Continuing our new series of stories from our Young People’s Voices project – funded by Victorious Festival and supported by the University of Portsmouth – Ross McGregor, a pupil at St Edmund’s School, gives his views on LGBTQ+ rights in the UK, how celebrities show their solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and the changes that are happening within the education system in regards to teaching LGBTQ+ relationships to children.
I want to talk about LGBTQ+ rights, in England and further afield. Sexuality and gender rights have been at the forefront of the news in the recent decade or so, with gay marriage being legalised in the UK and Ireland, along with proposals to change how the government views gender change and documentation. I believe this is all for the better.
However, there are some negatives, such as recently this year, Brunei introducing the death penalty for any gay citizens for the country. This is so shocking in comparison to how much rights are coming along in our nation. Many public figures such as George Clooney and Ellen DeGeneres have boycotted Brunei-owned hotels across the world (some in England!). This shows solidarity across the world and even when horrifying occurrences happen like this, the world can congregate and show love to those potentially at risk of suffering. Also it is good how famous faces are expressing how they feel in regards to this, their views get broadcast to a massive and diverse fan base who will hopefully also share their views.
I believe that it is not only in proposed changes to the law that we can see a shift, but also society’s views have changed in recent times: for example, through popular TV and films including gay and transgender characters as not just the stereotypical, obligatory LGBTQ+ characters, but people who happen to identify in a different way. I love how people’s views are coming across as well. Churches are introducing more LGBTQ+ friendly groups and schools are teaching children as young as 5 about different types of relationships now, not just the ‘norm’ of being straight.
Specifically, in Portsmouth, speaking from my own experiences, LGBTQ+ people feel very comfortable here and their rights are widely accepted. There is the organisation Portsmouth Pride that has its own events throughout the year in and around Portsmouth, and a branch for youth which has recently hosted events and clubs for the LGBTQ+ youth of our city, which I feel is very beneficial and supports them in many ways.
This may come as a surprise to many, but Portsmouth Cathedral has even had a stall at the Pride events, which shows that religious places and their beliefs on this topic are positive. Additionally, schools in Portsmouth have begun to introduce Pride groups to support and help their LGBTQ+ students which I think is an incredible advancement in the usually frowned upon school system. Linking to this, the University of Portsmouth was named in 2011 as one of the most LGBTQ+ Pride-friendly universities in the UK. All of these examples show that Portsmouth is in line with the positive direction LGBTQ+ rights are going in, around most of the world.
I feel that now everybody lives in more peace and harmony than they have before, and that the stigma that surrounded LGBTQ+ rights is rapidly diminishing. I find it amazing.
So my message is this: spread love and equality to all, and give everybody the rights they deserve. That’s what matters to me.
The Young People’s Voices project aims to provide young people with a platform to share their opinions, report on topics that affect them and advance standards of literacy. We worked with students from St Edmunds School and Havant and South Downs College to investigate and write their own stories, in a variety of styles and mediums – from creative memoir and opinion pieces to their own investigations. All their work will be published on S&C throughout July, and all participants have the chance to enter their work into a competition to read their story on the Spoken Word Stage at the 2019 Victorious Festival. You will find all the Young People’s Voices stories here as we publish them.
This project is supported by the University of Portsmouth, with thanks to the teams in Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI). It was delivered by University of Portsmouth MSc and PhD researchers Maddie Wallace and Lauren Jones.