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Love is Love

Jemma James originally trained at drama school and then went on to work in the hospitality industry. She has been managing restaurants for over 15 years, where developing and mentoring large teams has been her passion. After retraining as a QCH Practitioner she has since launched her private practice in Essex and recently joined the team at Grow Therapeutic Coaching. 

Jemma loves working with people and helping them to create the future they deserve for themselves. She especially enjoys working with her clients to overcome anxiety, lack of confidence and self-doubt.

For World Friendship Day Jemma has written this article about the importance of acceptance, for without it, is a true friendship possible?

Love is Love…. Isn’t it?

Growing up in a small town in Wales in the 80s and 90s, being gay was really still something you kept pretty quiet about – ‘a queer way of life.’

‘Oi you stupid gay’ was often hurled across the playground in a derogatory fashion to anyone really, straight or gay. But it was certainly fired as an attack and a judgment that being gay meant you were inferior, less likely to be accepted.

I didn’t completely know or accept (I’m not entirely sure which one it is even now at 40) that I was a gay until I was 26 (when I met my wife to be), at which point the world really started to make a little more sense to me. Before this I was reckless, scared and angry, constantly trying to fit into a world I knew wasn’t for me. Admitting to myself who I was, was really like opening my eyes for the first time – it took a little getting used to and was a bit scary at first, so overwhelming but so exciting.

Pride feather 2

I’d always ‘fancied’ women and had had a few drunken encounters, but all straight girls do, right?? But I stuck rigidly with the social norms of being a straight woman who, for whatever reason, just couldn’t seem to find the right guy! The fact that most of my boyfriends in school were extremely pretty with long hair (it was the 90’s) really should have started the alarm bells ringing, but it was way easier to put them on mute during this time – I wouldn’t want to be seen as different now would I…?

I’m not saying it wasn’t possible to be gay or bisexual or trans back then – but you certainly would be signing up for a life as an outsider and would be placed into a neat little freak box. It would make developing friendships, fitting in just so challenging.

I don’t really remember there being any lesbian icons or people that young lesbians could look up to – until Ellen came along and to be honest, she pretty much killed her career in the early days by coming out. Her TV show was axed immediately, which was not exactly inspiring to any lesbians considering outing themselves.

Gay men were so firmly in the closet that they couldn’t get out even if they tried and any that were ‘out’ were seen as raving queens, stereotyped beyond belief.

Back then, the TQI+ (not The Quest Institute in this case!) had barely been touched upon in mainstream media and so it is refreshing that these groups of people are finally starting to have their voices heard.

With June having being Pride month and World friendship day approaching on 30th July it fills my heart that we as a nation are starting to become more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, with voices being heard and people are more able to be themselves without (so much) fear of being rejected, abused or attacked. We still have a way to go but the journey continues, and things have moved on so much, thanks to those who have gone before us.

I came across a post the other day and I was ashamed about how little I know about a man called Alan Turing. He was the hero who broke the Enigma Code in WW2, which led to saving  somewhere between 14-21 million lives. However, because of the laws at the time his treatment due to his sexuality (he was gay) was inhumane and resulted in his untimely and early death. To think that such a thing was even possible sends chills down my spine.

I would like to think that school curricula are becoming more inclusive, but it’s so important if we are going to continue to move forward that we show our children a true reflection of our diverse society and not teach exclusion. Recently the Royal Academy removed the work of an artist that was found to be transphobic; the artist openly promotes their negative views on the trans community and discredits anything to do with being transgender.

Having such phobic material out in the community and in such iconic places will surely hold us back from moving towards a more accepting society where the exclusion of others for being different should no longer be tolerated. These works were brought to the Academy’s attention by the public, so being aware of what we are influenced by and subjected to is a crucial part of how our world will continue to evolve. We are responsible for its content and what we allow ourselves to take onboard and tolerate.

I think one of the most important things people yearn for is acceptance. So, if you have a friend or a family member who is struggling with their identity or sexuality then the most powerful thing you can do for them is to accept and respect them for who they are as individuals. Without acceptance, a true friendship is difficult because we’re constantly being judged or held to a standard we can’t possibly meet.

As a gay woman I am totally aware that not everybody I meet understands my lifestyle and choices – and that’s ok. My wife and I have always been of the thinking that questions are good, and we like people to ask them. We all have our own ways of seeing the world and things that make sense to us because of the experiences we’ve had. This doesn’t mean that we have to discredit or punish those who don’t fit into our model of the world. Being kind and respectful is really the best way you can be a good friend, accepting others for who they are and how they love even if it’s not the same as you and yours.

Being allowed to express how you feel without being judged or labelled – just simply being seen for the person you are is something everybody deserves – so let’s allow those we meet to do just that and in doing so we give them freedom to be themselves and live authentically.

‘You are not who you were meant to be yet….’

This quote is one that has had a huge effect on how I see the world and those within. It really opened my eyes to my own personal development and that of others. We are always striving to become this perfect version of ourselves, but the truth is we will probably never achieve this, as our journey never truly ends. We are always changing and learning and the best we can do is try to be the truest version of ourselves we can be…right now.

If a person is not able to express who they are and how they feel on the deepest level possible – their identity, it is going to cause them trauma and trauma is likely to result in a disconnect with themself in some way.  As explored in his documentary The Wisdom of Trauma, Gabor Maté explains that this could result in withdrawing from their environment, signs of anger and rage, addiction or turning to crime – the list goes on.  This doesn’t only apply to sexuality or gender identification of course but can be applied to anyone who is not able to be their authentic self, for whatever reason.

The last 12 months have been some of the hardest many have faced in their lifetimes, with stress, anxiety and mental health spiking beyond belief – in Maté’s words we are ‘in an epidemic.’

It is so important moving forward that we become more accepting of one another. You have no idea the effect you could have on somebody’s day just by giving them a smile, taking the time to acknowledge a stranger’s existence could change their day, or even their life – we just never know what that person is going through.

So, this year on World Friendship Day I urge you to take the time to send a positive message out into the world – put a smile on someone’s face – tell a loved one they are loved and remember love is love and it’s the most powerful thing we have!