LGBTQ+ issues: beyond homophobia

May 30, 2024

Concept by Dani: original images from Pixabay

Dani comes out about some of the less obvious struggles young people like him face

I didn’t know what being gay meant until Year 6 (aged 11), when I heard the word being used as an insult. I remember feeling like there was such a big negative connotation to it.

Many people used it to mock others, with me often being a ‘target’. Someone once shouted “DANI IS GAY!” on the coach from PE.

I did not necessarily think that being gay was seen as bad, but I did wonder how members of the LGBTQ+ community could face all those jokes and insults.

This wasn’t helped by TV shows such as Friends, where homosexuality was often just used as a comedy plot.

It wasn’t until Year 9 (aged 13) when I started to have doubts that I was straight, but I never said it out loud for fear of being viewed differently. Initially, I came out as asexual due to my lack of interest in dating a woman.

At this time I was watching a TV show where one of the main characters were gay, and I liked how her relationships weren’t made to seem unlike those of the other characters. It was then I started to realise I was gay, and about halfway through Year 10 I finally came out.

Initially I told people that I was homosexual bi-romantic, as I was still unsure about my status with girls. It was exciting not to hide anymore and to start imagining dating someone, but also scary.

It’s more acceptable these days to experiment and we should encourage this openness

However, what I didn’t like was the toxicity that came from the internet. There were several LGBTQ+ accounts on social media full of so much tension that it stressed me out.

A main issue was that users sometimes attacked every single person not in the LGBTQ+ community for the actions of a small minority. I didn’t like this as I felt it was widening the gap between straight and LGBTQ+ people.

Another common complaint was that other users were not focusing on the “real issues” but on “unimportant things”. For example, my friend once told me off for using the term “man” instead of “male”.

From this I learnt not to get involved. I am too scared of offending anyone and I would never like anyone’s feelings to be hurt. The world has enough hate – we need to spread love and acceptance.

Many adults are confused about how many teenagers are now coming out as bisexual and then changing their minds, but I think that young people tend to experiment.

They may say they are bisexual to be – or not to be – “part of a trend” (that is the question everyone is asking!). However they could always change their mind over their sexual or romantic preferences!

It’s more acceptable these days to experiment and we should encourage this acceptance but it can create confusion and stress for some LGBTQ+ young people who are sensitive and struggling to know who they are themselves.

There’s internalised homophobia: people who think that, if they’re gay, no one will want to hang out with them

I’m lucky as I haven’t faced a lot of abuse, but I have experienced indirect homophobia from people who I know don’t support homosexuality. They don’t want to be openly rude but they struggle to agree with it because of their beliefs. That is sad.

This is why I think schools and organisations should focus on acceptance and awareness, to prevent widening the gap.

I see posters in college promoting LGBTQ+ ‘pride’ groups and I think this helps. But there are people who object. They say things like, “I’m not homophobic but I don’t like it shoved down my throat!” – whatever that means. (Do we want your bath bomb videos or your Man United addiction shoved down our throats though?).

There’s also internalised homophobia: people who think that, if they’re gay, no one will want to hang out with them. I had a religious friend who was scared he’d be thrown out of his house for being friends with me.

I try to steer clear of homophobes – I know they’re out there ☹.

Most of my friends have been accepting. I feel young people tend to be more open-minded than their parents. This gives me hope for the future: the world is getting better. I think that exposure to LGBTQ+ couples and LGBTQ+ people in general helps, like it did with me.

But one final thing I struggle with is finding a ‘significant other’, partly because there is a higher percentage of straight people. This is something I need to work on, as I know I’m too shy to talk to new people.

There are websites and hotlines supporting young people struggling due to their sexual or gender identity

My advice to young people questioning their sexuality is that it’s OK to experiment; to think you might be bi-sexual and then, in the future, to identify as gay or straight.

You don’t need to have a fixed identity. Nowadays I think sexuality is seen as a lot more fluid. You don’t even need to label yourself!

Even if you have a huge crush on someone of the same sex you don’t need to call yourself gay or bisexual – labels aren’t important – acceptance is!

Another thing I will say is don’t feel pressure to come out to anyone. It may be best to speak to a school counsellor first, or someone you know you can trust.

There are organisations that you can talk to. There are websites and hotlines supporting young people struggling due to their sexual or gender identity.

Organisations like Mosaic are very helpful on a range of issues to do with young LGBTQ+ people, such as homelessness and drug addiction.

There is also Stonewall and the LGBT switchboard or if you have a pride club at school or college, you could always contact them. I am going to set one up next year, and I will do my best to support all the members. And if there isn’t pride club or LGBTQ+ society at your school/college/uni, why don’t you create one?

A book that has helped me a lot with a range of issues is This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson.

Exposure is a youth communications charity enabling young people to thrive creatively, for the good of others as well as themselves.

Other work

Donate via PayPal

Exposure is an award-winning youth communications charity giving young people in north London a voice.

Please support us to continue our work. Thank you.