How do you self-define?
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism means the support of equality between men and women; usually that women need to be more equal to men because usually, they have more privilege.
What do the words ‘woman’ and ‘man’ mean to you?
They are the labels that society gives to people who are either the male or female sex to help us come to terms with our lives and categorise everything.
When did you become aware of your gender?
I think it was when I started to become aware of my sexuality, so maybe when I was fourteen or fifteen. I realised there were certain things that were expected of me because of the way I looked and the sex that I was given; which didn’t necessarily line up with my characteristics or how I wanted to be.
Do you ever feel unsafe due to your gender?
Not necessarily due to my gender, because men have a lot more privilege than women; we benefit from being male. But I do feel uncomfortable when I don’t necessarily conform to gender completely. For example, being too camp or having too many female friends. I mean my biggest issue in socialising is that I don’t know how to deal with masculine men in positions of authority. I don’t know how to conform to a set of masculine norms.
Do you feel treated differently by men and women?
Yes, hugely. I think when talking about sexuality, men generally seem to think less of you when you’re gay. They don’t necessarily trust you because you’re not part of the clique; you’re not part of those social norms. Yet women tend to feel liberated by that knowledge, because they feel safer with me. They know I don’t have ulterior motives with them. It means I can have more genuine friendships with women, or at least I find it’s easier to have a more genuine friendship because there’s no questioning of feelings on either side.
What do you think are the positive ways the world views women?
Often we see women being expected to look after children as a negative thing, but from a man’s point of view I would give up anything to be able to actually have a child of my own. I think guiding someone on how to live is a great gift, really. But it’s not only women that should be expected to do that. I mean, why is it that when men are good single fathers we praise them so much in comparison to women?
Did you encounter any obstacles on your path to manhood?
Yeah, gender norms. It was seen as weird that I had so many female friends. People thought, because at that time they didn’t know I was gay, that it was physically impossible for someone to spend so much time with a woman and not be in a sexual relationship. Which is a really weird hetero-normative standard to grow up with; that all women and men are expected to physically involved if they’re close and that you can’t be friends without it being sexual.
How do you feel about casual sex?
I don’t know what you mean by casual sex. I mean, no matter how short the period of time was, it can still be incredibly meaningful and help you develop as a person. As long as both parties of any type of relationship are sure of what’s going on and no one is being actively deceived, anyone can do whatever they want as long as it’s consensual.
Are you pro-life or pro-choice, and why?
I’m pro-choice, because I think you can still care about life but let other people make their own decisions. I don’t think anyone takes having an abortion lightly, or very, very few people do. It’s wrong to vilify and pass judgement on those people, because no one knows what they are going through or how they feel. I don’t think abortions are inherently bad. I think they are an incredibly mature decision; whether you think you’re not ready or it’s not the right time or if you’re making a beneficial choice for someone else’s life. For example, someone may choose to have a child later on, where they are much better able to give that child their love and support to the best of their ability. It’s not selfish to admit that you can’t look after the child properly. I mean I am too selfish at the moment, but maybe in ten years it could be entirely different. I wouldn’t want to have a child at the moment and I don’t think it would be good for the child or myself. I don’t think it’s selfish to be realistic about life.
What are your feelings on contraception?
There should be more of it, and everyone should have the opportunity to have it and know how it’s used. I mean as I was growing up gay, people have this expectation that you’ll always be safe. It works the other way round too. Like I have straight friends that haven’t used a condom in certain situations and they believe it’s okay because they’re not gay. Regardless, I think everyone should have access to contraception because you’re making a choice about the future, and that’s a mature thing to do.
What are your thoughts on marriage and monogamy?
I think that lots of people are pressured into it, especially marriage. No one should take marriage lightly. I really dislike the pomp of it and the fact that people are bound to ask if you’re married yet. It pressures people into marriage regardless of who it’s with. As for monogamy, I think it’s not for everyone. I think there are some people, perhaps like myself, who can’t avoid that relationship between sex and emotions; but there’s plenty of people where the two are not mutually exclusive, and as long it’s not wrapped up within deceit, then why not? People should be in charge of their own happiness.
What are your thoughts on parenthood?
I think that both parents should be as equally involved. I mean I grew up in a non-traditional household; it was still a nuclear family but my dad stayed at home to look after me. As I grew up both my parents were involved in taking care of me equally. My mum cooks but not because she’s a woman. She does it because she enjoys it; and my dad washes clothes and does other things that are more handy because he has an attention to detail. I think some men are more emotional than women, and some women are more practical than men. I don’t think that women should be expected to do everything; like right now women are expected to have careers and do everything they were expected to do a hundred years ago, which is bollocks.
Do you think your sex education was sufficient?
God, no. I mean I know a lot of my friends who know very little about sex education and the only reason I do is because as a gay man you have to learn yourself. Women often have experienced an understanding of the consequences of sex through scares. I’ve had a few friends having pregnancy scare and STI scares and that’s how they learn about it properly. But no, it wasn’t sufficient. It didn’t cover everything. I mean, we were taught to put a condom on a man but not how to use a female condom. We learnt a few things about STI’s, but nothing about pleasure, nothing about discovering your sexuality. It was a massive fail. I think it comes from people of an older generation where sex wasn’t really talked about. It also comes with that British politeness, but at least I wasn’t taught abstinence. Luckily they realised that teenage pregnancy still happens regardless of whether you’re taught to abstain.
Do you feel comfortable communicating your sexual needs to a partner?
It depends on the partner, and it depends on my emotional attachment to them. I mean I find the more I know a person, and the more friendly they are, the easier it is. From my experience I’ve learnt that everyone is different. Some people hate oral sex and some people hate anal sex. Some people hate certain aspects of it but love one part in particular. It’s all personal and it’s not wrong to have your own preferences. It’s not selfish to want things. I think you have to be open with the person you’re with and I think communication builds a bond rather than breaks anything down.
Has your sexuality every been used against you?
Yes, vaguely. I’ve been very lucky that it hasn’t really, but I mean I was just talking with a friend, and we we were on the phone to her brother. We were just joking and I said “Oh, that doesn’t look good on you” and he just said “I don’t have to listen to you because you’re gay”. But other than that I’ve lived a very sheltered life. When I went to Africa I didn’t feel safe; I wasn’t sure about the boundaries there so I hid my sexuality while I was a teacher because I thought it wouldn’t be accepted. I think you’d find people are a lot more accepting there than you’d think, but it’s still not a norm. It’s probably more like how it was here in the 70’s.
Is there anyone you’d undermine your principles for?
Often when you’re in a situation where there’s a huge masculine energy in the room, like let’s say a pub, where everyone is watching rugby, I often feel uncomfortable correcting people on things or expressing gender as non-binary. I mean I usually do regardless, often to my own detriment. In Africa especially, I did feel I had to undermine my principles. I tried to lightly reject common opinions about women and men. Like when it was proposed that women should go do the cleaning up I’d question why men shouldn’t do it. There are times when I just feel it’s difficult to express your opinion without alienating people.
In which situations do you feel safe to speak your mind or stand up for yourself?
When I’m with my friends, and definitely with my family who are always super supportive. I mean, you can have any opinion in my family as long as you can express your reasons for it. In most situations I’m fine to speak my mind to be honest.
Do you feel satisfied with how women are depicted in film, TV and advertising?
No, god no, it’s ridiculous. I mean the wording is just so different. How many times have you seen a woman with her child loading a dishwasher in a fairy liquid advert? I’m sure men can do washing up too, but if you keep showing these ads then it’s not what’s expected. The fact that people were so shocked that there was a film with an all women cast, or that there are more than 30% women in a cabinet is mad. How many times do we see 100% male cast, 100% male band, 100% cabinet? Nobody thinks it’s abnormal then. Why do we always think it’s incredible that women can actually achieve something? Why is more than 50% of the population still depicted as if they’re a minority?
How do you feel about products marketed to women?
It’s really silly, like lots of women I know hate pink. I mean there are improvements but then there are things like tissue boxes which also come as man-sized. The expectation is that women are expected to groom more. There are things expected of men too. Like not everyone has a demi-god’s body; it’s just extremely difficult to achieve or maintain. I also think that women have more freedom in the way they dress, which again comes down to grooming. They’re much more likely to be judged for what they wear. I mean the number of times I’ve woken up any morning, thrown on any of my clothes, gone to class and considered to be 100% appropriate is great but that isn’t often the case for women.
What are your biggest fears?
Not feeling protected, and not feeling safe. But that’s something which is what a lot of women feel all the time. I remember one time there was a group of men walking behind me at night and it felt a bit dodgy, but that’s what women feel like all the time. Even if it’s just a guy walking across the street. As soon as a woman is alone she’s vulnerable and it’s ridiculous that people can’t empathise with that.
What are your greatest accomplishments?
I don’t know. Like a lot of people say they’re proud their son or daughter isn’t a stripper or a porn-star. Obviously I’m not any of those things but I believe that those things shouldn’t be degraded. I don’t see why it’s an issue if someone wants to work in porn as long as they’re good people, I don’t see why you shouldn’t be proud of them. I don’t see why it makes a difference at all.
What image do you think you display on a day to day basis?
I think the way I dress controls my image. It does for everyone in a consumer society. I try to make an effort with how I dress, like with my charity shop sheep skin jacket, but I really just want to keep warm.
What image would you like project in an ideal world, absolving social expectations?
I want to seem like I know what I’m doing. I want to know what I’m doing.
What are your most positive relationships?
I think with my family, my parents.We all moan about our parents, we all nag and say “oh they asked me to this and it was ridiculous”, but when I think back on my life I have always been able to tell them anything. All the issues I had in my life and the same goes for my brother, all those issues could have had huge reactions but they’ve been nothing but supportive. I mean they give me unconditional love to the highest degree. I think that’s the most positive relationship. I mean I could tell them anything and they would always be there for me. That’s such a positive and reassuring thing, which I think a lot of people don’t have.
What do you deeply love about yourself?
I think I have some emotional intelligence, and I’m proud of the fact that I don’t have a temper. I never get angry, just vaguely annoyed. I’m also a male supporting feminism, and sadly that is considered rare and seems to validate the movement. I’m proud of that though. I mean, I am gay so that somehow diminishes my support too. Somehow my voice is less than straight men, but still my support validates a very important movement and I’m proud of that.
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