The Villa family is a massive part of my life. They’ve supported me through the tough times and played a huge part in the good. They’ve picked me up when I’m down, laughed with me when I’m in a better place, and supported me whenever I’ve faced discrimination. Often, we see arguments such as “you’ve achieved equality, so why are you still campaigning”, or even “Homophobia/racism etc doesn’t really exist any more”. It may seem like a negative way to start, but I have to be honest and say that neither comment is true. The second one especially, is something that anyone from a “minority” background, whatever that may be, will be able to instantly prove false. I can guarantee that we all, without exception, have experienced discrimination in our lifetimes. Some will have faced more discrimination than others, but it is still widespread.
This sort of discrimination is what makes our allies so important. As minorities, it is often difficult to challenge the views of others and action positive change. While I cant speak for others, I can share my own experiences.
Being in the closet is a lonely place. The longer you keep your sexuality hidden, the more strain it can put on relationships with friends and family, and also our relationships with ourselves. I came out to a handful of close friends very early on, around the age of 14. I was far from comfortable with it, but I had reached the stage where I felt that I was struggling to maintain my relationships with them, knowing that I was keeping what felt like a huge secret. I think a lot of people underestimate just what a big deal it is, even in the 21st century, for someone to come out as gay. It’s a scary and daunting experience.
Some of my friends took it well, and one or two didn’t. I had a series of ups and downs for the next few years, but most of the reactions were positive, or fairly neutral. Some people genuinely didn’t care, and to be honest, that for me was one of the best reactions.
Coming out is often portrayed as a single event, usually someone coming out to their family. In reality, you come out to every new person you meet, somehow. The difference however, is that once the people you really care about have accepted you, it doesn’t seem such a big deal. I still find it plays on my mind sometimes, but it’s definitely not as bad as it was at first.
This is where allies come in. The people who accepted and supported me were crucial in easing my mind and making me realise that I wasn’t alone. They provided me with the support I needed to accept myself, and to feel confident enough to challenge the backwards views of others. It is incredibly difficult to face bigoted people alone, and without my allies I could easily have ended up allowing the abuse and discrimination I have faced to really affect me. With the support of those around me I was able to challenge discrimination much more often, and knowing I had a support network meant that I was less affected by the abuse than I would’ve been otherwise.
Having read this, I want you to stop and think: Imagine being abused because of a characteristic you cannot change. Imagine being discriminated against for no other reason than how you feel. Imagine facing that alone.
Now, imagine you can be the person that stops this. Imagine that you could stop LGBT people feeling alone. Imagine you could help them realise that the way they feel is normal, natural and should be accepted. Imagine that you could change the way they feel about themselves, and that your actions drive positive change that directly impacts someone’s life.
Be an ally. Drive positive change.
If you want to help make positive change in the villa community, you can join us at Villa and Proud, the official LGBT+ supporters group of Aston Villa. Join Here