national coming out day

So it’s National Coming Out Day and for many, this will be an exciting and celebratory day. However, we can’t help but think, despite the leaps and bounds in the fight for equality the UK has made, such as marriage and adoption, do we still need a day for coming out?

11 Reasons Why we Definitely Still Need N.C.O.D

1. Coming out supports equality in all its forms; it sparks conversation, educates and challenges dated and frankly ignorant perceptions.

2. A coming out story being shared can be incredibly powerful to someone else who is struggling with their own identity and coming out.

3. Students who are lesbian, gay or bi continue to be the most highly bullied demographic with isolation, self-harm and suicide rates far higher than the national average.

4. Very few people regret coming out even if the initial experience isn’t as positive as they’d hoped.

5. Hiding your sexual identity can be far more stressful than being open. Visibility is crucial and powerful; it really can change hearts and minds.

6. Despite marriage equality, there is still a way to go before the UK achieves full equality for ALL its citizens. Pension laws for those who are lesbian and gay, marriage equality for those who are trans* and equal sex education in schools are just three examples of things that need to be made equal.

7. A united day provides a strong community feel online with an increased amount of support, both from organisations and others going through the same thing being made available.

8. Coming out and REAL visibility contribute to the global picture – it gives a voice to those who are silenced and helps those whose right to be themselves are non-existent all over the world.

9. Coming out gradually reduces ‘casual’ homophobia and transphobia. It empowers those who are scared to simply hold hands in public with their partner.

10. Visibility in turn demands representation. You have a voice – use it

11. Don’t feel under pressure to come out until you’re ready – it might be that the first step is coming out to yourself.

We get it – who you love shouldn’t ever be an issue… but we’re just not quite there yet. Homophobia exists and is still very, very real.  Ultimately, we believe that sexuality is on a continuum with people very rarely being 100% anything. We are working towards a culture where we no longer need National Coming Out Day and eventually it won’t even be a thing. Whatever you decide to do, there is support available if you need it.

Have your say

What are your thoughts on National Coming Out Day? Are you planning on Coming Out Soon or unsure about what to do?

The Ditch the Label Mentors have helped tons of people with advice on coming out and loads of other related issues. Not only can you get advice from a DTL mentor, but you can also help others with by sharing your own experiences and in turn gain invaluable insight from other members! Community is a place where you can speak your mind; it’s absolutely free and available to everybody – see you there! 😉

 

Related:

Ditch the Label had a chance to have a chat with Whitney and Megan, or as you may know them ‘Wegan’, about the importance of femme visibility and why it is a subject that really matters.

DTL: Firstly, would you be able to tell us a bit about yourselves for those who don’t know you both already?
Wegan:
We are Whitney and Megan, aka ‘Wegan’. We are a married femme lesbian couple that run a blog & youtube channel, What Wegan Did Next (www.whatwegandidnext.com), as well as a dating site, Find Femmes, (www.findfemmes.com) for femme LGBTQ women. From our blog, it grew into a Youtube channel, social media accounts and followers who connected to us.

“It’s been an amazing ride documenting our journey from getting engaged in Hawaii, conquering long distance, having our Civil Partnership in the UK and now our wedding in Palm Springs!”

We decided to set up a dating site for femme LGBTQ women as we kept receiving messages from our followers asking how we can help them find someone, and now we have an answer for them.

DTL: Before we chat about Femme Visibility, would you mind briefly explaining to us what you mean by the term ‘Femme’?
Wegan: 
Femme to us simply means LGBTQ women who define themselves as feminine; that is “having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness” (Oxford Dictionary). There are many different variances of ‘femmes’. It’s up to you how you identify. i.e. we love to wear lipstick every day and heels on occasions.

DTL: Your Femme Visibility campaign looked to combat the invisibility of feminine lesbians, could you tell us what inspired you to start it? 
Wegan: 
We set up our blog in 2009 to document our long distance relationship from Hawaii to the UK, but also we wanted to put our faces online as we both felt a great lack of lesbian models when we were growing up. As well as this, I (Megan) wanted to try actively combat ‘femme invisibility’ (slipping under the radar of both the straight and LGBT community). The best way I could think to do this was to showcase many other femme LGBTQ women who are living their lives out and proud. We feel the best way to bring about change is from educating and making sure we are being seen and believed. We are not unicorns, we are real!

DTL: You launched the campaign back in 2012. Do you think since then that we are moving in a positive direction for representation of the lesbian community in the media?
Wegan: Since 2012 there has definitely been a positive move towards the representation of lesbians in the media. Such as with TV shows like Pretty Little Liars. Spoiler alert it was truly amazing to see it end with the characters Emily and Alison getting engaged and bringing up children together. I would have absolutely loved to have seen that growing up!! San Junipero winning 2 Emmys also shows a shift in representation. There still is a long way to go, however, especially with female celebrities coming out. There still aren’t many out as lesbian/ bisexual!

DTL: The likelihood is that people may feel as though they need to change the way they are as a result of the stereotypes you mention. What advice can you offer people when it comes to staying true to themselves? 
Wegan: We’ve heard so often from women who felt that they had to change their appearance (i.e. cut their hair, wear different clothes) to fit into the lesbian community. The only advice we can give is remain true to who you are. If you feel you want to explore that side and you aren’t sure, then go for it. We have had many tell us they tried it and realised it wasn’t for them, and for others, they may find a truer identity.

“If you realise you’re lesbian or bisexual then this doesn’t mean you have to change anything about yourself. If you love your lipstick and high heels then keep doing you!”

We’ve had a wonderful follower tell us recently that through finding us she realised she could be feminine and gay. Whats more she added that without our visibility, she wouldn’t be marrying the woman of her dreams. Just receiving that message brought us chills to know we’ve had such a momentous impact on someone’s life. It makes it all worth it.

DTL: How do you deal with negative comments from people that are surprised that you are a lesbian?
Wegan: 
We mainly get asked if we’re sisters (like nearly daily), it’s crazy why strangers feel compelled to ask! We even had someone ask us if we’re mom & daughter recently… really! In most of the situations, we tell them that we’re actually together and it takes them a second for it to sink in. They often laugh in disbelief. But, when they realise we’re being serious, most of them actually get super excited and tell us how great it is. Other times people just nervously laugh or don’t say much at all so we’re just like ‘bye!’

“It gets frustrating that us being together is not even an option in peoples minds. Then not being believed and feeling you have to justify or even prove to them that you’re gay and together.”

However, we still believe in telling people who we are because we hope it will educate them to not ask another couple the same questions! Of course, you still get men who love to tell you that you haven’t ‘met the right man yet.  So, our response to this is ‘well maybe you haven’t met the right man yet! If you haven’t tried it, how do you know if you’re straight?’ That tends to shut them up! The most ridiculous statement we get is “you’re too pretty to be gay!” We haven’t got a great response for that yet, so if you know one, let us know!

DTL: What steps would you suggest that people take if they feel as though they are part of the invisible community? 
Wegan: 
It can feel very isolating – growing up we both certainly felt like we were the only femme girl in the world when we were younger! But honestly, the internet is a wonderful thing for this. If you go on Instagram, Youtube and Tumblr then you can follow other femmes and find your own community. We’ve become friends with so many other femme couples online, it really is a great sense of belonging when you find other couples who are just like you. Of course, whether you’re looking for love or friendship (or as we like to call it, ‘femmeship’) then there’s our site Find Femmes!

DTL: Anything you would like to add?
Wegan: 
Right now we’re travelling around America for 3 months so be sure to follow on our adventures via social media & #WeganTravelsUSA.

Follow Wegan:

Shouldn't say non-binary person

Non-binary people get a lot of stick on the internet and IRL for their perceived gender expression. The reasons behind these bullying behaviours can range from ignorance to aggression and often come down to fear. For some reason, the fact that gender is a spectrum rather than a binary (consisting of two parts) really pisses some people off, to the point that they take to the internet to rant and rage about it in aggressive and sometimes violent ways.

In addition to this hatred online, non-binary people are often met with would-be allies, who rather than aggressively deny their existence, simply just don’t quite understand yet – and that’s fair enough, gender is a complex thing. In an effort to understand, they sometimes end up saying things that others might find hurtful.

Here are some examples of things, which if you’re gender non-conforming, you’ll probably find all too familiar. On the other hand, if you’re guilty of a few of these, take notes:

1. “That’s so in right now…”

Facepalm. A persons’ identity isn’t a fashion statement. The reason you’re hearing a lot more about non-binary people these days is because people are beginning to talk more critically about gender instead of brushing it under the carpet, and that’s a good thing.

2. “It’s just a phase”

Nope. Nope and nope. A phase is when you’re a toddler and you become infatuated with toy tractors for a few weeks before moving on to pink elephants and finally graduating to Lego – identity is not a phase.

3.”But, you have a penis, so you’re a guy.”

Wrong. Some people who have penises aren’t guys, some people who have vaginas aren’t women. Gender and sex are different. So the junk in your trunk does not necessarily have anything to do with your gender expression.

4. “Non-binary = Gay”

Think again. Gender and sexuality are also different. Gender expression is personal and not related to who you fancy.

5. “There are only two genders – end of story”

Negative. Gender is a spectrum, despite how angry this statement unfortunately makes some people, it’s true. The idea that there are only two genders is reductive and polarising. It restricts people’s freedom of expression and is proven to be damaging to their mental health.

6. “Isn’t ‘they’ a bit confusing – like, are there two of you or something?”

Not really. If we can grasp the fundamentals of language before we hit 2, we’re pretty sure you can understand this. When you get a text from an unknown number and you’re mate says “did they say who they were?” You’re referring to one person, but you don’t know the gender – so you use ‘they’. Well, this is kinda the same thing. Instead of going by She or He, a non-binary person might opt for ‘they’, it ain’t rocket science – respect a person’s pronouns.

7. “You can’t use this bathroom.”

Try again. Does your bathroom at home have those little symbols on the door to dictate which toilet your family members can and can’t use? 🚹🚺 …unlikely!

8. “Are you going to have the surgery?”

👎🏽. Not all non-binary people hope to transition to male or female, some people are happy being non-binary. The point is that they don’t identify by either gender completely so by asking them this question, you kind of imply that they aren’t really ‘whole’ until they have the correct equipment and make the transition to one or the other, and we all know that’s silly, right?

9. “You look like a girl/guy”

C’mon this one’s obvious… You wouldn’t usually comment on someone’s appearance, its basic politeness 101. So, why would you comment on which gender they do or don’t resemble?

10. “So, what exactly are  you?”

Unless you’re faced with a half unicorn, half shark who’s striped like a zebra but has webbed feet and a lion’s mane who quacks like a duck and walks like an alligator, it’s totally, completely, universally, entirely, unreservedly, and categorically not ok to ask any person ‘what’ they are. End of story.

Got any more questions? The Ditch the Label community is a safe space to discuss issues surrounding gender identity – give it a try. 

Related: What it’s Like to be a Trans, Non-Binary Couple: We Interviewed Fox and Owl

stay human, billboard, cloudy skies
gay footballers

With the start of the Premier League Season upon us. We here at Ditch the Label think it’s about time we tackle one of football’s most prominent issues, pun definitely intended. For those unaware, the English Premier League is the top division of English football and is filled with the best teams in England. This begs the question. With over 800 players in the EPL, why are there no players who are openly out? Perhaps the answers are…

Fear

Lets face it, English football doesn’t exactly have the best history with acceptance. The Graeme Le Sux bullying saga springs to mind. To cut a long story short, Le Sux’s career was almost ruined by the homophobic comments and bullying that he was on the receiving end of. This is bound to put off future players from coming out and can you really blame them? If this is how a player who isn’t gay was treated, how would players be treated if they were?

Fortunately as a society, we are now generally more accepting than we were back in the 90’s and the players responsible for the bullying have since apologised, admitting immaturity and ignorance. Football, as a whole, has almost caught up with us but there’s still a long way to go…

Privacy

Maybe players just want to keep their private lives separate from their footballing careers.

This is a fair point and everyone’s privacy should be respected. However, the impact of just one player coming out could give hundreds, if not thousands of players and fans all over the world the confidence to be open about themselves too. Representation and visibility is something that the LGBT community is missing in football. Some players like, Joey Barton do speak out but frankly, ‘some players’ just isn’t enough. Sure it’s fine for footballers to say that they have no problem with gay people but it’s going to take much more than a couple of open minded individuals. What we need to see is an industry wide change of attitude…

Is it still a big deal?

Unfortunately in the EPL, it is still a big deal. Sure, we all wish it wasn’t and we wish football had already caught up with the rest of the world but to be fair, it’s not necessarily football’s fault as a sport. It’s the fault of normalised homophobia within sports locker rooms IMO. Brian Clough recounts a “dressing down” he gave Justin Fashanu after hearing rumours that he was going to gay clubs. Just look at Clough’s autobiography for example:

“‘Where do you go if you want a loaf of bread?’ I asked him. ‘A baker’s, I suppose.’ ‘Where do you go if you want a leg of lamb?’ ‘A butcher’s.’ ‘So why do you keep going to that bloody poofs’ club?”

This certainly raises some eyebrows… and thats just what he admitted to saying.

Abuse like this led Justin Fashanu to take his own life. As much as we try and address this with a bit of humour, it is important to recognise that this is an incredibly serious topic and needs to be treated as such.

The homophobia itself has been significantly reduced but the stigma is still there. The fact that being a gay footballer is a big deal is ridiculous but it is still a big deal…  All it would take is one player to come out and it wouldn’t be such an issue.

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Chelsea_5_Sunderland_1_34729527471.jpg” alt=”gay footballers”]

How women’s football compares

The FA Women’s super league has a mix of straight, gay and bisexual players. The amazing thing is, in women’s football, sexuality just isn’t a big deal. Unfortunately it didn’t get there overnight.

Women’s football hasn’t necessarily had an internal problem with homophobia but players have been stereotyped by fans in the past. Many footballers such as Casey Stoney have said that it “didn’t make coming out any easier” and if anything it made it harder and scarier. Fortunately, fans of women’s football fans have come to be incredibly supportive and sexuality is now almost a non-isssue. I say ‘almost’ because there are still a minority of people who are abusive, but their homophobic behaviour doesn’t represent the majority of football fans.

In women’s football it’s ok to be yourself and this is the way it should be in all sports for all genders.

How can we address it?

It isn’t the players responsibility to be comfortable with coming out. The F.A. must take this issue more seriously and have to make sure that gay footballers are comfortable with coming out and help create an environment where it is okay to do so. TBF, they are doing their part to reduce homophobia within locker rooms. “What are they doing?” well, they are giving the English academy players regular sensitivity training. Time will tell just how effective it is.

It’s not just affecting players…

As a Chelsea fan it’s kinda hard for me to see games live. So, the only real chance I have to watch live football is to watch my local team, Brighton. As a wee lad I would watch Brighton games often but as I grew up I got sick of the abuse that we received. Now don’t get me wrong I can handle as much “banter” as anyone but the homophobic abuse that Brighton fans and players are subjected to is disgusting. With chants like “does your boyfriend know you’re here?”, “you’re gay and you know you are” and “we can see you holding hands” dominating games. I think we can all agree that homophobia in 2017 is as silly as the new ABBA penalty system.

The result

Football fans as a whole have really grown up over the last 20 years and the strides made toward complete acceptance is good but footballing campaigns do have a bad habit of focusing on one issue at a time. It is crucial that football kicks homophobia out (pun intended again). We need LGBT footballers to feel more than comfortable coming out and it’s impossible to know how fans would react but we predict that whoever they may be, they will be rewarded for their courage. We hope that they will be hailed by the media and inspire many other footballers to follow their lead.

Have any opinions of your own? Feel free to let us know in Community and help us blow the full time whistle on homophobia in football.

Meet Jazz…

YouTuber, Activist, TV personality and International transgender spokesperson aside, she’s a typical teenage girl who just happens to be transgender. DTL caught up with Jazz Jennings to talk about transitioning, dealing with transphobia in the past, and what’s in store for the future! ❤️

Hey Jazz thanks for chatting to us! First up, can you tell us a bit about yourself in your own words for those who don’t already know you?
I’m a typical teenage girl who just happens to be transgender. I love spending time with my family and friends, I play soccer, go to school and study a lot. I’m a nerd, and a perfectionist so I put a lot of pressure on myself.

For those who don’t know anything about me, I’ve always known I was girl, and expressed that to my parents when I was just a toddler. I was very determined and wanted to live my life as a girl. So finally, at the age of 5, I transitioned before kindergarten to become the person I am today.

Have you ever experienced bullying as a result of your transition?
Growing up transgender, has been a struggle at times. When I was younger, kids would make fun of me, and often scoot away from me at the lunch table because they thought I had cooties. I was often left out, I call this “exclusionary bullying”.

Could you tell us a bit about it and how you’ve dealt with it?
Kids have always said mean things about me behind my back, and I’ll overhear them. Now that I’m in high school, some kids greet each other with hugs and then, just give me a ‘hi.’ Sometimes I’ve even been called an ‘it’, so I tend to keep to myself. I remind myself that I have friends and family who love me unconditionally, I focus on them and ignore the bullies.

“I tend to ignore the negativity. I don’t care what other people think. I choose to focus on the positive.”

Lots of people ask Ditch the Label for advice about transitioning. What advice would you give to someone who’s hoping to transition?
Be true to yourself and forget what other people think because only you can define who you are. One of the most important things to realize is that the bullies aren’t right. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are because you determine what makes you unique. I know it’s not easy to transition, so surround yourself with those who love and support you, and most importantly – love yourself.

What would you say to someone who is hoping to transition but has a particularly transphobic family or friendship group?
Stay strong, keep moving forward and never give up. If you don’t have a support network, there are organizations and resources out there that can help. Know that you have a whole LBGTQ community that will support you and will we be there for you. Find someone who will accept you for your authentic self. Remain hopeful. So stay strong till then, love yourself. Know that you have a whole community that supports you and is there for you.

“I know it’s not easy to transition, so surround yourself with those who love and support you and most importantly – love yourself.”

As a YouTuber with over 300,000 subscribers on your channel, how do you deal with any negativity you get online?
I tend to ignore the negativity. I don’t care what other people think. I choose to focus on the positive, beautiful support that I receive from thousands of people worldwide. In fact, my supporters will often challenge and battle the haters for me.

How do you think society can be better allies to the trans community?
Look for events and parades in your own community. Attend these events and show that you really care. Befriend someone who is transgender and may be struggling. Sometimes the simplest thing, like giving someone hug can make all the difference in the life of a transperson. Also, educate yourself on what it means to be transgender and share your knowledge with others.

“Find someone who will accept you for your authentic self… know that you have a whole community that supports you and is there for you.”

What’s one thing you wish everybody knew about being transgender?
There are so many things that are misunderstood when it comes to being transgender. One of the most important things that people need to know is that being transgender isn’t a choice. We are who we are, because we were born this way. No one decides one day to wake up and decide to be the opposite gender.

What is your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is knowing that I’m changing lives. I receive letters from all over the world. People thank me for sharing my story because it’s helped them. In some cases people say they would have taken their own lives if I hadn’t given them the courage to stay strong.

What are your goals for the future?
I get asked this a lot. Personally, I’m not sure what the future holds for me. I think I may want to be a filmmaker, a director, or a story writer. I could create films and books with really good messages that will help people to better understand themselves. Then again, there are so many things I love to do. As far as my advocacy, I will never stop being a voice for the transgender community.

Anything you’d like to add?
I know that being transgender is a challenge, especially when society doesn’t accept or understand our community, however by sharing our voices we can create positive change and progress in our world and I know that one day being transgender will no longer be a struggle, rather something that is fully embraced.

“I’m proud of who I am. This is me, and I’m transgender, and that’s okay. It makes me a stronger person, a more confident person, and it just makes me myself.”

Follow @JazzJennings_  on Twitter and check out her YouTube Channel:

Image by Steve Pisano

Jamel on his experience as a gay, black man

As a homosexual man of British-Caribbean decent, I have struggled my entire life to satisfy the expectations of the black community, while still staying true to my gay self.

Growing up I often questioned my sexuality; although I recognised and accepted my attraction to men, I knew from a young age, that there would come a time when my parents would discover I was gay, and that this would be a significant and extremely difficult moment in my life.

What I knew of gay culture, growing up, came from homosexual characters featured in British television sitcoms. Most were depicted as overtly feminine, white males and I just couldn’t relate to these personas. I remember my parents once saying that they liked ‘gay, white men’, (having seen and embraced these token comedic characters on tv) but ‘felt sick’ at the idea of a gay, black man.

I had nothing in common with the gay men represented in mainstream media. Not only was I not white, I also didn’t possess the effeminate and ‘camp’ mannerisms that the men on these shows displayed, and were so loved for. Any feminine qualities I once possessed, I had been taught to hide. I think that black men especially, have always felt the need to act manly, dominant and sometimes even, aggressive. Maybe this is down to a long history of mistreatment and repression; maybe we feel there is a need to assert our strength and authority in a world that has constantly tried to pit us as unequal. However, this mentality directly opposes the general stereotype of homosexuals, as people who embrace their femininity. As a black, gay man I suffered an identity crisis.

I searched for a gay role model that looked and acted similar to myself, but had no luck finding one. I struggled to find relatable personas within the Caribbean culture too. Hearing the words ‘chi-chi man’ or ‘batty man’ in Jamaican reggae or hip hop songs, or hearing people use the word ‘gay’ as an insult or put-down, made me shy away from my sexuality even further. In attempt to fit in with my classmates, I would openly sing along with these songs and call things/people gay in a derogatory manner.

This convoluted self-identity started to have its implications. I found it hard to externally live up to the ‘black man’ stereotype, while internally wanting to embrace my homosexuality. This affected my ability to make meaningful friendships and find my niche within the gay community. As I got older I started to feel isolated, and found that I could not build social circles like my counterparts could. I also started to develop interests that could be associated with being gay (I loved Britney Spears for example) and I couldn’t share this side of my personality with my straight friends.

The more I rejected my true self, the more I became an outsider. My straight, black friends started to think I was ‘uncool’ – they dubbed me ‘Mr Nice Guy’ or ‘The Friendly Giant’ (nicknames insinuating weakness), because I could talk the talk (although it wasn’t genuine), but I couldn’t walk the walk. I was living a lie, and people were becoming suspicious.

Every year, the students in our class would change, and it was a new opportunity for me to meet other pupils. I remember thinking of ways in which I could ‘reinvent’ myself, and make myself ‘cool’. This basically involved me pretending to be someone I wasn’t. To start with, this facade drew people in, but long-term I couldn’t keep up the act – I didn’t like girls, football or any of the other things your average, straight teenager would. I wasn’t convincing myself or anyone else. Eventually this would lead to people teasing me, but it never escalated further than that. I would never claim that I was bullied; I had a quite a big frame and I think people were intimated by my size. Still, it was a very lonely time for me.

As I slowly came to terms with my sexuality, I started going to gay bars and clubs. I found most men at these venues were openly gay, proud and, 95% white. I have always admired gay men who are confident in themselves. I definitely find a lot of black men, like myself, to be more reserved about their sexuality, in comparison to gay, white males. I question where this confidence stems from: Does it come from within? From family support? Or from the media? The media openly embraces white homosexuals and their lifestyles unlike homosexuality in the black community. I wonder as a young boy, if I would have seen a black, gay man on screen that I could relate to, if this would have led me down a path of acceptance, rather than rejecting my true self.

I’ve also found that some white men refuse to date black men, but will sleep with them if they satisfy the aforementioned ‘masculine’ stereotypes. Strangely, I also bought into this stereotype of what a black man ‘should be’. Although I am gay, and I was practicing gay sex, I felt because I wasn’t a ‘bottom’ or in a submissive position, I still fulfilled the ‘black man agenda’. It sounds ridiculous, but because I longed to have a network and support system I played up to this. I was tired of being an outsider and I craved validation. In a way, I even felt proud of myself because I was finally seeking approval from other gay men, rather than trying to fool people into believing I was straight.

Black, gay men shouldn’t feel the need to conform to these archaic stereotypes. No one should have to act in a way that is unnatural – regardless of race or sexuality. We need to stop pigeonholing – not all gay men are effeminate, not all black men are masculine. Men shouldn’t feel any less ‘manly’ for being gay, or acting in ways that are not traditionally ‘masculine’, and gay men shouldn’t feel any less part of the LGBT+ community if they do not fit the effeminate gay stereotype. It’s about time we ditched these preconceived ideas of what people should look, or act like. There are no rules.

Written by Jamel

Pride in London

Pride in London and Ditch the Label

2017 marks 50 years since Parliament voted to partially legalise homosexuality in the UK. While we may have scored some minor victories in terms of LGBT+ rights in recent times, we still have a long way to go. It’s sometimes difficult to stay optimistic in light of recent events in politics and current affairs and the battle for true equality wages on.

Just over one year has passed since the Orlando Nightclub shooting which killed 49 people and shook the LGBT+ community to its core. Yet we have seen LGBT+ celebrations cancelled in the White House, and an increase in violence and hate crime towards LGBT+ and gender non-conforming people in the US and UK. You only have to look to Chechnya to witness the routine and systemic oppression of gay people still happening in 2017.

Meanwhile at home, hate speech towards LGBT+ people online continues to proliferate with nearly half of LGBT+ Londoners experiencing hate crime.  Brandwatch and Pride in London  teamed up to assess the extent of LGBT+ hate speech; analysing 19 Million tweets over a 4 year period. Whilst the study shows that more people than ever are discussing LGBT+ topics online, it also reveals that sadly, there is much progress to be made in terms of hate speech and derogatory language used against members of the LGBT+ community.

Key Findings

Pride in London worked with the Brandwatch Research team to find online narratives from London’s LGBT+ communities, proving that hate speech is still alive and kicking in our very own capital city. Brandwatch collected stories of discrimination in London boroughs, as well as positive stories of progress and equality. The study captured only public data and all narratives were anonymised before being used in the 2017 ‘Love Happens Here’ campaign.

The data shows that discrimination persists across the city and takes many forms, from discomfort and slurs to physical violence. It also found messages of support, solidarity, safe spaces and gratitude to LGBT+ pioneers. The broader study of online hate speech (here), conducted last year with Brandwatch, found that constructive debate outnumbers homophobic slurs by 8:1. The UK public is also more vocal than ever on transgender rights, with debate outnumbering hate speech 24:1.

Brandwatch stated that, “The data shows both cause for celebration, and that Pride still has an important role to play in furthering LGBT equality.”

Our vision

These findings stress the importance of Pride as a way of taking a stand against hate. More than ever, we need LGBT+ communities and their allies to stand shoulder to shoulder in defiance of regressive behaviours and work together to encourage a shift in attitudes and change for the better.

  • We want to enjoy life in a society where eventually there is no need or expectation to ‘come out’ unless you choose to do so, because it is universally understood that sexuality can be fluid and is not defined by the gender of the person you love. A society free of judgement.
  • We want to live in a world where it is safe to walk down the road holding the hand of the person you love…to openly show affection…to flirt…without having to look over your shoulder or ‘check’ your behaviour to make sure it is safe.
  • We want to live in a world where a person is defined not by their gender or sexuality, but by what’s inside their heads and their hearts.
  • We want a world where it is not only safe to be your true, authentic self, but embraced and celebrated.
  • We want to live in a world where equality prevails and nobody is discriminated against because of who they fancy, the colour of their skin, where they were born, or what’s in their pants!
  • We want to thrive in a society where love prevails, not hate.

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Love Happens Here

On June the 24th, thousands of people will line the streets of London to celebrate the progress of the LGBT+ community and unite against hate. Stand with your community to celebrate the beauty in diversity, variation and difference and say defiantly, ‘Love Happens Here’. Pride in London are creating a map of love; join the campaign by sending in your stories of love to [email protected] and sharing your pics using the hashtag #LoveHappensHere.

Your Presence is Priceless – You Can Make a Difference.

Related reading:

When we say Pride, you say…glitter, right?

Well it hasn’t always been fabulous y’know! Here are some things you should know about the history of Gay Pride parades and why they are very much still needed.

A Bit of Background…

The reason gay pride takes place in many cities across the world is for communities to unite to take a positive stand against homophobic attitudes within society.

In 1967, sexual acts between two men were decriminalised, so long as they were kept private. Just let that sink in for a second: 50 years ago, it was illegal to be gay – sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Before the sexual offences act passed in 1967, people were literally arrested and served jail time simply for loving another human being. Many men, including mathematician and war-time code breaker Alan Turing, accepted treatment with hormones, also known as chemical castration. This was considered to be a punishment for their ‘crime’.

Following decriminalisation, there were still leaps and bounds to be made to tackle homophobia and discrimination of the LGBT community. At the time, just because it was legalised, did not mean that it was accepted.

The Stonewall Riots

In June 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York, a police raid on a pub called the Stonewall Inn sparked angry and violent demonstrations from gay protesters who were fighting for the rights of the gay community. Very few pubs or social clubs welcomed openly gay people and those that did were often raided by police. The raid on Stonewall Inn was a pivotal moment in LGBT history which permeates the movement towards equal rights and gay liberation.

Stop attacks on LGBT

One year later, on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the first ‘Gay Pride parade’ took place.

However, it was nothing like the Gay Pride parades we know and love today. It was more of a demonstration or march, organised by angry members of the gay community who were sick of being treated badly by almost everyone else in society. Gay Pride parades from this point onwards, took place to commemorate the events at the Stonewall Inn which united the gay community and sparked the movement for equality.

The marches were often met with hate, violence and disgust by onlookers who still considered homosexuality to be wrong. Gay pride was not considered to to be a celebration like it is now, but a desperately needed demonstration advocating for the basic rights that were not afforded to the gay community, by a prejudiced society.

Across the Pond…

The first Gay Pride parade in London was held in 1972 – with 2000 people in attendance. Since then, Pride celebrations have spread to cities across the world. Pride is an opportunity for LGBTQ+ people to come together, celebrate their identities and strive further forward towards a society free from prejudice.

LBGTQ+ rights have come a long way in more recent times, but let’s not forget that there are others who are still having to suppress their sexualities and gender identities because society does not accept them. You only have to look to Chechnya today in 2017, to see real examples of human rights being callously taken from those who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Members of the LGBT+ community have endured decades of discrimination and abuse from every corner of society and still do today. Same sex relationships are still illegal in 74 countries across the world. 13 of those countries enforce the death penalty for the ‘crime’ of homosexuality.

It is mind boggling that in today’s society, a person can be killed for loving somebody.

This is why Pride matters.

So, before you enjoy the festivities of Pride this summer, take a moment to remember and reflect upon the history behind it because it hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows…

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Max and Chloe\

Being the absolute nerds that we are, Ditch the Label thought it would be fun to compile a list about video games. Be it the first transgender video game character ever, or even a pop culture icon, all of these characters had a part to play in the progression of video games.

1 – Samus

When it comes to face reveals, Metroid did it right when revealing the identity of Samus. Players did not know the identity of the main character until after they had played through the whole game. What made this so great, was that players had hours to develop an attachment. The shock came when it was revealed that Samus was female. This made her one of the first female, badasses in such a male dominated area.

Samus

2 – Max and Chloe

I know this is a 2-in-1 entry but it’s my list, my rules and if you don’t like it go away… dad. Max and Chloe are two female characters from the BAFTA award-winning, Life is Strange. Throughout the story their relationship develops and depending on the player’s choices, their friendship develops into a relationship. The game tackles this topic very well, not constantly pointing it out or making it their only character trait and really that’s why I put them on this list.

Max and Chloe

3 – Women’s National Football Teams

If you thought I was cheating by putting 2 in the last one, you’re gonna love this. FIFA 16 saw the first ever inclusion of females as playable characters in the game. This comes with the ability to play as one of twelve national teams. This was a huge breakthrough for female athletes in video games and it has definitely been a long time coming.

Alex Morgan

4 – Michael Jackson

Yep… that guy. It should come as no surprise that the first ever black protagonist in a video game also happens to be arguably the most famous person in the world, ever. MJ featured in the 1990 beat ‘em up, Moonwalker; the objective of the game was to beat enemies by dancing them to death. Despite the horrible concept, the rise of Michael Jackson really helped open peoples eyes to racism, so like it or not, this old-school game contributed to the progression of society.

Moonwalker

5 – Birdo

So waaaay back in 1988, this character featured in Super Mario Bros 2 and was also the first transgender character in video game history. She was described in the games booklet as: “He thinks he is a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth. He’d rather be called Birdetta” This was later confirmed by Nintendo when in the North American version of Super Mario Bros 2 was released, Birdo was voiced by 3 different voice actors throughout the game, starting with a male and ending with a transgender female.

Birdo

6 – You

In Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, your character has the ability to marry any NPC in the game regardless of gender, race, background or age (not that one). Presuming you have consent, this game allows you to be as progressive as you wish. So, well done you.

Skyrim

So there you have it, six of the most progressive video game charaters in history. Any big ones that we left out? Let us know in community and for another gaming article written by this golden love machine (open to edit), click here.

LGBT+ related bullying in the eating disorder community

When you go for eating disorder treatment the last thing you ever expect is to be bullied in this environment, but when you are not a straight, white, female it happens more than you might think. I must admit that things are getting better, but people that consider themselves part of the LGBTQ community still face institutional bullying all of the time.

As we all well know, eating disorders are traditionally considered strictly the domain of white teenage girls…right?

Nothing could be further from the truth, but a large number of treatment centers and stand alone therapists still have this preconceived notion. Quite a few of them will not treat trans individuals at all (a group of people that are already grossly underserved in so many ways) mostly because of a lack of training, but some, because of transphobia.

“Eating disorders are traditionally considered strictly the domain of white teenage girls”

 

Imagine going for residential help and being a lesbian in group therapy, listening to the other girls talk about over-controlling boyfriends and such, and you really don’t fit in with the group at all. You want to talk about one of your major triggers, which could be that you are scared to come out to your family. Two things are probably running through your mind:
1) Your peers and group leader are not going to “get it” or even worse…
2) You are risking some sort of homophobic backlash.
Both of these things would make your treatment ineffective.

I do have an example of a girl who was a lesbian in an inpatient treatment facility (both the girl and the facility shall remain nameless) that had communal showers. She was verbally assaulted with homophobic slurs on almost a daily basis after deciding to “come out” in group therapy. She reported this, but the others were never caught “in the act”.

“She was verbally assaulted with homophobic slurs on almost a daily basis after deciding to ‘come out’ in group therapy”

 

It was brought up in group therapy by the lead therapist who condemned the act, but did nothing to actually stop it. Unfortunately the girl had to leave the treatment program. On the brighter side, she did some research and found a treatment program that was a better fit for her.

Before I go on, PLEASE do not let the above part of my blog stop anyone from reaching out for help! The point of this is to expose the people that bully and to remind you that you should never let other people silence you! I wrote this blog in the hope that it will empower you and encourage you to stand up for yourself and say “you do not have the right to treat me this way and I deserve equal treatment as anybody that you serve.”

I want everybody to practice saying that phrase over and over again because unfortunately we do not live in a world (yet) that is as accepting of the LGBTQ community as it should be. We still live in a place and time where everybody is assumed to be heterosexual until otherwise specified.

“Unfortunately we do not live in a world (yet) that is as accepting of the LGBTQ community as it should be”

 

I wrote this blog for two reasons, one was to open up the eyes of the people that bully, who in some cases are the treatment facilities themselves. Hopefully by showing them how the world is evolving, they too will evolve with it. Hopefully they will come to understand that not everybody who walks through their door is heterosexual, gender-conforming or female.

Lastly, I wanted everyone out there in the LGBTQ community to know that it is okay to reach out for help when you need it. Remember that there are people out there who want to genuinely help. By coming to this site you have begun the process…follow it forward and lead your true, amazing life!