I was surrounded by completely new people, in a completely new environment with the opportunity to be somebody new but the reputation of where I grew up had followed me. People assumed I must have been a manly Yorkshireman and I was too anxious to say otherwise. It took me a while of making friends, meeting new people, joining societies, and just expanding my point of view to realise I didn’t have to act like I always had done. I felt so confident that any changes I made then would be supported by my friends and housemates at university.
So, I changed, to how I wanted to be. I grew my hair, painted my nails, changed my style, and wore makeup every now and then. And honestly, I couldn’t feel better. My friends are nothing but supportive of any change I made and helped make me feel confident and happy with myself. I still struggle to this day with the ideas of masculine and feminine and feel as though I flow between them. Some days I enjoy being more masculine and others I prefer to be more feminine. But this is all based on the stereotypes of gender that I felt from my school days and something that I’m trying to break away from.
I still identify as a man, I’m still heterosexual but I enjoy being feminine. Because of this, I’m not sure where I fit into LGBTQ+ or if I fit in at all. I guess that’s something I’m still trying to figure out, even at 22. I guess that’s the moral of this story. Don’t be afraid to be who you are. Don’t be afraid to be here. Don’t be afraid to be unforgivingly, unforgettably you because there are people who will love and support you, no matter what. So whether you’re openly a member of the LGBTQ+ community or still trying to figure things out like me, don’t be afraid because the world is better with you in it.
Happy LGBTQ+ History Month!