Gary C and Roland West were among the guests on Redbridge Library’s LGBT panel, part of the library’s series of events for LGBT History Month.
They were joined on the panel by Emma Best, local councillor for Redbridge, and Rhammel Afflick, who volunteers as an engagement manager for London Pride and works in communications and media for the British Youth Council.
— Rhammel Afflick (@Rhammified) February 9, 2016
— Roland (@RolyUnGashaa) February 9, 2016
The panel was staged in the children’s section of Redbridge library, London, with a small but intimate audience. The conversation touched on many aspects of what it means to be LGBTQ+, as well as definitions and understandings of gender.
They kicked off by showing some of the panellists’ videos — Gary C‘s In The Closet, and Roland West‘s Coming Out and What Is Gender Fluidity? | Gender Fluidity FAQ — which led into a discussion on the pairs’ personal connections to the issue of LGBTQ+ rights.
On his two videos, Roland said: “You might think your point is insignificant. but to someone it means something. Your point will have some impact on someone’s life. If you can just hit that one person and it changes their life, it’s worth it.”
A question was posed to the panel about the changing attitudes of organisations towards LGBTQ+ rights. They discussed how, although many steps had been taken in a lot of organisations to develop LGBTQ+ friendly policies, this will not necessarily filter down to the levels of colleagues at work, or people you interact with on a daily basis.
“I definitely couldn’t talk about fancying a guy or going on a date with someone,” said Gary, about his workplace experience. He also talked further about the impact day-to-day interactions can have, saying that “it’s very difficult to tap in and change that mindset”.
When Rhammel talked about his experience of coming out as bisexual, he said: “My coming out story for me is continuous, it wasn’t one period of time, it’s been ever since that day I’ve had to repeatedly make it clear.”
He also shared that he often receives questions from people such as “Are you just greedy?”, and “Who do you like more? Is it women or is it men?”. He has also had partners who had been worried that his interest in both men and women would make it more likely for him to be unfaithful. “If you believe I’m going to be unfaithful because I’m bisexual there’s something a bit conflicting about that,” he said.
Rhammel has written an article on bisexuality for the Huffington Post, titled Bisexual, Not Straight – Bisexual, Not Gay.
The discussion also covered issues around gender and identity. Roland recently came out as genderfluid. He spoke about growing up in Devon, and working in Morrison’s supermarket. “With people who’d come in, I wouldn’t even dream about talking about my life or how I identified,” he said, “because when you leave work they’d come and attack you.”
Gary also talked about how people can find it easier to put a label on someone with regards to their identity. He said: “Those pigeonholes that society has created, they’re like little safety blankets.”
On the subject of gender identifiers and societal hypocrisy, Emma said to to Roland: “If you went in heels to a job interview they’d tell you to go home, probably. But if I wore heels, which I don’t want to do, it would be fine.”
Emma is a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights in Redbridge. She wrote an article for the Redbridge Reporter titled My vision for a gay-friendly borough.
When asked whether Redbridge is becoming a more LGBTQ+ friendly borough, Emma said, “I think it’s happening […] but the problem is it’s starting at a place where it’s at least ten years behind everybody else”. She referenced the recent LGBT week which took place at King Solomon School in the borough as a positive sign of how far they have come.
Many difficult issues were discussed during the panel, but the atmosphere throughout remained positive. Gary summed it up by saying, “The fact that we’ve been able to laugh tonight says that it’s a struggle but it’s a struggle that hopefully we can make together.”
TenEighty recently hosted a YouTubers Panel at London Pride featuring creators including Calum McSwiggan and Mawaan Rizwan. Alternatively you can find out more about Savannah Brown’s upcoming book of poetry.