Generally speaking, I have grown to become a confident and self-assured individual. I have always had a good sense of right and wrong and been an activist for the greater good. In recent years, I have allowed my willingness of self-expression to dominate my personality. I have fallen in love with the idea of being whoever I truly am, whoever I want to be and whoever I am becoming. Our identities are ever-changing and often an unconscious decision. We have little control over who we are, we can choose how we express ourselves and what urges we give into, but we have almost no control over the urges that arise.
I remember after coming out, I almost prided myself on appearing ‘straight-acting’. I took it as a compliment if anyone ever said that they were unaware I was gay, or that they would never have known. It was a way of my appeasing my internalised homophobia by appearing to be part of the mainstream and not an outsider. Over time, this started to change. In recent years, my expression has evolved through fashion by wearing more extrovert and nonconformist attire. This has developed into a great love of jewellery, especially items intended for females (whatever that fucking means, it’s a piece of metal that hangs on your body). I remember the first time I posted a photo wearing a diamanté earring that hung down by 2 inches. The overall response was positive and encouraging, but I was faced by a mass unfollowing of people that clearly were not comfortable with such expression.
This has since developed into painting my nails. Men painting nails is becoming more common, even amongst straight men. I started with a simple black or grey, something less gendered that would catch less attention. Then came a brand partnership that hit hard. I was sponsored by a brand that creates products for men, and during my promotion I was seen wearing grey nail polish. This video was then promoted to a mass audience, reaching over 2.6 million views. Once this was presented to wider society, I was faced with an incomparable backlash of people that were shocked to see a male wearing nail polish. The levels of hate, homophobia, stereotyping and even transphobia were astonishing. This was something that hit me really hard and that I received next to no professional support for. I soon adjusted my mindset and saw it as their issue and not mine. Instead, I went in the other direction. Rather than being scared of my self-expression, I felt more inspired than ever. I then grew my nails longer than they’d ever been and now wear a deep dark red nail polish, one that boasts bad bitch energy. I had grown to be the most confident and expressive I’d ever felt, and it doesn’t end there.
I have recently decided that I’d like to experiment with makeup. Who knows, I may never want to wear it in public, but I have invested in some eyeshadow palettes and want to create some really cool coordinated looks. Whilst this was all behind closed doors, I was so excited about this new personal journey for me. I was thrilled at the idea of trying something new, and my mum couldn’t have been more supportive. She was so excited that she even helped apply my first look. I felt unbreakable, unstoppable, untouchable.
Then, one day, something changed. I have never faced public homophobia outside of stupid school shit. But I was out shopping with my boyfriend recently and I noticed this woman staring at me. My boyfriend was looking for makeup, and I was just stroking his back as he browsed. She kept glaring at me glancing at my hand on his back (we all know that look, she definitely wasn’t admiring my outfit). We soon walked to another part of the store and I tried to forget about it, but it made me really anxious.
Whilst my boyfriend was paying, I went to wait outside as the store was busy and I wanted to ensure I was social distancing (side note, please wear a mask). This is where I encountered the same woman again. As I was walking out of the store she was stood just outside. She glared at me again and said something. I couldn’t quite make it out but I’m 99% sure I heard the word gay, and I just froze, I knew exactly what was happening. I confronted her and she refused to repeat what she had said and started avoiding eye contact, probably taken back by the fact I didn’t shy away from her. But I noticed anytime I was looking away she began to glare at me again.
I am aware this wasn’t anywhere near the level of homophobia that a lot of people receive, and to some will be seen as incredibly minor. I am privileged enough to have not received in person homophobia from a stranger before, and so to an extent have been shielded from it. I had become very confident in my self-expression and privileged to know I was able to hold my boyfriend’s hand wherever I want.
That evening, I burst into tears. My confidence was shaken and for the first time in 4 years I was ashamed of who I was. My tears were partly for my own feelings, but mainly for something else, our community. I imagined how it must feel to be living in a nation with constant fear, to not just have to worry about people looking at us funny, but to literally be scared for our lives. I wept at the idea of someone living their entire lives as someone else, ashamed of their true identity. I have not felt shame like it and it almost broke me. After I’d cried and explained emotions to my boyfriend I sat down and wrote this. I wanted to use my emotions and channel it into something educational and helpful. I wanted to write down my feelings and share them with you all.
In my recent interview with Conor McKenzie, he spoke about his experience of in person homophobia, and he said the following “we don’t need to walk them through it and educate them, that’s not my job. We can move on and understand that it’s them and not you”. This resonated with me and is a lesson I will be taking forward from now on.
I wanted to ensure that there were lessons to be taken from this experience, so here they are:
1. Homophobia still exists - Just because some of us may be privileged enough to be shielded from it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In a position of privilege, we should use it for the greater good and to help those in need, not relax in our comfort.
2. It’s not you, it’s them - My boyfriend said something poetic and intrinsically heart-breaking that helped me. “Someone that has that much hatred in their heart is not going to be happy. It’s nothing to do with you, it’s their own unhappiness”. If you ever experience such, deflect it onto them.
3. You’re still a bad bitch - No matter what ANYONE says, don’t let people bring down your bad bitch energy. You’re bold and you’re beautiful, no one in the world can change that.
I really hope this has been somewhat helpful or relatable, although it’s a bit of a brain dump. I love you all my, beautiful people. Let’s change the world, together.