For a lot of people, coming to terms with your sexuality and having to ‘come out’ can be a seriously dark and daunting time. Luckily for me, I grew up in an area where I never really had to hide who I was or be ashamed of my identity. But even so, it was still an extremely confusing time for me and it did take a while to realise that I wasn’t like everyone around me, doing the ‘norm’.

Being a teenager, naturally, there is some pressure for everyone to always be talking to or seeing someone of the opposite sex. But after a while of trying to fit in with that, I started to realise that it wasn’t really suiting me and I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t appealing to me.

Looking back on it now, I guess I always knew I had somewhat of an attraction to girls but thought I would never act on it. But after trying for so long to go along with the norm I realised I wasn’t able to convince myself to be something I’m not. So, I first came out as bisexual (with a preference for girls) and at the time I thought that’s what I was. Thankfully, I can say I never received any negativity about it from either family, friends or peers. Obviously apart from the odd ignorant comment like “you haven’t been with the right guy yet” or “you don’t look gay”, I mean, sorry I must have forgotten my rainbow flag today!

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Being able to just be myself and not hide who I was was a huge weight off my shoulders and I was comfortable enough with myself to start exploring this new side that I had suppressed for a while. So, fast forward a couple of years and by this time I was starting to think that boys just weren’t for me full stop and I thought maybe I was a full-on lezza. Then I met Charlotte and three years down the line we’re still together. I can honestly say that from the start I’ve never felt ashamed about who I was, yes there was some confusion at the beginning but once I realised who I was, I was proud of myself and I never wanted to hide it.

If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?

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So many people are ashamed of their sexuality to begin with, why wasn’t I?

Well, simply because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I come from a supportive and open-minded family and friends group so I never thought for a second anyone would think worse of me for it. When I realised who I was, I wanted to show people that I was proud of it and not hide it.

Not fitting into the norm and being my own person was actually exciting to me so that led to me being proud of my identity from the get-go. I really didn’t care if people didn’t agree with it, it wasn’t going to bring me down cause really if you’ve got a problem with it then you’ve got some issues hunny, not me.

Even though some people were more concerned about how I may be treated by others for it, and maybe even discouraged me from ‘flaunting it’, I never gave into it. After all, why should I hide my identity and tiptoe around for some idiot who is too stupid to grasp the simple concept that you can like people of the same sex?

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When people ask me even now if I’m bi or gay or whatever, my answer is that I actually don’t know. It’s such a fluid thing but all that matters is that I’m with someone and they just so happen to be female. So I don’t really need nor want a label. I always think things would be a lot easier for everyone if we could simply just be. With no labels and it just being normal to love whoever regardless of gender. Wishful thinking, right?

So, am I proud to be part of the LGBTQ+ community?

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YES! Although I had a good experience in accepting my identity, there’s no doubt that for a huge number of people, it’s the complete opposite. But no matter how you start out or how long your journey of self-acceptance and love takes, the end goal is all that matters – and that’s being proud of who you are.

Ash – Unite UK