Coming out and showing up Eleanor Broadbent talks about what flying the rainbow flag for LGBQT History month means.
Every February, we are invited to make ourselves visible as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer and Transgender people by showing up for History Month. We speak and we listen, to each other and to the world around us – colleagues, friends and members of the public. It’s a time for people to question, to learn and to be together as a community with our allies, united by a shared identity.
We fly the rainbow flag both literally and metaphorically.
But our participation in History Month depends on how visible we are out of the closet and how comfortable we feel in speaking out to those around us. Whether we can take part without fear of judgement and rejection, whether that’s real or imaged.
History Month permits us to honour our cultural heritage and political struggle as a community of ‘others’ in a straight world. It encourages us to speak but also to listen and learn – about what being LGB or T means to us and to each other today.
We come out and show up, although not all of us have arrived. We might be questioning who we are and why it matters. Not everybody was ‘born this way’ and some of us are still making enquiries of ourselves, listening and learning on the inside. We may ask;
‘Has my sexuality or the way that I express my gender changed?’
‘How might I reconcile my sexual identity with my religion or belief?’
‘Is there space in this community for me?’
Coming out is a continual process, to ourselves and to others. People who aren’t gay often assume it to be a one-stop destination that one arrives at after the closet door is obliterated by a theatrical announcement to one and all. To me, the idea of coming out is better represented by a revolving door. It doesn’t stop opening and closing. Every time heterosexuality is assumed, it closes. If you correct somebody, gaps open again. Sometimes it traps your fingers and it hurts. Sometimes you don’t want to wrestle through the door and speak up and so it goes round and round, with new visitors each time.
If an LGBT person speaks up about their identity and experiences, you should take care to listen. They are coming out to you because it is important to them and they want you to listen without hesitation or suspicion of their motives.
We have a right to space – the space to explore our own identity and the history of the community. Some people might be coming out and showing up for the first time this February and we must salute their bravery. For as long as vicious misogyny, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia attempt to undermine our existence, we can draw strength from each other and journey that we are all making.
For more information about the Leeds Lesbian, Gay & Trans Community Hub