Posted 08 July 2021
David Booth, Service & Safety Advisor, Unite Students, shares his story about how we should all be #FreeToBe.
From an early age, I knew I was, and I use this term VERY loosely, ‘different’. As a young teen, I struggled with my identity in terms of my sexuality, which as I am sure anyone who has been in a similar situation will agree, can be a very difficult time, especially if your peers at school are homophobic or homophobic slurs are casually thrown across the playground without anyone truly understanding the extent of who they are harming in the process. Not knowing whether or not you’ll be accepted by family or friends, often you find yourself living in denial of who you truly are, feeling trapped and suffocated like you don’t belong or that it’s wrong to feel the things you do.
But the reality is, actually it’s perfectly natural, there is nothing wrong and you are certainly not alone. As someone who has been bullied through academics and even my professional career, sadly I know first-hand that the bullying doesn’t just come from the ill-informed and the small-minded people outside of the LGBTQ+ community, it comes from within our own community too. Dating apps with profiles saying: ‘No fats, No femmes, No Asians’. Messages urging you to delete your profile because you don’t fit the ‘mould’ of a bronzed, muscular gym go-er or a skinny twink. Being fetishized because you identify as the opposite gender than what you were assigned at birth or called a freak for walking down the street with your significant other.
So, as a community, we need to pull together and be a united front against adversity and ridicule. The longer we continue to shame others and put the people of our own community down, the more we reinforce this coming from outside of the community. And to anyone else, all I ask is that you ask yourself if the roles were reversed and attraction to the opposite sex was not socially accepted if you were verbally or physically assaulted for walking down the street hand in hand with your partner, how would you feel? Unfortunately, someone who has never experienced this kind of victimisation & torment will never fully understand what it feels like to live day-to-day with anxiety, afraid to show affection to someone you love in public for fear of what might happen.
But what we can all do is stand up against bullying, speak up when we hear offensive slurs, report inappropriate behaviour and support one another. And this goes beyond the LGBTQ+ community too. No one should be made to feel less because of their colour of skin, weight, religion, sexual preference or gender. All I am asking is that you understand we are all human. We all have feelings and emotions. Each one of us should give the same respect we expect to see from others.
Always treat others the way you would like to be treated. Bullying is something we all experience throughout life, as children in school and even into our adult life, but wouldn’t it be lovely to one day live in a world where we are all just #FreeToBe