For LGBT communities across the world, 2015 has undoubtedly been a hugely significant year. With both Ireland and the United States finally making the long-awaited decision to legalise same-sex marriage early in summer, these past few months have been flavoured with a wonderful sense of acceptance and equality.
From international media coverage, to personal blogs, to a new Facebook feature of adding a rainbow background to your profile picture, people have taken the opportunity to rejoice in this remarkable step forward, and to encourage others to do so with them. Noticeably, one of the greatest tools in helping to spread the message of LGBT equality—especially amongst the younger generation—has been the immense community surrounding video-sharing giant, YouTube.
The sane amongst us know that diversity is a magnificent thing. If everyone was the same in terms of looks, beliefs, and sexuality, surely the world would be a thoroughly boring place? We are learning to celebrate the differences among us, and platforms such as YouTube play a large hand in giving individuals a place to express themselves.
As well as catering to the Average Joe, the California-based corporation has managed to produce a somewhat new-fangled form of celebrity: A handful of content sharers have managed to accumulate followers numbering into the millions, and thus found themselves thrust into the spotlight. Refreshingly, some of these up-and-coming celebrities have used their fame to share their personal stories with an aim towards helping viewers in similar situations, who may have previously felt alone.
In June, this year, beauty and fashion vlogger Ingrid Nilsen posted a video to her 3 million-plus followers revealing that she had chosen to publicly come out as a lesbian. The twenty-minute clip, entitled ‘Something I Want You To Know (Coming Out)’, shows an honest and emotional Ingrid explain to her fans that her sexuality had been a fact she had struggled to come to terms with for years, but was now something she felt comfortable sharing.
Nilsen’s video (which has amassed over 12 million views to date) was met with a whirlwind of applause from members of the LGBT community and heterosexuals alike, with many praising the 26-year-old for her encouragement of others to accept their own identity and be proud of it: “Being a lesbian is part of who I am.”
In recent weeks, it has been revealed that Ingrid has begun a relationship with fellow internet sensation, Hannah Hart (of My Drunk Kitchen fame), and fans of both are overjoyed. To see such a positive response to two high-profile lesbian women openly expressing their identity as a couple is heart-warming; a jubilant contrast to the ignorance of previous decades.
Ours is a generation of change. Now is a time to celebrate and forget the social constraints of the past. It is becoming an increasingly accepted understanding that prejudice towards people of a different sexuality is unfounded and pointless. There is no right and wrong when it comes to love—how can there be? To believe so is to defeat the very meaning of the word.
The right to personal identity is flourishing, and more and more people are being encouraged to accept themselves for who they are. As students in the city of Manchester, we are beyond lucky to have places like Canal Street and events like Manchester Pride that allow our LGBT community to share their happiness and confidence in their own identities. We are a city and, of course, a university that does not judge, as judgement is for the narrow-minded (and who wants to be friends with those kind of people anyway?)
University is a place of personal growth that opens doors to a freedom of identity that might not have seemed previously possible in a school or college environment—here you’re free to carve your own pathway, regardless of your ‘differences’. In speaking of her gratitude towards the university’s accepting nature, third year student Amy professed that: “University has given me a confidence I never knew I could have—not only academically, but sexually.
“I always felt ‘different’ and I never had the courage to be the person that, deep inside, I knew I was. Now I do: I’m a lesbian.” Maybe we should all take a leaf out of Amy’s book: These are your university days, it’s the time to be free in who you are and express your identity regardless of whether you’re gay, straight, bisexual—or anything else! You’re you. You’re loved.
In the words of Ingrid Nilsen, “We all deserve our best chance.”