Queer people are not a monolith. A very obvious statement but one that is often forgotten during Pride month. That is not to say that they do not have any similar experiences. It is to say however that we should celebrate the different experiences queer people have both positive and negative.
That is why I sat down with 2 members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Firstly Sam (He/They), age 20. He was born and raised by a Nigerian father and a Cameroon mother in London before studying Fashion Communication and Promotion at Nottingham Trent University. When he isn't a part-time model, he is either dancing or drawing or simply appreciating fashion around the globe.
On the other side, we have Rhea (She/Her) Age 19, who was born in Mumbai India. She moved to many places ranging from Estonia to Finland before settling in a small town in England at 11. She currently studies Business Management with Marketing at Nottingham Trent University and loves reading and horse riding.
Defining and discovering your sexuality.
"My ideal answer would be, honestly, I just like who I like." - Rhea
We first explored their sexuality and how they came to the realisation that they weren't necessarily straight. The first question asked them how they would label their own sexuality. Both of them strongly believe that people shouldn't have to label their sexuality but understand why other people might want to. They, therefore, didn't give a label but both of them simply like people for who they are rather than what they look like.
Following on, they both recounted how they first found out that they weren't straight. Sam jokes about how he has "always known" and recounts times when his friends would show him pictures of people, both boys and girls, neither one giving him a strong sense of attraction. To him, it wasn't about what they looked like but their personality instead.
"If I were to put an age on when I realised that I wasn't necessarily straight I'd say.... properly? 15."
Even though he had always known, he hadn't always accepted it. He decided to "face these feelings head-on" during lockdown when there was nothing else to distract him from his feelings. Despite learning to accept himself as he is, he still struggled with some aspects related to his sexuality.
On the other hand, Rhea talks about how social media had a significant influence on her realisation. She reveals how "it's not easy" to discover her sexuality in her small home town. She then goes on to say that social media exposed her to all different kinds of people and further jokes how she found this "fit girl" on TikTok, and from then on just knew.
The differences that make us unique
"Ethnicity and where I'm from plays a huge part in how I express my sexuality." - Sam
The penultimate question asked them how their experiences with sexuality overlap with their ethnicity. Sexuality and ethnicity have mostly been viewed as independent factors in people's lives. However, their experiences teach us that they aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, this theory is known as intersectionality. Intersectionality is not a measure of who is more oppressed in society it is simply a way to see how different factors affect each other when they overlap.
Rhea firmly expresses that she does have different experiences from other non-brown queer people. She states fetishization is the main issue. She believes that white lesbian couples are seen as more attractive and thus more accepted. Which then leaves lesbian couples of colours to be seen as less desirable in society.
"If you were to see 2 white women together it would be perceived as more attractive, to men from the male gaze, rather than 2 black women or 2 people colour." -Rhea
Sam expresses how he fears losing his culture due to his sexuality. Which he then states as the reason for not coming out to his parents. “I was really enjoying having Nigeran heritage…. What if I come out to my father and he rejects me, and I lose all of that?”
However, his sexuality has given him access to people that are able to merge their culture and sexuality. He affirms that social media has helped him with balancing the two. He mentions the alternative Nigerian scene and how they have inspired him with their ability to balance the two things.
“I think it’s very very beautiful. I think having the intersection of two things, can be a very powerful thing because you’re not necessarily one without the other.” - Sam
Rhea further discusses the issues she's had with her sexuality and ethnicity. She states that people assume she's Muslim because of her brown skin. People then further assume she can't be anything but straight. In her opinion, it is more "annoying" than a big issue in her life.
“I’ve had people presume I’m Muslim because I’m brown and because of that assume that I can’t be anything but straight.” - Rhea
Out of the fire and into the light
Finally, both of them would like to impart some wisdom to people who feel unable to come out.
Rhea firmly declares that “you do not have to come out” and further goes on to say that “straight people don’t have to come out.” She hopes to send the message that having a spectacular coming-out moment is a choice and that you don’t have to do it. She further criticises society for assuming people’s sexuality and implores people to stop doing so.
Sam agrees and sends an additional message about coming out to yourself. He reassures people that “he’s been there, we’ve all been there” that it’s simply a matter of time and that surrounding yourself with supportive people will allow you to come to terms with being yourself.
“ You do not owe it to anyone to tell them your sexuality. Ever.” - Rhea
“Find the right time to be comfortable in yourself.”- Sam