Gemma Clark, a volunteer, speaker and writer with Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), writes ahead of TIE and CommonSpace’s special event to mark Pride on 18 July on the heroes of LGBT history. Clark looks at those who have inspired her from the past, and what inspires her today.
PRIDE. It’s a word that now has more than one meaning, largely thanks to the queer heroes and heroines of Stonewall.
It has been 50 years since then, yet our fight is not over. It has continued since then and TIE is still fighting for our right to be proud to love who we love. Anyone who considers themselves a member, or an ally of the LGBTQ community is fighting alongside us.
When TIE asked me to write about someone that makes me feel inspired to be open and true to myself, there were some names that sprung to mind immediately.
Oscar Wilde, a gay man, writer and visionary, who has inspired me not only creatively, but to be unapologetically myself, to never make excuses about who I am and to see the beauty in life, and in other people – and maybe to have a little more fun while I’m at it.
Laverne Cox, a transgender woman of colour, an actress and activist, who exemplifies beauty, integrity and compassion; Marsha P Johnson, the street queen who stood at the helm of the Stonewall Riots and demanded our civil rights.
Then I realised – yes, these people and many, many more inspire me daily, and their legacy will continue to do so, but they are not the only ones. The net of inspirational queerness can be cast much further than that.
I am inspired every day by people around me and the small, but powerful moments that show their Pride. I am inspired by my transgender friend, living his best life in the skin he feels most comfortable; by the out and proud actors I enjoy on screen; by the musicians who sing same sex love songs because they are not ashamed. None of us should be.
It’s taken me a long time to be able to say this, but I am also proud of myself. I am an openly bisexual woman, in a happy, loving relationship with another queer person. I have a degree, a job, friends and passions and all of that is coloured a little brighter by the fact that I’m not hiding anything anymore.
There was once a time when I wanted to end it all, in no small way because I was internalising a part of myself that screamed and ached to be free, and I am sure I am not alone in experiencing that pain. It is a familiar wound for far too many people.
I found the LGBTQ community and was welcomed with open hearts, minds and no small amount of rainbows and glitter. I have met some of the most incredible people and shared wonderful experiences.
I have become an activist, a speaker, a writer. I have confidence and can now return the favour given to me, and support others who struggled as I did.
Events such as the one being hosted by CommonSpace, which considers our history and shares the stories of our community, can be a gateway for understanding. Starting a conversation can be a catalyst, and it is important that we talk about the issues once faced by this community, and those we continue to experience today. It deeply saddens me that there are still so many obstacles for a community with love and acceptance at it’s foundation.
Yet the support TIE has seen gives me hope. In the future, I hope to see more, accurate representation of our community, and an absolute recognition of its importance. A key step in achieving that is teaching people, starting from the bottom – in schools.
I can’t wait to see where we go from here.
Picture courtesy of Kate