Happy pride month! In this month of June it has become increasingly popular to focus in on LGBTQ+ lives. Whether that be looking at history or modern day society. There has been amazing leaps in LGBTQ+ inclusion in our modern society but it is important to recognise that there is still a way to go.
This blog is written in celebration of pride month by looking at why LGBTQ+ inclusion is important to society. LGBTQ+ standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning.
What is LGBTQ+ inclusion?
LGBTQ+ inclusion is a vital part of society that not only influences those within the community but also people who may not view themselves a part of the community. Inclusion on a basic level is seen as an individual being given the same opportunities as others. Each person, however, may view this differently depending on how they have experienced society.
My experience as a lesbian woman.
Growing up in a heterosexual society
Growing up in a heterosexual society in itself causes inclusion to take a back seat. It is something that LGBTQ+ youth come to not expect. Growing up ‘in the closet’ makes you feel as though you are on the edge of society with the guilt of not being able to be open with the people you feel closest to.
Coming out is seen as this big experience that may solve feeling excluded from society. My personal coming out experience went smoothly. My parents were nothing but supportive and making me feel safe in myself. However, even with the most supportive friends and family it is easy for an LGBTQ+ person to feel excluded from society.
In reality the coming out process is continuous, I am always coming out to people and I will be for the entirety of my life. When thinking about this reality it is important to note those little incidents. I question. Do I feel safe enough to come out? Am I lying if I don’t say anything? Feeling like a battle with society continuously, it is hard to feel included when you find yourself changing to make others comfortable.
Accepting myself has always been the hardest step in my process of being an ‘out’ lesbian woman in society. Growing up viewing being straight as the normal and accepting you are not leaves this feeling of being abnormal. Coming out to myself was the most difficult part due to the fact that I had to let go of what I thought my life would look like from a young girl obsessed with Disney princesses who marry the prince. This may seem trivial but it has a major impact. You not only have to accept yourself but also have to accept that this may influence other people’s opinions on you.
Unlearning the idea that being a lesbian was out of the ordinary was difficult and it is something that will always stick with me. It only takes one glance around to see that people will look you differently if you are holding a woman’s hand instead of a man’s. This is why inclusion is crucial. LGBTQ+ people deserve to not undergo this uphill battle caused by societies thoughts.
What inclusion is to me.
Feeling excluded from society to me is many little events that cause this feeling. Examples of this include seeing only straight couples in advertisements and on greeting cards. Further, feeling unsafe to be outed as LGBTQ+ in environments such as a majority heterosexual bar. Inclusion in society to me is the idea that my sexual identity has no factor on how people view me. However, at a point in time in which LGBTQ+ being debated in parliament it is apparent sexual identity still is a factor to influence society.
Recently there has been new governmental change of conversion therapy. The UK government, at the time of writing this, are in the process of banning the use of conversion therapy for LGB citizens under 18. This is a major step for the community however this ban is only for under 18 year olds therefore it is still legal for adults to undergo conversion therapy. The question here is how can we call ourselves an inclusive society while still legally being able to do conversion therapy? How could I ever feel comfortable coming out when this is still available in society?
What does this mean for inclusion?
Although inclusion has this definition of being treated the same as others it is important to understand that this may not be realistic. Living in a society surrounded by homophobia means inclusion may need to look different to be effective. Inclusion to me is people and businesses making an effort to lift LGBTQ+ people and voices. This effort registers the exclusion faced and needs to be changed.
In writing this blog I have spoken with different members of the LGBTQ+ community and their experiences of inclusion within society.
One person I spoke with about this said
We live in two societies, a straight society and a non-straight one. By coming out you choose to exclude yourself from the straight society you were once seen in to feel included into the LGBTQ community.
The idea of having these two societies shows the idea that there is inclusion found in the LGBTQ+ community however to reach this there is a feeling of exclusion from a straight society. Feeling unable to exist in both societies is a common feeling amongst LGBTQ+ people due to safety.
Another person I spoke with said
“Sometimes I question whether as a society we are just being inclusive to say we are being inclusive”.
This is interesting to look at as when businesses appear to make an effort to show inclusivity, it can lead to questions on whether this is simply just a business tactic through Rainbow washing.
Rainbow washing refers to the use of rainbow imaging to sell products and present a support for the LGBTQ+ community. This may appear to be a show of inclusion when the streets of towns are covered in pride flags during the month of June for pride month. It is important to look at what businesses do in other months. An important note here is whether businesses are doing this as a business tactic to appear better or is it genuine.
The pride flag has a deep history for the community. Representing oppression and resistance, it is an important symbol of pride. Therefore, simply using a rainbow to sell an item with the idea of promoting inclusion may miss the point. There have been some amazing shows of inclusion from companies on the other hand. When it is apparent the company handles the LGBTQ+ community with care and inclusion it can be viewed as a positive step.
An example here is the idea that a company selling clothes has a new pride collection. A show of inclusion may be donating profits to LGBTQ+ associations and using LGBTQ+ models.
How can we, as a society, be better at inclusion?
- Learn about LGBTQ+ history.
- Support charities such as AKT Newcastle
- Educate yourself on LGBTQ+ identities.
- Start trying to use more gender neutral language.
LGBTQ+ identities are such an influential part of society. Showing massive strengths from a past of being excluded from society. Pride month is such an amazing time to tune into LGBTQ+ people and come to learn new information. Whether that be the history of same-sex marriage or why the pride flag is a rainbow! Inclusion in society is so crucial in creating a safe space for all people who feel happy and confident to be themselves.
It is important to note that anyone you know could be a member of the LGBTQ+ community and you simply may not know it. By creating a safe environment you are directly looking after your loved ones.
Thank you so much for reading this blog post about LGBTQ+ inclusion!
Feel free to comment and feelings about what you have read or what you are going to do/already do to help inclusion in society!
A special thank you also goes to the people I interviewed to gather further insight into this topic. All photos are taken by me.