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"Pride created a movement that paved the way for me to be who I am" - Jenna Essex

"Pride created a movement that paved the way for me to be who I am" - Jenna Essex

A blog post written by Aspire to HE's Team Coordinator Jenna Essex on what Pride means to her and how her experience as a student at the University of Wolverhampton boosted her confidence to be herself.

Celebrating pride supports people to feel safe in ‘coming out’ and for me, to be proud of who I am. It acts as an education tool showing the diversity and difference in humanity, and its beauty. The LGBTQ+ community is a wonderfully colourful representation of human nature. I have been ‘out’ for about 20 years, but what that means has changed and shifted over that time.

Pride reminds me that how I defined myself can change and that’s ok. My definitions are more for other people’s comfort than for me, but I define myself as Pansexual, as to me gender is irrelevant but really I just love who I love. I identify as female, again which is for other’s benefit, as I think, gender, like sexuality, is variable and flexible. The way I see myself isn’t as a ‘typical’ female but just as pansexual does, female gives me a label for my identity.

Over the years I have dated and had relationships with people who identify as female, male and non-binary. Pride shows me that all of these relationships do not change who I am. I am now in a committed relationship with a person who identifies as male and was born into the box of being male, but I am still pansexual – I’m not now magically heterosexual. Pride creates the space for me to not only be that but say it too.

My time at university contributed to the confidence I have around my identity. Not only did university encourage questioning and thinking outside my beliefs and opinions, but, it was also the opportunity to meet people that I wouldn’t have in other ways, which continued my questioning. Whilst studying for my postgraduate degree I researched the impact of hetero and cis normativity on secondary school aged students and encountered guest speakers, that by sharing their experiences, expanded my thinking and understanding. The higher education experience made me realise the more I learned, the more I still had to learn. People are not defined by the labels that society gives them.

We all exist on a sliding scale when it comes to identity and no one can know who you are better than yourself. One day the labels will hopefully not be needed but until then Pride gives me a label to communicate to the rest of the world who I am. Most importantly in a world full of hate, Pride reminds me that people are people and love is love, no matter who you are.

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