If there’s one thing that reminds me how backwards the Highlands are when it comes to the LGBT community it’s a trip to London. I was down earlier in the month catching up with friends and seeing a few shows and I am always surprised at how open everyone is. Don’t get me wrong, people don’t make eye contact with you and they walk everywhere at 800 mph, but I can so easily be myself when I’m in London.
All of that said, you can be yourself here, it’s just that you are not going to be accepted for it as freely as you are in London. Is it not one of the main reasons most of us vehemently deny being gay when we are young? I was the total stereotype when I was in school; I hung around with all the girls, I was a dancer and I was a singer who predominantly sung musical theatre numbers. Nothing says, “I’m not gay” more than a pair of jazz hands at the end of I Am What I Am. But saying that, I am still all of those things, I have just accepted who I am now which isn’t just half the battle – it’s the whole battle.
Most of my teenage life was spent being berated by “macho” guys at school who would happily sling derogatory terms at me from a distance, but never seemed to be willing to say anything directly to me. I was lucky, I suppose, that I never endured any physical violence, but the psychological side can be just as bad when you’re young and impressionable. Getting out of that environment was the best thing to happen to me because when I left for university I was finally given the opportunity to be myself. If people accepted me that was great; if not it was their loss. What an epiphany that was, let me tell you.
Back to London though. On the first night I was there we met a few of my friends colleagues and went to Rupert Street for a couple of drinks. I, with my tiny,little Highland brain, told my friend to go to the bar with her boobs thrust out to get served then I would pay (always a sure fire way of getting quick service when you’re in Dingwall). It wasn’t until she looked at me like I was a complete idiot that I realised that 90% of the clientele were men and this was clearly a gay bar. Then we went outside with our drinks for my mind to be blown even more because we were not only in a gay bar, we were surrounded by gay bars. I don’t mean to paint myself in this ridiculously naive way because I am not at all, I am just always amazed at the choice that is on offer to the LGBT community there.
I know it’s petulant, but it’s so unfair. There’s an entire district devoted to the LGBT community there and we are stuck with a gay night one Sunday a month (who can go out on a Sunday?) in a dive of a bar about half an hour from home. I know 30 minutes isn’t much, but with public transport here being what it is on a Sunday, that may as well be the other end of the country.
I honestly feel sorry for the LGBT kids growing up here because there is nowhere for them to be themselves without the fear of a group of small-minded people attacking them – mentally or physical – just because they happen to have a different sexuality. I hope that changes but, sadly, I can’t say I see it happening soon.