‘Sexuality should matter just as much as that person’s favourite colour’
It can be difficult for young gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgender and queer people to deal with their own sexual orientation. The Box, part of COC Noord-Nederland, tries to help them with this. In an article of the UK (paper of the University of Groningen) that appeared on May 3 2017, three RUG students talk about their initiative to guide young LGBTQ people in their quest for self-acceptance. One of them is Jesse David Marinus (20), student of our BA programme Minorities & Multilingualism. I had a follow up with Jesse after the article appeared in the UK and talked about his view on sexuality.
Together with students Hilde van der Wal (24) and Shanne Bouma (22), Jesse is in the coaching team for a group of young LGBTQ people aged 18 to 30 years. Once a month, they occupy the meeting space of Jimmy’s in the Herestraat in Groningen. Some of the youngsters have been out of the closet for a long time and are looking for peers; others struggle with their sexual orientation and find it challenging to deal with. The three students want to be a safe haven for them by talking about these topics and doing relaxing activities, like painting or drawing. ‘Everyone is welcome. We’re here for a good talk.’ Jesse says.
Article in the UK
In the article in the UK, Jesse talks about his own experiences in dealing with his sexual orientation. Coming from a small reformed Protestant town, he faced some obstacles along the way. ‘When I was 12 years old, I already knew it. But it wasn’t until I was 15 that I could really accept it. I just kept thinking: it’s just a phase. My parents are having less difficulty with it now and have always loved me 100 percent. I try to give them more information about homosexuality through books. In that sense, it’s harder for them: they have to explain themselves to the community’, Jesse said in the UK.
He experienced some difficulties when it came to his faith as well: ‘In the Baptist church that I was a member of, you could not be a member as an outed homosexual. I was part of the babysitting club and had to stop doing that.’ However, Jesse is open-minded about this. ‘I respect that people may take issue with it. It takes some time. I’m now a liberal believer, I view my sexual orientation as an addition to the spiritual. I’m much less judging and more loving towards others’, he says.
Normalization of sexuality
Overall, Jesse received positive feedback on the article in the UK. However, he feels like the article was a bit too short to represent his views on sexuality in general. After the article in the UK appeared, two girls approached Jesse and asked: ‘Are you the homo from the UK article?’. While he always tries to respond to these types of questions in a positive and light-hearted manner, he would still like to see sexuality being normalized in society. Instead of being approached as ‘the homo’, he would just like to be approached as ‘Jesse’. ‘This exactly shows me what still has to change in society, as I am not my sexuality. My sexuality is just a small detail about me and it does not determine my identity’, Jesse states.
He believes that approaching someone’s sexuality as if it was something special, contributes to the stigma that LGBTQ people still face in society. ‘In my volunteer work, I have noticed that by making someone’s sexuality a big thing, for example by congratulating them on it or saying “you don’t look gay”, you’re implying that this person is different or should act differently because of his sexuality. This might make it harder for that person to accept him or herself.’
Jesse would like to see that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer wouldn’t matter for someone’s social identity. In his view, sexuality needs to be experienced as an acceptable, integral aspect of oneself, and especially one that is not signaled by the surface of the body and conventional behaviors. For Jesse, being out doesn’t change who he is as a person, as a friend or as a class mate. Just like his hobbies or his hair colour, being gay is just another part of him. Jesse’s final piece of advice: ‘For the people reading this: someone sexuality should matter just as much as that person’s favourite colour.’
Learn more about LGBTQ+ minorities
Are you interested in this topic and do want to get a scientific angle on some of the issues LGBTQ+ people are facing in society? The BA Minorities & Multilingualism offers a course called LGBTQ+ Minorities: Introduction to Gender and Sexuality Studies. This course offers an introduction to the fields of gender and sexuality studies, with a particular focus on LGBTQ+ minorities. Students will learn about theories of gender and sexuality, and about the histories of LGBTQ+ minorities in different parts of the world. Because these are much debated topics in society at large, findings are regularly related to contemporary news and media.