As a gay rights activist and passionate Christian, I’m really excited that ‘Religion, Belief and Philosophy’ is the theme of this year’s LGBT History Month. There have been some truly exciting events this year, and they’re still not over.
I attended Look OUT at the Wallace Collection on 5 February. I love this museum. It’s full of beautiful treasures, from amorous satyrs seducing nymphs by the rococo artist Franҫois Boucher to Renaissance armour from the courts of Henry VIII and Cosimo de Medici. Artists re-interpreted the Wallace Collection’s sumptuous holdings in light of LGBT identity, which was very thought-provoking.
I also attended the Jewish Museum’s Through a Queer Lens: Portraits of LGBTQ Jews. I’m particularly interested in portraiture as an art form. The photographs are all by the same artist and it was great to see how faith and identity were interpreted.
I have a blog on the Huffington Post and have written a piece reflecting on LGBT identity within the context of this year’s LGBT History Month theme.
Visibility and respect
For many years LGBT people were largely invisible. We’re lucky to live in a society where we are respected, where we can express who we are and reach our full potential. We must reclaim the past and celebrate the contribution of LGBT people over the years. This is an empowering process, by which our identities as LGBT people will grow.
History is full of LGBT role models, who pioneered equality and diversity. These inspirational people teach tolerance and respect. They had the confidence to be themselves, allowing LGBT people to live the wonderful lives we do today.
Schools and young people
I enjoyed some aspects of my time at school. I was quite geeky and loved studying literature, history and art. Unfortunately, I experienced bullying as a teenager. I only came out to one person at school, but my peers guessed that I was gay.
From the age of 16, the LGBT bullying got worse. Furthermore, whilst now everyone thinks ginger is sexy, at school I was bullied on account of my hair colour. I was happy to escape to university and this is when I started to flourish as an individual. Having the acceptance of the people around me enabled me to shed my inhibitions and embrace my gay identity.
Diagnosis and activism
I am now happy and successful. I was diagnosed with HIV and Hep C in 2010, when I was 24. It took me several years to incorporate my HIV into my identity, but I have emerged stronger and more confident than ever before. I now focus on my LGBT rights, HIV and faith activism.
Christianity has reenergised my life. I am a member of the Church of England and attend a church in Waterloo called St John’s. Each year seems better than the last and I am so excited by the opportunities around me.
The activism of Peter Tatchell and Sir Ian McKellen stands out to me as inspiring. They are amazing people, having done so much to fight for the rights of LGBT people.
From the early LGBT rights movement, I really admire Troy Perry, the founder of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). The MCC originated in Los Angeles in 1968. Early attendees were gay, Perry wanting to worship with other gay men. By 1971 the Church had its own building and over 1000 members.
I love the artistic output and pivotal lives of Michelangelo and Oscar Wilde, who were both gay. Michelangelo is the definitive artist, conquering sculpture, painting, architecture and poetry. Oscar Wilde’s writing is beautiful, but he is also known for his love affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. One of my favourite books is The Picture of Dorian Gray. As an unpopular and spotty teenager at school, struggling with identity, I longed to be the beautiful and superficial Dorian Gray.
A message for the next generation
My message to young people today would be: Live your dreams! A world of hot boys and girls, full of excitement and opportunity, awaits you. Believe in yourself and have the courage to express who you are.