leon's Story: LGBT+ History Month
Updated: Feb 24
LGBT+ History Month is time to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, raise awareness and give a platform to people’s lived experiences. Today, we dive into leon’s journey & view on how society has changed from when he was a teenager.
leon (he/they) is studying their PhD in Music, focussing on addiction recovery, whilst exploring his own artistic expression. Their projects & research are inspired by personal experience & challenges faced in his past as a queer person.
Being a teenager through the AIDS crisis meant that leon grew up in a time where homophobia was incredibly prevalent & has faced a lot of adversity. They told us about the affect this had on their ability to embrace their queerness & express who they truly are. Handling such negative experiences in formative years has a lasting effect on different aspects of life, which leon has worked hard to realise & overcome.
Seeing the growth of the inclusivity of society can be difficult as we still have so far to go; leon feels the change in people as individuals is hugely positive, as well as the desire in younger generations to be more open & accepting of everyone. He’s aware that there will always be a negative side of social media, but the community it has brought within different groups of people is amazing.
“On the collective level I feel that humanity is getting to a better place”
To keep moving forward in a positive direction, being open to improving how you are an ally & being as supportive as possible will help the progression. So, we asked leon, how can someone be a supportive ally?
"I think 'how can I be an ally to others?' and I think all of us need to have manners really and understand when we're coming from a position of privilege. We're all on a learning journey, it's okay to make mistakes and it's about being an active listener"
The progress that leon is eager to see, is the acceptance of all LGBTQ+ identifying people, no matter how they choose to live their lives. Often, queer people are only widely accepted when they fit the mould of what society thinks they should be but actually everyone deserves to be embraced for who they are & how they choose to live.
A step leon made that helped him to grow confidence in his identity, is moving to a city. They come from a village & moving to a city opened so many doors to community. Connection is vital in discovering who you are; finding people that you identify with & can form connections with will help you find where you belong. This also means trying new things & throwing yourself into experiences that might scare you a bit but will lead you to discover so much about yourself & who you are. For example, if you love country music – go to a queer country bar!
“If you think ‘I shouldn’t do this’ (as long it’s safe) it probably won’t be as bad as you think it will be, & if you don’t enjoy it then you don’t have to do it again”
leon returned to academic study as a mature student, feeling a bit nervous about whether they’ll be able to return confidently to studying. He told us about how welcomed he felt coming to UWL & feels like part of the family, even though he’s only on campus once a week! The support offered is a great platform to succeed in your studies:
“What I love about the spirit at UWL, coming here you get all the support you need, there’s a real inclusivity about the approach to education. Everyone’s been really supportive in whatever aspect I have needed help in. Not only did I get the help, it was offered to me in the first place – sometimes you don’t know the help you need until somebody guides you there”
The LGBTQ+ Community is just that – a community. We asked leon what he loves the most about being part of it:
“It took me a long time to accept that there was a community. What I love about it now, today, is that it is a lot more inclusive and embracing of everyone. We've still got a long way to go, but we're at a really exciting moment where inclusivity really is being thought of in terms of diversity and having many voices. I think we're in a really exciting bit of history."
This month we are celebrating LGBT+ History month in different ways. Keep an eye on our social media @UWL_SU to meet more amazing students part of the LGBTQ+ Community. Get involved by coming along to any of our events!