June marks Pride Awareness Month in honour of the Stonewall Riots. This series is about highlighting personal stories of those in the LGBTQ+ community.
My name is Bethan Jones, I am 33 years old and I am a secondary school teacher. I first came out to my friend Kyle when I was 14. I came out to my family and the rest of my friends when I was 18. I knew from a very young age, I used to have crushes on some of my female teachers at the time!
Coming out to friends and family was really nerve-wracking and I remember feeling scared. I was terrified that my family would stop speaking to me. I came out as bisexual to friends initially just in case people went against me. I thought if I only half committed to it I could at least pretend I was joking or more into men.
On the whole I have been very lucky not to have experienced negative experiences with regards to my sexuality. Straight women especially have often been very supportive, whether that be as a friend or work colleague. The only time I’ve felt uncomfortable has been when the occasional man has made comments like “why wouldn’t you just use the real thing?” Or “I bet I could make you change your mind”. It hasn’t been said to upset me but it isn’t appropriate.
My advice to somebody who is anxious about coming out to their friends and/or family is to talk to trusted people who can help you make those steps. Sometimes it clears your mind just to get things out into the open. Take one small step at a time. Even if you receive any negativity, remember there are so many people out there who will fight your corner.
Growing up, I didn’t really have an LGBTQ+ celebrity or person to admire. This is why as a teacher, I try to be open about my sexuality so students know it is safe and accepted. One person who has stood out for me more recently has been Anne Lister. I knew about her but since watching the programme ‘Gentleman Jack’, I’ve realised just how much she had to fight to be herself. I would also like to highlight how amazing some heterosexual women and men have been in my life. People who have loved me for me and helped mould me into the person I am today.
What is the one thing you’d like to ideally like come out of pride awareness month?
A man was murdered in Cardiff last year for being gay, it is clear there is so much more to be done. Since becoming a teacher I’ve realised I also have a responsibility. I often hid away from what I was in public but more recently have seen the benefit of being that visible person for others.
Visibility is what is needed. In my place of work, another teacher has worked hard to bring visibility to the LGBTQ+ community. The majority of staff have LGBTQ+ lanyards AND pins. It is such a strong display of solidarity with the community and I’m confident it will have a major impact on that school community.
If people who aren’t part of the LGBTQ+ are willing to provide that visibility they are also making a difference. My growth in confidence has come from people who aren’t necessarily gay for example. Even seeing how many staff in my place of work wear a LGBTQ+ pin/lanyard when they don’t have to or even need to, has given me a sense of belonging that I didn’t know I needed.
You can find out more about Pride Awareness Month here.
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