We’ve had an anonymous submission of a coming out story! If you’d like to share your story (today or over the next few days), we’d love to publish it! We also have a guide to coming out if you’re thinking of doing so!
Whilst this story isn’t entirely positive, I think it’s an important one – coming out doesn’t always go perfectly, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing! Some coming out experiences can be the happiest or most amusing stories you have.
The first time I came out to someone was in my last month at sixth form. Having spent the entire time there closeted, I intended to keep it that way (I had moved from a very liberal to a fairly homophobic area, and I didn’t feel like I could handle being out there.) Nothing about that coming out was planned – in fact, the decision happened in a club when the two friends I had come with tried to get me to dance/flirt with a guy from Manchester. I had resented being closeted for a while, I was incredibly uncomfortable in the club, and repeatedly being gently pushed in his direction was just the final straw.
I dragged my best friend outside (neither of us was drunk) and shouted at her (it was still quite noisy outside) that I was asexual and had no interest in flirting with anyone in that club. Her response was along the lines of “You’re being stupid, just go in there and have some fun. You’ll find the right guy soon!” as she dragged me back into the club. I felt like she’d punched me in the gut.
She never told anyone else in my friendship group from sixth form, and I have no idea if she actually took me seriously. I just slowly started to avoid her as much as I could. And I still haven’t come out to the rest of my friends from there (though I think most of them wouldn’t mind at all).
I did come out to my university friends in my first year, which went far better! In fact, our group had a little cascade of three of us coming out to everyone else.
With barbers and hairdressers reopening in England over the weekend, the public was finally able to get their untamed lockdown hairdos trimmed and their beards tidied. This came not a minute too soon. During lockdown, there was two choices; either let your hair grow or cut it yourself. With many people not being able to cut their own hair, the only choice was to let it grow.
This led to the vast majority of people sporting more untamed styles over the past couple of months than they normally would, surprising colleagues on Zoom calls with their new look. But after Boris Johnson complained that he was starting to get dreadlocks because he had not had a haircut for so long last week, that got us wondering… what would Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and other world leaders look like if barbers and hairdressers remained closed for the foreseeable future? To find out, Get Me My Mortgage used the popular AI face editor FaceApp to find out, and the results are hilarious.
Boris said recently that he was starting to grow dreadlocks because he hadn’t had a haircut for so long, so he’ll be pleased that the hairdressers are finally back open. If they had remained closed for much longer, we might have had a very shaggy looking Prime Minister.
Trump’s infamous combover might have been compromised had he not had access to a hairdresser during lockdown. He is very particular who touches his do, telling the Hollywood Reporter “the only one I allow to touch my hair is Melania” in 2016.
Known for his love of riding horses shirtless and fishing, Vladimir’s lockdown beard would help him keep warm during his holidays in the Russian wilderness.
French President Emmanuel Macron normally opts for a clean shaven look like most politicians. However, his potential new lockdown haircut reminds us of a young Bilbo Baggins played by Martin Freeman, minus the beard of course.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to have done the best job of any leader when tackling the pandemic, meaning she could re-open hairdresser early to tackle her long locks.
Justin Trudeau’s potential lockdown beard game would suit him the most when compared to the other world leaders on our list. Wouldn’t you agree?
🏴 First Minister
Nicola Sturgeon versus Boris Johnson has been an ongoing feature of lockdown, and you have to admit she’s winning!
They say growing a beard makes you look 10 years older, and this is certainly the case for Japanese PM Shinzō Abe.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Normally opting for a moustache without a full beard, we think Turkish President Erdoğan might have used lockdown to try something new had the barbers remained closed much longer.
Perhaps the most menacing of all our lockdown haircut and beard images, Brazil’s President wouldn’t look out of place as a Bond villain.
Kim Jong Un
The North Korean dictator only allows 15 state-approved haircuts in the entire nation. However this policy might have gone out the window without access to a barber.
Famously banning Winnie the Pooh from China because of comparisons made about him, we think Chairman Xi might have grown a beard to hide the embarrassment!
Recently told to “get off the grass!” by an angry citizen while doing an interview on Australian television, PM Morrison has never attempted to grow a beard during his time in office. However, if restrictions remained in place much longer, he might have opted to try the lockdown look.
Italy was the first country in Europe to go into lockdown, so PM Conte might have had longer than most to perfect the lockdown look. The real question is, is he really Keanu Reeves in disguise?
Without a hairdresser to visit, Dutch PM Mark Rutte would struggle keeping his normally well kept combover in check.
India’s Prime Minister is the only world leader on our list who normally sports a beard. However, with boredom being an issue during lockdown, he might be tempted to try something new.
The youngest head of government in the world, we think growing a beard might be a good idea for Chancellor Kurz, making him look a little older! It’s just a shame about the untamed hair.
With think Justin Trudeau’s beard suits him the most, but Pedro Sánchez’s effort comes very, very close.
The locks of Portuguese PM António Costa might have became even more unruly had lockdown lasted a minute longer.
With Sweden refusing to implement a lockdown like the rest of Europe, the PM might have opted to grow a beard to disguise him from angry citizens.
We have yet another coming out story, this one from our lovely Vice-President (Undergraduate) Sam! If you’d like to share your story, send an email to [email protected], and if you’re thinking of coming out read our blog.
Coming out as a lesbian was a weird one. It took years for this label to be something that I was comfortable with, and what’s more, for it to become something I am proud of.
Like most LGBT+ people, I do not have one singular coming out experience. It has been a long, incredibly messy and at times painful process. At high school I knew I liked girls and I made the all too well-known mistake of telling people I thought cared about me, leading to a few, rather horrible, public outings. The label of “lesbian” was something that was thrust upon me before I even knew it was something that I actually am. I spent years trying to figure out what label worked for me, some people do not like, nor want a label, I did and still do. Labels, for me at least, provide a sense of security, but what’s more a sense of community- people like me who had similar experiences that could reply on. I flitted between the usual ones- bi, gay, queer- over and over again before I accepted lesbian.
Even when I knew I was not attracted to men, being a lesbian seemed so incredibly scary and seemed like something to distance myself from. Lesbians, as I knew it, were all scary and shouty, and at worst predatory- things I always feared about myself. Lesbians were something to distance yourself from- mainstream feminist rhetoric telling me that being a feminist was good and cool now (as long as you weren’t one of those Lesbians). As it turns out- lesbians are lovely and some of the most beautiful people I know and sometimes they are scary and shouty but also brave and protecting. It’s easy, as a lesbian, to fear you are a predator- to think your attraction to women is something nasty and something, fundamentally, to be afraid of. Fear of being a predator was something that was deeply ingrained- I felt weirdly ashamed and Unfeminist when I found women attractive- even though now, the idea that lesbians are patriarchal shills is something I can acknowledge as ridiculous.
Over a year ago now, I was applying for college accommodation and there was a box. The box asked if there was any reason I wouldn’t wish to share a room in college, it listed sexuality as a potential reason. Initially, I wrote “Lesbian”. After staring at this piece of paper for about ten minutes I scribbled out the word, and wrote “I am gay”. It seemed softer and easier. Lesbian felt radical, like I was really committing myself. In the same vein ‘lesbian’ felt divisive- like I was making a big fuss over nothing and trying to seem edgy and cool.
So a year on, here I am, writing this for National Coming Out Day, which seems strange as most people will testify- I have been ‘out’ for years. Most people presumed I was out as a lesbian too- which might be true now, but it definitely was not something I was willing to admit. Since starting uni and finding, in Durham of all places, some of the most beautiful LGBT+ people I could ever hope to and surrounding myself with supportive networks both in real life and online- I can safely say I am lesbian and a happy one too.
Coming out stories are sometimes not uplifting. Sometimes they are messy and sad and painful. Coming out is a constant process- it is not just the sitting your parents down for The Chat™, or announcing yourself through a facebook status- it is correcting people when they presume the gender of your partner, it is quietly mentioning that you are going to an LGBT+ social. There is no one Coming Out story, sometimes you’ll come out time and time again as your understanding of your identity evolves, and that is perfectly valid.
Our lovely president, Jess, has also been kind enough to share a coming out story with us! If you’d like to share a story, get in touch: [email protected] If you’re thinking of coming out, we have a handy guide [link].
I was nervous of coming out just after starting first year at Durham- it had taken me until my last year at school to really admit to myself that I might have these feelings and, compared to the self-assured, extroverted LGBT+ people I believed populated the LGBT+ Association and scene at Durham, I felt like a bit of a fraud. It took a good 6 months or so after that for me to feel certain of my identity and to realise that there is no perfect LGBT+ person who knows everything about the vast scope of our community and every possible identity out there.
I was fortunate that most of my experiences of coming out were incredibly positive. For my parents and the majority of my friends, old and new, it wasn’t really a big deal, and I still pinch myself sometimes to think that I’m lucky enough to have friends and family who actively celebrate who I am with me. It wasn’t all positive however- there are close relatives I still don’t feel comfortable confiding in, and some who outed me to loved ones without my knowledge or consent. Now I’m generally at peace with not being 100% out, 100% of the time- I’ve learned to view coming out as a wonderful thing to be able to do, but not the be all and end all of my relationships with friends and family.
If you’d told fresher me that two years later I’d be President of the LGBT+ Association I really would have laughed at you. I am so much more confident in myself, but mostly I’ve realised that I’m never going to have one moment of amazing revelation and clarity, but an ongoing and constantly evolving process of working out things about myself- including this aspect of who I am. Becoming one of the self assured and happy LGBT+ people I so envied did start with coming out, but has really been about all the other things along the way.
If you’d like to share your story, email [email protected], and if you’re thinking of coming out, have a look at our guide [link]!
Reflections on Faith & ‘Being Me’
When I first came up to Durham in 1993 to read Theology, I arrived with a great deal of anxiety about the course ahead and what would be expected of me. I had worked for 6 years before University after leaving school at 16. Durham was, therefore, rather a daunting place for me. Thankfully I had been accepted to the wonderfully hospitable St Chad’s College and the welcome was one of a “home from home”.
I have now arrived back in Durham 24 years after my matriculation. I never imagined that I would be coming back here as a member of staff!
My upbringing was within a loving family where religious faith was very much part of family life, attending church sometimes twice on a Sunday. As I entered into my teenage years I remained very active in church life, albeit within a different tradition to the one I had been brought up in through much of my childhood. I was appointed as organist of a local parish church within my village and this was the beginning of a journey towards being ordained within the Church of England. Little did I know that somehow I would end up leaving work as a civil servant to study theology in Durham.
I resisted for many years within this process of discernment the notion that I could possibly be ordained within a church where the clergy (as I perceived it) were holy and without blemish. Clearly this is not the case and I had misunderstood completely the reality of what it is to be fully human within the Christian tradition.
Back in the early 90’s I did not have the language to express my sense of “being different”. I knew that I had feelings which didn’t seem to fit within any of the role models that I saw around me and somehow I tried to fit myself into a mould which was clearly not meant for me.
It was during my time in Durham that thankfully I met like-minded students and some very supportive local clergy who helped me to understand that being gay was OK and that my sense of calling to ordained ministry should not be seen as conflicting with that.
It was still a painful process during my degree course to deal with some around me who felt that I was somehow flawed. Thankfully I managed to get to a point where I was selected for training within the Church of England. I chose this period to come out to my family, to ensure that as I went forward into further training, there was no sense of anything being hidden.
I don’t pretend that this was an easy period for me or my parents but it was one that developed a real sense of profound growth for us as a family. The discussions around the table have certainly changed over the years and as a family there is very little that we would not discuss.
After 19 years of ordained life I hope I am able to be that role model that others were to me in Durham some 24 years ago. To live fully as I am is to live with integrity. This is, for me, central to living authentically as a Christian and as a Priest. Anything less is to fall short of all that I am called to be.
As per usual, the media (ahem: the Tab), have greatly misrepresented something, and this time it’s something that involves us.
I attended the NUS LGBT+ conference earlier this month, and there seems to be some confusion about one of the motions that was passed.
The motion was concerning safe spaces, and representation for minority groups. It notes that “Misogyny, transphobia, racism and biphobia are often present in LGBT+ societies. This is unfortunately more likely to occur when the society is dominated by white cis gay men”. It goes on to resolve, among many things, to “encourage LGBT+ Societies that have a gay men’s rep to drop the position”.
This is a highly emotive subject, so I’m going to take it slowly and make sure we’re all on the same page before launching into anything.
Firstly, this motion was referring only to LGBT+ Societies within Students’ Unions in the UK, not human societies (as in communities) as a whole.
Secondly, to explain this, we need to have a look at how LGBT+ Societies and Associations are structured in Student Unions. Usually there is an executive committee which has positions anyone can run for, and also a smaller committee (usually under the welfare officer) which represents minorities within the LGBT+ community, such as ethnic minorities, disabled individuals, intersex people, and trans people. They represent these people to the exec, who represent the LGBT+ community as a whole, including white cis gay men, to the Union. All this motion is saying is that the NUS LGBT+ campaign as a whole does not consider white, cis, gay men to be a minority group within the LGBT+ community. Not that they can’t hold positions on execs, not that they can’t represent or be represented by the LGBT+ community as a whole, but that they do not need a minority representative position because they are not a minority. They will still be represented to the university, and nationally, because LGBT+ communities are minority communities. They are just not a minority within that community, so do not need to hold a minority representation position.
Most importantly, the point is about increasing representation of minority groups within the minority group of an LGBT+ community. The majority of LGBT+ committees across the Western world are made up of cis white gay men, which means the opportunities for representation of minorities is very limited. This is, of course, not the fault of the majority (here: white cis gay men). This is just a logical conclusion to be drawn which is true in any group. For example, in politics, if all the representative positions are held by men, it is difficult to represent women. This is why systems such as affirmative action have been set up in the past, to make sure that the under-represented groups have positions of representation. In the same way, the NUS LGBT+ conference voted in favour of this motion which says not that white cis gay men shouldn’t be involved, but that they simply do not require specific and “reserved” representative positions for gay men: they are already represented more than any other LGBT+ identity. It’s a case of creating rep positions for groups which are underrepresented within the LGBT+ community, which white cis gay men are not.
In a college setting, you have a certain number of representative positions that people run for (like international rep, disabilities rep, LGBT+ rep, etc). In this way and in this context, they are finite, mainly for bureaucratic purposes (my opinion on which doesn’t matter at the moment). The NUS “encourages” the abolishment of representatives of majorities in favour of representatives of minorities. This doesnt mean gay representation in general should be decreased, it just means that they believe specific positions for it are a little superfluous in the context of evening the playing field, if that makes sense.
Gay men are represented: they make up the majority of most LGBT+ group’s execs, most of the media attention, and are the focus of the most charities and most funding. They should be represented by the LGBT+ community, but not through the medium of minority rep positions. Like, do we need a straight people’s rep on college committees? I’m sure most of you would answer something along the lines of “well, no, cos they’re the majority”. To the external world and on wider platforms, gay men need representation as a minority. Within the LGBT+ community, they simply aren’t a minority.
In the wider world, outside of LGBT+ communities, of course white cis gay men face discrimination and oppression because of their sexualities, this isn’t what’s being debated. What’s being debated is that within the minority group, this majority is represented far more than the minorities, which needs to change. It would be like having a white women’s rep in a feminist society, or a men’s rep in parliament, or an able-bodied rep on a sports panel. Those identities already exist in multitudes, and nobody wants to get rid of them, they just want to make sure that other identities are represented as well.
Gay men will still be able to run for any position which is not a reserved position for a minority group. They can run for president, vice president, campaigns, social sec, chair, secretary, whatever, but not representative positions for minority groups.
The violence and oppression gay men face throughout the world is not something which is taken lightly, as is shown by multitudes of other motions passed at the conference. We need to tackle this oppression as a community, but we also need to realise that our LGBT+ communities are made up of a huge number of people with different identities. When you think ‘LGBT’, you think ‘gay’. It’s what my mum assumed when I came out, and it’s what the world assumes when they see the logo on my hoodie. But that isn’t all we are. Some of us are still forgetting the plus, we’re even erasing the bisexual and trans identities which are actually mentioned in the 4-letter acronym! We need to make sure that everyone is represented within our community, especially those who struggle the most and who have the least representation outside of it.
How many of you reading this know what intersex is? How many of us know how many conditions it comprises, or the issues that intersex people face from the moment they’re born?
How many of us know the difference between pansexual, bisexual, and polysexual?
How many of us know the difference between gender and sex, or the difference between gender identity and gender expression, or sexual attraction and romantic attraction or aesthetic attraction?
How many of us know what grey-asexual or demisexual is, or even asexual, really?
How many of us know the issues associated with the intersections between sexuality and race, or disability, or class?
Until all of us can answer all of these questions as well as we can answer “what is gay?”, there will always be a point to increasing minority representation within our communities.
Gay men will be represented by LGBT+ Societies and Associations across the UK, regardless of what the NUS LGBT+ Campaign “encourages”. Let’s make sure we focus on raising awareness and representation of others to the same level, so that we can then raise all of us, no matter our gender or sexuality or romantic orientation, higher together.
I will be in Durham over Easter and would be more than happy to meet up and have a chat. This is an emotive issue, and I take the representation of absolutely everyone within the LGBT+ community very seriously, so I will always make the time to listen to your concerns or answer your questions.
An orientation describing those who do not experience sexual attraction, but can experience other types of attraction.
Those who only experience sexual attraction after forming an emotional connection. (Demiromantic – is a term which can be used to refer to those who have the potential to experience romantic attraction after they have formed an emotional connection).
Those who identify between asexual and sexual on the sexuality spectrum. This can be seen as an umbrella term and can include, but is not limited to: those who do not normally experience sexual attraction but do experience it sometimes; those who experience sexual attraction but at a level so low it is generally not noticed or acted upon and those who feel sexual attraction but only under very specific or limited conditions.
Ally: Typically any non-LGBTQ+ person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
We invite you – no matter how you identify – to think deeply about how you can be an ally to LGBT peers. Allyship is about more than supporting equal rights for marginalized groups; it’s about advocating for those groups, uplifting their voices, and reflecting constantly on the powerful intersections of identity, privilege and justice.
HOW TO TAKE ACTION:
Make a personal and intentional vow to explore what it means to become an ally to LGBTQ+ identified individuals. Intervene when you hear anti-LGBTQ+ language or remarks – how often have you heard “that’s so gay?” as a derogatory term? Use “I” statements: In conversations about LGBTQ+ issues and allyship, be conscious of your privilege and speak from your own experiences, rather than presuming the experiences of LGBTQ+ students and others. Read essays and articles written by LGBTQ+ people about LGBTQ+ issues. Educate yourself about the equality movements, and make sure you don’t erase the contributions of LGBTQ+ people in famous movements. Ask your LGBTQ+ friends (respectfully, and only if they’re willing to answer!) about their experiences and how you can be an ally to them. Similarly, practice having conversations about LGBTQ+ issues without demanding personal information from others. Listen. Be the megaphone, not the speaker – use your privilege to amplify the voices of the people fighting for equality. People will often pay more attention to straight, cisgender people than to LGBTQ+ people. Make sure you help LGBTQ+ activists reach these different platforms, rather than taking the platform for yourself. Never assume a person’s identity based on how they look, who they do or do not spend time with, or what others say about them. Only that person can tell you how they identify, and on their own time and terms.
Being an LGBTQ+ individual can be difficult – more so if you are also disabled or have a health condition. For this reason, we at the LGBTa feel that it’s important that you’re properly represented.
We always make an effort to ensure that our safe-space socials are wheelchair accessible, or that there is a ramp on-hand if need be, and we are always more than happy to hear how we can better accommodate you.
Disability History Month takes place every year from the 22nd of November to the 21st of December – if you’d like to get involved with any campaigns, charity-drives, or awareness-raising movements, please let us know.
Here is a list of famous LGBTQ+ people with disabilities and some resources from the Equality Network.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our LGBT+ Students with Disabilities Rep, Jo, at [email protected]
Why is campaigning so important? Campaigning is undoubtedly vital in making a huge impact in the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people. For example, what has recently been regarded as a breakthrough concerning the rights of LGBTQ+ people within the UK? From 2011, gay men are now allowed to give blood, provided they have abstained from sex for a year. Even more recently was the passing of the Equal Marriage (same-sex couples) bill in the UK.
However there is still, and always will be, more campaigning left to do. There remains much ignorance within the population, shown by the exsistence of ‘conversion therapies’ that aim to change a person’s sexual orientation. Furthermore, there is still also limited awareness concerning trans issues and LBT women’s sexual health needs.
Within Durham University LGBT+a, we aim to raise awareness through our LGBT+ history month events (February) held in Epiphany term. This is a chance for all students across the university to come and see what we are about, as well as a chance to learn more about what being LGBTQ+ means and how we can all support LGBTQ+ people to lead happy and fulfilled lives.
We also have several smaller campaigns throughout the year, which we welcome volunteers to help out with!
To get involved with campaigning, or if you have any ideas, please email [email protected]
This year our Campaigns officer position is occupied by Harriet Haugvik.