I used to be homophobic. That is a bold confession right there, isn’t it? It is true though. I used to disbelief in the concept that one could be attracted to their own gender. I thought it made no sense. It defied the laws of nature in my eyes.
Back then, I did not know any better because the environment I grew up in treated homosexuality like a step sibling that you fear could get too much attention. I knew of nobody who was gay, I was not gay myself, and neither my teachers, friends, nor parents discussed LGTB+. Thus, unconventional sexuality did not affect my everyday life in any way. If I saw a man kissing a man, it would weird me out, with a sense of disgust lingering over me. Gays and lesbians were just strange to me, and transvestites were even stranger.
My world did not accommodate any form of untraditional sexuality until I moved out from my hometown in Germany – a remote, old-fashioned village. I moved to Glasgow for my studies where I got confronted with a culture which enormously contrasted the backward playground of my childhood. It seemed as if I had been shut inside of a cocoon for nineteen years of my life, consuming narrow-minded, discriminating beliefs until living in the UK reformed my views.
Opposed to the place where I was raised, Glasgow does not only welcome LGBT+ with an unbiased mind, it openly celebrates it. Here in the UK, nonconformity expresses itself far more visibly. Nobody seems to judge you for a funky personality or a maverick appearance. This confident and free display of diversity overwhelmed me. It overwhelmed me so much that I would almost go as far as to call my transitioning a partial culture shock.
At first, I remained sceptical, struggling to warm up to the LGTB+ community. I would still suspiciously raise my eyebrows to a man who dressed more femininely than myself. For instance, I classed pink shirts as an inappropriate apparel choice for guys. The same applied to skintight jeans, leggings, and makeup.
One time, I told a guy friend off for choosing a rose colour shirt as his throw for the night. He did not agree with my opinion at all, and my judgemental attitude genuinely bothered him. He therefore started questioning my aversion towards pink men’s clothes, asking why I deemed this particular colour as a taboo for men.
His prompt put me on the spot, a highly uncomfortable one. Stalling, I realised I had no substantial justification for my prejudice. My line of argumentation was as measly as the telephone line in a tunnel. I could think of nothing better but to say: “Pink clothes make a man look gay. Pink is a girls’ colour.”
My explanation was shockingly shallow, shallower than the water level on a sandy shoal. With a serious voice my friend continued to query my attitude:
Would it be bad to be associated as gay though?
Is there something wrong with being gay?
Who decides what men can wear and what they cannot?
How would you respond if somebody told you off for wearing blue?
How would you feel if somebody said ‘you look gay’, mh?
His words shot through my head like a spear hitting the bullseye. I felt stunned. Nobody before him had ever dug deeper into my motives for making a comment, which, despite its undeniable sexist undertone, seemed pretty trivial to me. In the past, nobody had ever raised any concerns about stigmatising men who wear pink, or about calling a man gay based on his looks. Quite the opposite, people had affirmed my biases by agreeing with me, and even worse, by ridiculing homosexuality.
My friend’s questions triggered me. For the first time, it came to my conscious awareness how unbelievably redneck my beliefs about sexes, sexuality, and genders were. I parroted nonsensical stereotypes that a gendered and homophobic society had impregnated into my head.
Even months after the pink-shirt quarrel with my friend, the issue kept occupying my mind.
I am most grateful for my friend as well as all everybody else who challenged my stigmatising and ignorant opinions. The longer I was surrounded by homosexuality, the more I became acclimated to it. Eventually, my conservative views on sexuality mellowed and I opened up to diversity.
For example, there were several classmates in the final year of my studies, who, after weeks of hanging out, turned out as gay. I cannot deny that it surprised me to learnt about their homosexuality, however, I no longer perceived this news as scandalous as my previous, prejudiced self would have.
Just as much as I had stayed ignorant of homosexuality for a very long time, I had neglected the existence of asexuality. Asexuality, the lack of sexual desire, sounded to me like a myth, a made-up condition. I had trouble understanding it until I grew closer friends with an asexual girl.
She confided in me that all she sought was a partner who she could be intimate with, you know, the cuddling kind of intimacy, somebody who would cherish her with warmth. The problem was not that men generally disliked her. On the contrary, several men had shown their interest, had asked her out on dates. However, a few dates into the relationship, the men always dropped her because they wanted sex, while she did not. Her asexuality put men off, and she had to endure rejection after rejection, heartache after heartache. Hearing her story, I slowly started to gauge what it was like to walk in her shoes.
Listening to such first-hand experiences opened my eyes about what it means to live as a non-heterosexual individual in a heterosexual-dominated society. I admire the courage to stand against a norm-dictating majority, fighting bravely for acceptance. It is not just the LGBT+ community, but also any other minority group, which faces misrepresentation and discrimination.
Belonging to a majority grants comfort, a comfort that can keep us away from engaging with somebody who is different. Yet, diversity enriches our life, our culture, and our knowledge. It is never too late to open up yourself to the perspective of an outsider. Before you judge a person, be willing to understand where they are coming from. Educate yourself, expose yourself to their story, and meet them with an unbiased mind. Whether people are heterosexual, homosexual, bi, transgender, queer, non-binary, intersexual, or asexual, does not change them as a person. They remain the same likeable and interesting people.
In the end, I discarded my old, inconsiderate opinions for a more inclusive view on LGBT+. It may have cost me to humble myself, to admit my narrowness. However, I got rewarded with new perceptions which helped me understand life, others, and myself better.