Iona Hazelhurst 

I’m a very online person. I’m a member of gaming communities, online communities and I think it is quite important to be a vocal member of the LGBT community because people don’t understand. I get a lot of weird questions when people find out I am bisexual, the best one has been ‘so you’re attracted to me then?’ and I want to say that just because I can be attracted to both genders does not mean that you are included in it. I’m religious as well, my dad was a priest and I grew up in churches and the Christian community isn’t always the best. So, I think that trying to get people to understand is the best way to go forward, instead of just sitting back and saying ‘believe what you want’ because that does not work. They have to learn somehow so why not talk about it.

 

I only came out publicly a year and a half ago but I’ve known for a hell of a long time. I’ve known probably since I was about 14 or 15. When I came out my grandparents unfriended me on Facebook and stopped talking to me. But in general, my immediate life was not affected much. My friends are still my friends, nothing’s changed. But from a wider perspective, it has been a bit different especially from a church perspective, especially the ways some of the priests and bishops that I know look at me. Even where I can go to church is now limited significantly. When I came to university it was so much more open so I could look around and know that it made sense. I could say it and not be judged for it. I feel like in high school or sixth form there’s all the jokes; students don’t realise the impact of calling something gay. That means that’s a negative thing, that means I don’t want to be that. It is just kids being kids but it does have an impact. Because uni is so much more open people are much more willing to be themselves. It’s a fresh start so it’s a lot easier to come to terms with it. YouTube is the best thing ever. I saw myself represented in characters like superwoman, loads of YouTubers starting coming out one after the other and that idea of them just willing to be themselves and not letting it affect them. There are quite a lot of youtubers now who are trying to push forward the message that ‘I am this but it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t impact who I am.’

 

For me, being from a religious community and family, my parents are very accepting, I knew that all the time. My Dad founded an organisation to get LGBT people accepted in church, he was massively vocal in that regard. It was important for me to take that step of coming out, mainly because of extended family but also because of all these bishops and priests that we constantly saw on an everyday basis. It was a bit naïve at the time but I had this idea that if they knew me, because they’d known me for years, they’d known me growing up, if they knew that I was the thing that they think is bad it would contribute to that slow change in perception. I think that the more people that do come out especially in communities that are orthodox or evangelical which is my area of Christianity help because it’s more that slow shift, that you can be both. But I think in a wider community if you are not religious I don’t think it is necessarily a vital step in any way shape or form. It does depend very much on your family.

 

I was at a church in Dorset; my dad had just stopped being a vicar; he’d gone into prison chaplaincy work due to my mum’s care needs. We started going to a church in Dorchester that he knew people from so we thought it would be alright. Literally the second service we went to there was a sermon on how it was not okay to be gay. They slowly started pushing us out of the church, they’d ignore us and wouldn’t talk to us. People would turn their shoulder if you went up to introduce yourself. That became a common theme, so we stopped going there. Church is largely about community and the whole Christian community is supposed to be tight knit but as soon as they found out my dad had started doing work with the LGBT community. One guy even called him “the vicar that did the gay thing”. I don’t understand what that means but that’s what they said. It was a big problem and people shut you out of churches. People were always passive aggressive because they could never be aggressive as that was against God, but passive aggressive was fine. I don’t really know where that logic comes from. At four or five churches that’s happened now. It’s always been this consistent, passive aggressive “we don’t want you here.” It is hurtful, especially when you’ve grown up in that religious space which I did, literally my house was attached to a church. Going from that to not being welcome anymore is very difficult.

 

I don’t go out much and engage with the Falmouth LGBT community. I have a lot of LGBT friends and we just accept that that is who we are and we don’t really see it as being a big part of who we are. I don’t see any problems in Falmouth for LGBT people. I’ve never had any problems at uni so they must be doing something right! I’ve not really seen much about the LGBT community but to me that is not a bad thing. Personally I think that it shouldn’t have to be brought up as this entirely separate issue. I actually prefer that it’s not talked about hugely. Bringing it up when there isn’t a problem makes it separate out. I’ve been to different Pride celebrations across the country but I don’t really do Pride society stuff at uni. It’s who I am but I don’t have to identify as that all the time. When I came to university I went to the chaplaincy and I did find out from a gay vicar from the area who came to talk to me about it that there were a few places here I could go. There’s one in Penryn which isn’t too bad, I go there every now and again if I need to. They have a link to a lot of students from the university and they tend to be a lot more open compared to the Methodist church up the road. I wouldn’t go there; I think I’d burst into flames if I walked through the door.

 

Labels are a more negative than positive thing in my opinion. My sibling is non-binary, which is confusing as it’s a recent thing. They don’t like having that label on them and they are very much more fluid between the two, wearing more masculine clothes sometimes and more feminine clothes other times. I think generally I don’t see gender identity as a big issue across the board. For sure, there are differences between sexes that are scientific but I don’t think we always have to say ‘well that means you are this and you are that.’ I think that’s quite strict and I’d much prefer the world to be less caring about gender.

 

For learning all the terms, it's easy to say plus. Some of the stuff does confuse me, even being in that community. My sibling knows all of them, but it’s really confusing. I get it, there are so many different ways you can identify but it’s so much easier to say we are people and we are attracted to different people, we have different ideas of what we are and that’s fine. I figure that most of the time people will stick to the basic letters to describe themselves, or at least closer to more well-known ones. So my sibling, they only came out three weeks ago, they are demisexual as well so there are so many things to try and figure out. It’s so much easier just to stick to the basic ones in my opinion but I know that probably isn’t the same for everyone but I’m glad that people do identify as something, that they find a community that they can be a part of. 

 

I think ‘Queer’ started as a slur but now I see it as an identity. I think it’s important to reclaim these kinds of things because otherwise you constantly feel like you are being insulted all the time. If you claim it, it takes the edge of it if anyone wants to insult you with it. You can say ‘Yeah I am, so what.’

 

Interviewed by Amelia

© Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union