How feminism helped me be okay with being gay

It’s LGBT+ History Month and, as I often find myself doing during this month, I’ve been thinking about sexuality. More specifically, my sexuality and how being a feminist at UEA has informed it.

I’m gay. Well, I actually prefer the term queer because of spectrums and fluidity and all of that fantastic stuff, but I use the two terms pretty interchangeably. I didn’t immediately decide that queer was the word for me; being a feminist and surrounding myself with feminists who regularly talk about the fluidity of sexuality led me to a label that I’m comfortable with. I guess that might not sound like much but it means an awful lot to me considering that a year ago I was still resisting labelling myself as gay. Coming to terms with my own sexuality was a relatively peaceful experience for me but I still, as many people do, have trouble with certain aspects of it.

The main problem I seemed to have was how other people – my parents, friends, strangers – viewed my sexuality. I didn’t mind being queer, but I really cared about how other people felt about it. Feminism and being a feminist at UEA has taught me a brilliant lesson: who I am, how I act, and who I sleep with is nobody’s businessbut my own. I realised that my sexuality has nothing to do with anyone else; the issues other people might have with my sexuality are borne out of a patriarchal, homophobic society and don’t actually have anything to do with me at all. Feminism taught me that I don’t have to apologise for what I’m wearing if I look a bit ‘too gay’; it has taught me that who I sleep with is not grounds for any kind of judgement, and it’s taught me that what I do with my body is my business.

Before I thought about it with my feminist hat on, men staring at me while I kissed girls made me feel pretty awful, like I was doing something risqué or subversive. Now when men stare at me in clubs I start yelling about patriarchy and how my sexuality doesn’t exist for their enjoyment just because I’m a woman. The sexualisation (by, largely, men) of women who sleep with other women angers me on a daily basis and sometimes that can be exhausting, but I’d rather be angry at patriarchy than angry at myself for being queer. Feminism has enabled me to channel this anger, and to turn what once might have manifested as fear and self loathing, into something personally useful and politically powerful. I think a lot of what feminism taught me boils down to this: the problem isn’t me, the problem is them. In a world that tells women pretty much everything is their fault, realising that no, it isn’t, was revelatory for me. Learning about sexism and becoming more accepting of my sexuality have become so intertwined that I cannot separate my feminism from my sexuality. Being unapologetic about my feminism allows me to be unapologetic about my sexuality, so I feel like I owe feminism (and UEA Feminism) a lot for how comfortable I feel in my own identity.

 Jess Brown: Unapologetically Queer