My name is Daniel Coole. I am 26 years of age, and I live with at home, in the North-West of England with my parents. I was adopted by my aunt and uncle as a baby. I have a one year old miniature schnauzer called Benson and I work in hospitality. I have one degree after failing my first attempt at university in 2011. In 2019, I removed myself from my masters degree because my life was too busy with work and writing. My favourite colour is grey, because I think it highlights other colours whilst being bold enough to stand on its own. I am an uncle to two incredible nieces, a brother to four and friend to a few. I like to keep my circle small. My best friend is called Laura. I am also gay.
Those final four words. That final word used to describe who I am is also the most defining. For most of my life in high school, whilst I was battling with my own identity, some of you would shout at me in the hallway. You would call me a fag, refer to me as gay boy whilst mocking the way I moved my hands. Some of you would tear apart how my voice was soft, asking me every day if it had broken yet. I would brush off your comments, but then I would go home and cry. I would comfort eat and I would practice how to be more masculine in the mirror before bed. In college, I was more accepted by you. As my peers on a performing arts course, you would find laughter in my over dramatic gestures. You would beg to know why I wasn’t straight, because I was the perfect man for understanding your feelings.
My life post-college has been easy, I guess. There have been times where I’ve been looked at in the street by a group of you, whispering and sniggering at the way I choose to express myself with a vintage shirt, or a series of hearts in the pride flag colours embroiled across my top. It wasn’t until my second (and successful) attempt at university where I finally met people like me, people who identify differently to you. Because of how you had treated me before, I didn’t know how to mix with my own people, because I had spent so many years prior trying to fit in with your people.
None of you seem to care about the fact I have a miniature schnauzer called Benson. Few of you give a shit about the fact that I work in hospitality, nor could you care less about Laura being the name of my best friend. But for some reason, for some of you, you have a big problem with the one thing that defines me the most.
And yet, I don’t understand why.
As a community, we go to work. We go for drinks after work. We have families. We do a weekly shop. We overspend on ASOS and sometimes we forget to let our mums know we got home safely (which has a whole other type of worry behind it, by the way). Some of us pray, others raise families. We love. We laugh. We cry and we watch far too much Netflix. We are exactly like you. We are human beings. We have our stories, the same way you have yours. And yet, what most of you fail to realise is that you were born lucky. We were born into a fight, and it is a fight that has been raging on since long before we were conceived. If you think for one second that being gay, being trans or being anything that isn’t straight is a choice, then let me just educate you for one second. Our pride month, our pride events and our pride in general exists because of Stonewall. Stonewall is a charitable organisation in the UK founded in 1989 by a group of people who wanted to fight Section 28. Section 28, if you didn’t know, essentially made me and my people illegal. But Stonewall isn’t just that. Stonewall goes back to 1969. Stonewall was an inn, The Stonewall Inn in New York. The Stonewall riots were effectively, our first gay pride. The riots took place because my people were sick of your people punishing, attacking and stripping us of our rights because of who we are. Not who we want to be, not who we choose to be, but who. we. are.
This year marks 50 years since those riots. This year marks half a century since we began our fight to be accepted. And yet, this year, some of you want to create a Straight Pride. And so I ask you, what exactly are you marching for? Are you marching for your life? Are you marching for your right to marry? Your right to kiss each other or show affection in public? Your right to visit countries without the risk of imprisonment or death? Are you marching to stop police from raiding the place in which you feel safe?
You sure as hell haven’t walked a mile in our shoes. You haven’t marched a mile for your rights, your freedom, your acceptance. So don’t be coming out here with your Straight Pride bullshit. Don’t think you can ask two girls to kiss to satisfy your own sexual needs. If our defining adjective wasn’t gay, then you would leave us the hell alone. So why don’t you go back to your life, where you can be killed in some countries for being straight. Where you can be attacked for no reason apart from holding hands with your partner of the opposite sex. Where you can have years of your childhood and teenage years stripped from you whilst you are constantly ridiculed, whilst you constantly try to be something you are not to save yourself from hours and hours of bullying. Oh, wait.
The thing is, is that this was written with complete irony. To me, and to most of my community, there is no me and you on our side. I see us all as one. My miniature schnauzer should be the topic of conversation, because he is adorable. The story of why I have made three attempts at university and only succeeded once should be the one I tell. It seems that some of you straight people, however, would rather focus on the one thing that makes me completely different to you. This you and I was created by you. You created a barrier that prevented us from being accepted, part of the group.
Sure, be inquisitive. Ask me questions. Feel free to ask me the rather personal question of whether I am a top or a bottom. I welcome curiosity, I have a thick enough skin now that I can entertain your ‘only joking, no offence’ jokes to an extent. But never, ever try and tell me that you need a straight pride. Don’t tell me you have spent most of your life suppressed, and certainly don’t tell me that straight white people have been marching for years to just be accepted.
I want to thrive. I want to live my life and I don’t want my defining adjective to be something you mock, ridicule or bully. I am gay. I am proud. I deserve the right to celebrate who I am without fearing my life.
Please, leave me alone. Leave me to be happy. Leave me to enjoy, embrace and explore the life that I was meant to. Leave me and my community to our pride events. Leave us to walk down the hallways without your ridicule. Leave us to marry who we fall in love with.
For those of you who stand with us, who fight for us and who help make us stronger, thank you so much. You have no idea of the impact you are having.
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