My early teens were full of confusion. I remember being unsure of my identity, concerned about the future – I floated around, spending too much time in my room and blushing when my peers made fun of me. As secondary school continued, things got easier bit by bit, but it was being opened up to the LGBTQ+ community that truly improved my outlook on life.

I discovered the queer community primarily through YouTube, watching people from all over the world educate their audiences about sexuality and gender. I found myself pining after more and more content, falling in love with this rainbow realm that helped me come to terms with my queerness.

Many members of the LGBTQ+ community told me I was valid and beautiful, and in the tears that leaked onto my laptop, you could see that I actually believed them. It was such a relief, to feel the acceptance I hadn’t even realised I was seeking. I’d found my people – they understood me, and they helped me understand myself.

The content I absorbed became incredibly important to me and I saw so much beauty in it. Alongside justified anger, I experienced such warmth and enthusiasm amongst queer people; I was in awe of how activists’ dedication to making the world a better place could change so many lives, one by one.

Upon accepting my bisexuality as part of me, I wanted to be as confident as the people I’d learned from. I had a desire to follow their lead and do my bit to help fellow queer individuals, in whatever small way I could manage. I started to talk about LGBTQ+ issues on YouTube and social media, and it was incredible to exist in a space on the internet where commenters were on my wavelength.

We could discuss the thoughts that I kept to myself when on the outside world and it was extremely cathartic. As my self-assurance grew bolder, I took activism offline, participating in Stonewall’s Youth Volunteering Programme and finding home amongst a group of young queer people who all just wanted to do some good. It was like experiencing my online bubble in real life, and the energy was lovely. It was amazing to feel a sense of purpose, a drive to be better.

I continued to learn about activism through partaking in a Bi Role Models programme, also run by Stonewall. It was a strange thing to contemplate, that I could ever be a role model. I realised that day how many role models I did have; not all of them were queer, but many of them were.

They were people who held qualities I valued – they were people who I owed a lot of my happiness to, for they showed me this world of pride flags and activism where I discovered I belonged. A lot of my role models were ordinary queer people, telling their truths and setting examples that being queer can enhance your life – it doesn’t always have to hinder it.

LGBTQ+ activism allows us to turn negative experiences into positive action. It’s enabled me to meet the most inspiring, kind-hearted individuals and proven to me that I’m not alone. This community isn’t perfect, I know, but there is so much good here. I’m thankful the community sixteen-year-old me found a sense of belonging in is still here and working so hard towards positive change.

There are no words to describe how grateful I am to the LGBTQ+ activists who enabled us to be here today living as our authentic selves. They changed the world and our lives as a result, and queer activism won’t stop changing my life all the while it’s bringing me passion and purpose. We continue to change the world, one proud step at a time.

Emily Eaton

Blogger at Unite UK

Emily is a student, writer and activist from Essex. She’s a proud bisexual just trying to make the world a nicer place and is excited to be sharing her thoughts on this platform.

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