It’s LGBT+ History Month! To celebrate, here’s something we wrote about the amazing LGBT+ role model for young men everywhere: rugby star Gareth Thomas.

We’ve already covered how much of a hero Gareth is before, but we decided now would be a better time than ever to introduce this man to you and explain exactly why he should be given a bloody knighthood already.

Firstly, Gareth Thomas is a rugby hall of famer. He represented Wales exactly one hundred times and is one of their top try scorers. Not many players get to play for their country but Gareth has managed to do so in Rugby Union, Rugby League and international Sevens as well. 

Aside from rugby, Gareth has just as much impact off the field as he does on it. In 2009, he came out as gay and said that “what I choose to do when I close the door at home has nothing to do with what I have achieved in rugby” which is pretty bang on, if you ask us. He became one of the first rugby players to do so. 

Whenever Gareth has revealed anything in his life to the public, it is always with the hope of making it easier for somebody else to do the same. When he came out, he wanted to make sure that future gay rugby players could just be seen as talented rugby players and that if his story made it easier for just one young lad in a similar position then it would all have been worth it. This desire to empower others is incredibly selfless and speaks volumes about the kind of man he is.


[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/thomas-serer-QUr0R1VZPNw-unsplash.jpg”]


He was a victim of a hate crime in 2018. What was truly amazing about the aftermath is that he didn’t want to press charges. The assaulter was a young man and Gareth requested that he apologise and learn to understand the true effect hate crime has on the victims. 

A few weekends ago, he did something truly incredible. Just shortly after revealing he is living with HIV in a heartbreaking video, he completed a gruelling 140-mile Ironman triathlon just to prove the idea we have of people living with HIV is outdated. In 2019, HIV and asthma requires about the same amount of medication. Thousands of people now live healthy lives with HIV. He has now pledged to work on breaking the stigma around it and empower those in the same position. In the video, Gareth says that he was being threatened by a tabloid who said they would out this secret. So, in true legendary fashion, he released a video himself to let the world know that this is his story to tell and nobody else’s. 

There’s no doubt that Gareth has had a rollercoaster of a ride so far. But his desire to prove that you are not defined by one individual thing along with his work to break down stigmas and empower people by owning his life and his story makes him a huge role model for us and many, many others. By being so selfless and sharing his life with total honesty, not only gives others a voice to speak out but shows that support is out there. 

Countless celebrities, role models, as well as thousands of the public have shown their support and admiration for the strength and bravery of Gareth for sharing his story. This is a man who is constantly breaking down barriers and is respected by everyone. Even England rugby fans will give the Welshman a big cheer. Wherever Gareth goes, he is completely respected by those inside and outside of the sporting industry. From Princes Harry and William, to his best rugby mates, to the LGBTQ+ community, Gareth is inspiring so many people and empowering them all to feel comfortable in their own skin. Gareth, we salute you and applaud you, you absolute hero. But mostly, we’re so thankful for the work you do to help make this world a kinder place to live. 

If you want support or need to speak to someone confidentially, you can join our community here.

For more inspiration and daily motivation, follow our Instagram @ditchthelabel.

Hi all! I’m Yasmin Benoit, a British fashion model and asexuality activist. I’ve known that I was aromantic-asexual from a young age, but didn’t come out publicly until 2017, when I decided to use my platform to raise awareness and dispel misconceptions about asexuality. It’s LGBT History Month, and I’ve comprised a list about 10 things I think people need to know about asexuality. Think I missed something? Feel free to add your own!

1) Asexuality isn’t a disorder

Asexuality isn’t a psychological disorder, nor is it a side effect of other mental health problems or developmental disorders, although there might be an overlap with some individuals. It also isn’t a hormonal imbalance, or the result of any kind of illness or physical issue. When I was younger, I used to think that my asexuality would disappear once my social anxiety and teenage insecurity went away. Now I’m a confident adult, and guess what, I’m still asexual!

2) Asexuality isn’t an attitude or a lifestyle choice

There is a difference between being asexual and anti-sex. Asexuality is a sexual orientation, not a lifestyle choice or an opinion. It isn’t the same as celibacy or abstinence, and it isn’t a way of sticking a middle finger up at sexual liberation. There are some asexual people who are repulsed by sex, but that does not mean that asexual people can’t hold sex-positive attitudes when it comes to other people, or themselves.

3) Asexual people aren’t just those who “haven’t found the right person”

If someone said to a straight man, “You’re not straight, you just haven’t found the right man yet,” it’d be both bizarre and inappropriate. That rhetoric doesn’t make sense when it’s applied to asexual people either. It suggests that people are only sexually attracted to the ‘right person,’ like their soulmate, or their other half but if that was the case, the world would be a very different place. Asexuality is a valid sexual orientation, it’s not a reflection of the attractiveness of others, or the result of having high standards and bad circumstances. 



4) The A in LGBTQIA+ stands for Asexual

There is debate surrounding whether asexual people should be included in the community, but in my opinion – and the opinion of many others – the answer is yes. The LGBT+ community is about uniting and gaining equality for those who don’t fit into heteronormative boxes. It isn’t about who you do or don’t have sex with, or whether you have or haven’t had to handle a particular issue.

Asexuality can overlap with other letters in the initials, and even if you’re aromantic and cisgender (like myself), the chances are that you can’t relate to the heterosexual experience of society very much. Isn’t that what being queer is all about?

5) There is no asexual demographic

There are asexual men, women, non-binary people, trans people, crossing all ethnicities, races, ages, all nationalities, and religious identities. We’ve even existed throughout different time periods – asexuality isn’t a new thing.

When I attended the UK Asexuality Conference as a speaker in 2018, it was my first time being around a large group of asexual people, and I was so happy to see such a diverse group – including people over 50, asexual parents, business owners, people of colour, and people of different faiths (and no faiths) from all over the world. Despite the impression that the media gives you, asexual people aren’t all white, quirky millennials who spend a lot of time on Tumblr. 

6) There is no way to ‘look asexual’

There’s a difference between not experiencing sexual attraction and not being attractive yourself, but there are people out there who mix that up. It probably has something to do with the way non-sexual/romantic people are portrayed in the media – as someone no one would be interested in anyway. This misconception is one of the reasons why I started the #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooks like hashtag, to show the diversity in how asexual people look. There is no asexual way to look or dress.

The idea that you have to put no effort into your appearance because you’re asexual suggests that people express themselves through fashion to please others. Asexual people do not have to cover up, wear no make-up, and keep their hair un-styled just because they don’t experience sexual attraction. 



7) There is no asexual personality type

Again, this one is partially the media’s fault. Characters who don’t exhibit signs of sexual desire are often aliens or robotic, unable to understand human interaction and intimacy. They’re cold-hearted, socially detached and painfully awkward, but that doesn’t mean that asexual people actually have these characteristics.

There is no heterosexual personality, a homosexual personality, a bisexual personality, a transgender personality, or any other personality affiliated with a particular identity or sexual orientation. You can be optimistic, depressive, cheerful, subdued, extroverted, introverted, and still be asexual. 

8) Asexuality is a spectrum

You don’t have to experience absolutely no sexual attraction to be asexual. Asexuality is a spectrum, which means that some people experience mild sexual attraction, like greysexual people, and those who only experience sexual attraction to those they develop a close relationship with, like demisexual people. 

9) Some asexual people do want romantic relationships

Romantic orientation and sexual orientation are not the same thing, and many asexual people experience romantic attraction but not sexual attraction. This is where terms like heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, and panromantic come from, with emphasis on a romantic connection rather than a sexual one. There are also asexual people who don’t experience romantic attraction – aromantic asexuals – like myself. 



10) Asexual people can be happy

It’s an unfortunate narrative that asexual people will live loveless and unfulfilled lives, and it really isn’t true. Asexuality isn’t a problem, and it shouldn’t stop anyone from feeling confident and achieving whatever they want to achieve. I haven’t let being asexual stop me from breaking into the fashion industry, even working as a lingerie model, getting two degrees and providing a voice for the often forgotten letter in LGBTQIA+ at the same time. It also hasn’t stopped me from forming strong friendships, which is particularly important for an aromantic person.

Romantic asexual people can find love. They often date each other, and can enter polyamorous, queer-platonic and other ‘non-traditional’ relationships. Asexual people can date people who aren’t asexual and make it work. I know of asexual people who are married, asexual people with children, asexual people in happy and fulfilling relationships of all kinds, with people from within the asexual community and outside of it. Most importantly, I know that there are many asexual people who are happy with themselves. 

For more awesome content on life as an asexual, and general life goals, follow Yasmin on Instagram @theyasminbenoit

Join the conversation. Reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

coming out to homophobic parents

So you’ve read a few blogs or articles, maybe watched some stuff on YouTube… generally done some research on how to come out to your parents. Some have been helpful, some are downright patronizing. But all of them leave you thinking “that’s all very well and good but you don’t know MY mum or dad…”

We’ve got you covered. If you have homophobic parents but you want to come out – this article is for you.

1. Find outside support.

Make sure you have support and tell at least one adult that you trust before you tell your parents. This could be a teacher, someone from your extended family or a friend’s parent. This will give you a safe space to turn to if your parent’s reaction is hostile and help you feel stronger going into it.

2. Check out your options.

Is now the right time? Would a safer option be to wait until you move out or go to Uni? What is your plan B if the worst does happen? Do you have the number for helplines? Can you go and stay with extended family or close a friend if you need some space while your parents adjust to the news. Your safety and well-being must always come first. While it might feel scary to have to think about these questions, it’s crucial to be prepared.

3. Be clear on what you are telling them.

If you are coming out as gay, avoid the trap of thinking that coming out as bisexual first is an easier way to help them reach a place of acceptance.  Stick with the truth, if you are gay, tell them. If you are bisexual, tell them that.

4. Give time, time.

First reactions are raw, unprocessed and unpredictable. We all need time to process big news regardless of the situation. Give your parents time to adjust to this news and know that first reactions are not always lasting reactions.

5. You are not alone.

Right now as you read this article there are millions of people all over the world facing the same situation as you. Never lose sight of the fact you are not alone, you can and will get through this. Keeping your sexuality a secret can be enormously stressful. No matter how scared you might feel now, this will get easier. On the other side of that fear is relief and liberation.

6. Shame is a liar.

If your parent’s reaction is to try and shame you for your sexuality. Please know that shame is a liar. What it tells you and how it seeks to make you feel is distorted bulls***! The whole process of coming out of the closet is going against the shame that plays a part in keeping you hidden and in the dark. Your sexuality and shame have no place together. Your sexuality is normal and there is nothing wrong or bad about loving who you want to love.

rainbow umbrella

7. Homophobia sucks.

Coming out to your parents can be a scary prospect. Add a dollop of homophobia on top and it’s downright petrifying. Bottom line is: homophobia sucks!

It sucks because we don’t choose our sexuality.

It sucks because we live in a society that places one sexuality as the norm at the expense of any other.

It sucks because life can be tough enough without experiencing ignorance and hatred towards something you are powerless over.

It sucks because your family might miss out on the chance of loving you because they can’t see past their own fears based on ignorance.

8. Talk to us.

Everyone’s experience is different so whether you are on the brink of doing it, have done it but are struggling or need support with it all, join our community to talk to one of our awesome mentors who understand completely what you are going through and get advice from others who have similar experiences…

9. Join your local LGB Community 🌈.

There is nothing more powerful than being around and supported by people who get what you are going through. Don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity to find belonging. We can’t choose our family but as life unfolds, we can choose our friends. You get to come home to the people who love you for you, regardless of sexuality.

So, if you are wondering how to tell your parents your gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual or transgender, that’s how to start. Your journey is just beginning. If you need any further help, you can join our free, anonymous community.

It’s finally here! It’s been 12 long months since Otis, Maeve and Eric last graced our screens, and we have been missing it like mad here in the Ditch the Label offices. In case you haven’t seen it, the Netflix series is a tour de force in everything sexy and awkward about teenage life, and this season the jokes just keep on coming. But it is also one of the most representational shows on any streaming service or TV channel, and Season 2 is no exception to this. Here are the biggest 7 of all the things we can learn from the awesome show. Watch it. Now. We give you permission to binge it. 

1) It’s perfectly normal to question your sexuality 

Questioning your sexuality is something that a lot of young people go through. You can’t control the things you’re inherently attracted to. It’s perfectly normal to question and explore your sexuality, it’s also surprisingly common. Ditch the Label research finds that half of us don’t identify as being 100% straight anyway.

For more on this, read this article


2) Asexuality is a valid and perfectly normal sexual orientation

This season is the gift that keeps on giving with the introduction of an asexual character, in the form of musical theatre fanatic Florence. Surrounded by peer pressure to have sex and convinced her lack of interest in it means she is broken, she panics.  

Asexuality doesn’t get a lot of visibility in mainstream culture, making it quite a widely misunderstood sexual orientation, with many wrongly characterising it as a mental illness, a hormone disorder, or an inability to get anyone to date. Asexuality is a sexual orientation like heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. 

Asexuality can also work in tandem with another sexuality. This is when someone is asexual, i.e. having no sexual desire, but pursue romantic relationships and companionship.

To find out more about asexuality, check out this article with all you need to know.

3) Self harm is not the solution

One of the most tragic story lines of the season was Jackson’s fall into his anxiety over the pressure to perform in the pool. It sees him struggle so much under the mounting pressure from all aspects of his life that he turns to hurting himself to free himself from his obligations. 

Self-harm is often used as a way of dealing with things when they become too overwhelming. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but self-harm can be incredibly dangerous and can have unintended consequences on your health. You can find 15 safer alternatives to self harm here.

If you feel like you need someone to talk to about this issue, join our community here for access to one to one confidential support and advice from one of our trained Digital Mentors. 

4) Sexual assault can come in many forms 

Aimee’s story in this season took a turn when she was sexually assaulted on the bus on the way to school by a man who masturbates on her. Whilst some series deal with sexual assault on some level, here we can see a series treating any and every form of sexual assault with the level of seriousness it deserves. It shows just how any even like this can be incredibly traumatic, and that we shouldn’t be looking at sexual assault as some of form hierarchy, where a certain amount of criteria need to be fulfilled for the victim to be upset. 

If you are dealing with issues around this and need someone to talk to, you can speak to one of our trained Digital Mentors here in confidence, and we will always listen to you.

5) Understanding STIs is the best way to prevent them

It’s hard not to crack up at the opening episode of Sex Education Seaosn 2, with entirety of Moordale High imagining they have got airborn chlamydia. Yeah, it was hilarious, but it also raises some important questions about STIs. If you have any questions about them, you can always talk to your GP or nurse practitioner. 

6) Only you know when you are ‘ready’

Yeah we know you’ve probably heard this one from every teacher you’ve ever had and your parents as well, but it is so true. Being ready for sex is entirely down to you. It is not down to whether your pals are doing it, your other half wants you to or any other reason. It’s your body, it’s your rules. 


7) Talking about sex is key

It can be pretty embarassing to talk about sex, especially when it comes to things you might not know about or awkward problems that come up. But whether you go to your partner, a friend or a family member, talking about sex is the best way to get those questions answered and problems sorted. It’s like they say, the birds do it. The bees do it. Even educated fleas do it. We aren’t saying go and have a chat with your nearest pigeon, but there will be plenty of people in your life who have experience in this area that would be discreet about it.


Coming out as lesbian, gay or bisexual can be difficult, there’s no point pretending otherwise. However, many people have really positive experiences coming out and often regret not doing it sooner.

It’s really important, however, that you take the time to consider your own personal circumstances when making the decision to tell people close to you that you are lesbian, gay or bisexual. What may be right for one person, may not be right for you. Your safety and wellbeing should always come first.

Although the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities have many things in common and frequently align themselves with one another, the experiences of exploring your gender identity and coming out as trans can be very different to being open about your sexuality.

If you are looking for tips on coming out as trans, why not check out this guide written by Lewis Hancox?

Top 11 tips for Coming Out as lesbian, gay or bisexual:

1. Don’t feel pressured.

Everyone should come out in their own time. You may feel under pressure to tell those close to you that you are lesbian, gay or bisexual before you are ready. Don’t. Coming out is about you and no one else. If you start to think about pleasing others you will lose sight of what is really important – your happiness. Focusing on yourself and what’s important to you will ultimately make those you’re close to happier as well.

2. Don’t label yourself if you don’t want to.

Although you may feel ready to come out, you may not feel you fit any particular ‘label’. Using terms like lesbian, gay and bisexual is absolutely fine, but never feel forced to identify as anything. Listen to your feelings and go with them! If a label helps you and feels right then great. If it doesn’t then don’t worry.

3. You don’t have to choose between your faith and your sexuality.

Most religions have groups for their lesbian, gay and bisexual followers. Go online to find a group near you. Having faith and being gay are not mutually exclusive!

4. Read how other people came out.

RUComingOut has over 300 real-life coming out stories as well as interviews from celebrities. Most people who come out go through the same anxieties and they experience very similar fears. Hearing how things turned out for others who were

5. Tell one person.

When you are ready to come out (you will know when the time feels right) – don’t think you have to tell everyone straight away –  it’s not a race! Choose one person who you trust more than anyone else – a friend, sibling, parent/guardian or teacher.

As soon as you’ve opened up to the first person things will seem a thousand times easier and clearer for you. It’s an age-old saying but talking really does help. You’ll also have someone you can talk to and ask advice from when coming out to others.


6. Forget the stereotypes.

When gay people first started to appear on TV and in the media, the stereotypes that were common were those of effeminate camp men and butch women. Some people still think that every gay man and woman have to fit that stereotype.

Others may feel that the stereotypes have flipped and gay men should be muscular and have beards while lesbians should have long blonde hair and wear lots of makeup!

The truth is, stereotypes suck and we all know they do. Being lesbian, gay or bi does not have to define you. If you’re camp, great. If you’re butch, fantastic. If you like going to the gym, good on you. If you prefer a good film to a good run, amazing.

Growing up (and discovering your sexuality) is all about finding out who you are, what you like and how you want to be and it’s an exciting time!

7. You’ll be protected at school, college and university.

Every school, college, uni and even workplace has a legal obligation to ensure that every one of its students or employees is treated fairly and offered the same opportunities. Many schools realise the importance of making sure their staff are trained to tackle homophobia when they see it.

Lots of schools even have their own LGBTQ student groups where students can meet and make friends. You should never feel pressured to join a group like this, but you may find that you meet loads of other people who have been, or are going through, similar experiences as you.

8. Think about the positives.

It is very easy to let the anxieties and fears around coming out completely take over the experience. But remember, coming out is one of the most amazing things you will ever do. You will finally be able to be your whole self and it WILL change your life.

Those butterflies you feel in your stomach – see them as excitement rather than nerves!


Here are some lessons you may find useful that Max Hovey learnt from coming out.


9. Some people do have negative experiences.

There’s no point denying it. That’s why it’s important that if you decide the time is right for you to come out, make sure you have a safety net if things don’t go to plan. There is support available if you find yourself feeling lost or alone.

10. Give people time.

You may have had years to get to a place where you are comfortable with being lesbian, gay or bisexual. Just think though, those people who you will be telling will have a split second to give you a reaction. Give them a chance to digest the news. It may come as a complete surprise. Surprise and shock doesn’t mean disapproval from them.

They may have questions, so pre-empt what these could be and be prepared to support them too. They may need your support as much as you need theirs!

11. Start living!

You will be amazed at how free you will feel once you have come out. Obviously, the experience is different for everyone and at times it may not go as well as you’d like.

Just remember that you are doing the right thing, you are allowing yourself to be who you were always meant to be and this means you can start living YOUR life! Remember to create that safety net around you though, just in case things don’t go exactly to plan.


Can we guess where you are on the gender scale? Take the quiz >>

Wayne Dhesi is a youth manager at UK-based LGBT charity, Stonewall. To find out more about his work follow him on Twitter.

You’ll be amazed by this one. Answer 11 short, simple questions in our sexuality quiz to see if we can figure out where you are on the sexuality spectrum.


So, how’d you get on? There’s no need to panic if you got an answer that maybe you are questioning. If you’re answer wasn’t what you thought it might be, that’s completely OK.

We all know this is just a bit of fun, because we can’t possibly know everything about you. Sexuality is a spectrum, and it can be one where it can take a really long time to know where you sit. If you’re confused about your sexuality or want to talk to a trained mentor – click here to visit our community.

Next Steps

If you took this quiz just for a laugh, then it’s super chill. If you took it because you are questioning your sexuality, then there are some things you might want to have a think about. Check out some next steps ideas below:

1) Think about where you want to go from here

So if you have taken this quiz because you have been questioning your sexuality, this might be a good time to have a little think about where you want to go from here. Just because you’ve maybe gotten a result you didn’t expect, it doesn’t mean you should come out to everyone in your life straight away.

Take your time with it, and think about where you want to go from here. You might want to take a bit to sort your own head out. Try thinking about where you want your life to be in a years time. Will you feel comfortable being out? Do you want a relationship? Thinking about where you want to end up will always help with planning the journey.

2) Get some advice if you need it

Sometimes, we just can’t go through things alone. If you feel like you don’t have anyone in your life to talk about this at the moment, that’s completely OK. You can speak to one of our trained Digital Mentors in confidence here.

3) Come out to yourself

If you have been questioning your sexuality, the most important step you can take is to come out to yourself. By this we mean you need to realise that maybe you are gay/bi/ace/pan or any other sexuality, and that that’s completely fine. That you are who you are.

Try looking at yourself in a mirror, and saying to yourself ‘I am *insert sexuality here*, and that’s OK. Because I am also strong, smart, funny, independent, kind, caring, loving, and beautiful’. You are who you are, but you are so much more than your sexuality as well.

4) Look for others in your community

A great way to build up towards coming out, if that is what you think you want to do, is to find some other people within your community that you can learn from, talk to and be supported by. We all need our tribe. We aren’t saying you should get rid of all your old friends and family in favour of this, but getting help to navigate this side of you is going to be important to understand it, and to get support if coming out doesn’t go so well. Try following a few people on IG and Twitter, try learning about Pride in your area, or even find a local LGBT+ hobby group to join.

Coming Out

Once you’ve come to terms with your sexuality, your attention might be turning towards coming out to friends and family. Being open and honest about who you are might be really scary at first, but it also might be the most liberating experience of your life.

Need advice on coming out? Check out these awesome articles below!

For confidential support and advice on coming out, speak to one of our trained support mentors here.

Happy International Men’s Day! This is a pretty important day for everyone everywhere to talk openly about the issues that face young men today. It can get a pretty bad rep, but at Ditch the Label, we love guys and we love International Men’s Day! So we thought we would celebrate it by bringing you six of the best most inspirational wonderful men you can follow on Instagram! 

1) Max Hovey @max_hovey

Max is a pretty incredible guy, and we aren’t just saying that because he is an awesome ambassador for Ditch the Label. He has been working to raise awareness for mental health and anxiety in guys for ages now, as well as for LGBT+ rights. We love Max, and as soon as you hit Follow, you will too.  

Instagram


2) Bobby Norris @bobbycnorris

After dealing with trolling on his social media, Bobby took a stand against online hate, and now he campaigns tirelessly to end the trend of online trolling. He does this whilst still having a full filming schedule and is an all round incredible guy. Follow for so much love. 

Instagram


3) Loyle Carner @loylecarner 

Real name Ben Coyle-Larner, this awesome artist and songwriter has had the ride of his life in the past few years. Not long after being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2017, he dropped his album Not Waving, But Drowning. Not only is he a mind-blowing musician, but he also campaigns for mental health awareness in guys. You can read more about him from our Good Fellas series here.

Instagram


4) Stevie Blaine @bopo.boy

Stevie is one of our all time fave body positive instagrammers, not only because he has done a whole bunch of stuff for us. He has been blowing up the body positive space for ages now, and regularly posts awesome content that will give you all the heart feels. 

Instagram


5) Jake Graf @Jake_graf5

Jake is an awesome transgender rights campaigner, and has been fighting tirelessly for the protection of trans rights, the reducation of transphobic hate crimes and abuse and basically just been absolutely killing it. 

Instagram


6) Gaten Matarazzo @gatenm123

Gaten will need no intro to sci-fi fans all over the world as he is a household name from his time spent as the loveable teenager Dustin in Stranger Things. But Gaten does a load of work for charity too (including us, no biggie), and raises awareness for a whole bunch of good causes. We would make a joke about the Upside Down, but we can’t think of any. 

Instagram


In search of daily motivation, inspirational quotes or just some joy in your Instagram feed? Give us a follow @ditchthelabel

It’s 2019. We all know that being an ally is the only place to be for communities that are marginalised. But, being an ally is so much more than wearing a rainbow sequin skirt at Pride, or taking your mate to their first gay bar. Yeah, that’s still pretty good, and probably a whole lot more than what would have gone down when your parents were young, but we can always do better. 

This Anti-Bullying Week we are taking you on a journey through your unconscious bias (and if you don’t know what that is you can find out here). Turns out a big part of unconscious bias is a thing called a microaggression. That’s basically saying something that, in the grand scheme of insulting, isn’t actually that bad, but it can still be pretty rough to hear them all the time if you are gay. It also means that a lot of stereotypes are still alive and strong. That’s why we have come up with a cheats guide to what not to say so you aren’t throwing microaggressions around the place like dirty socks on your mums clean carpet. 

1) “But you don’t seem gay”

This kind of implies that all LGB+ people fit a certain ‘type’ which of course they don’t. In the same way that every straight person has all the things that make up their personality and what they like and dislike, it is literally no different. 

2) “You can be my gay best friend”

Unless you earn somebody’s friendship, you don’t have any right to it, especially if that’s based purely on their sexuality. Get to know someone, and if it’s a friend who has come out to you, just think about the kind of pressure you are putting on them to behave a certain way. 

3) “I love gay people”

Urrrrrr cool. It’s great that you do, and that you want to be an ally, but people are a lot more than their sexuality. Love them for that stuff too. 

4) “That’s so gay”

No it’s not. Please stop. 

5) “Can’t you make up your mind?”

Reserved for bisexual people mostly, this one needs to be cancelled asap. Making your mind up has nothing to do with it. It’s not like we’re choosing between two different jumpers over here. 

6) “It’s just a phase”

Ugh. No. Nobody’s sexuality is a phase. End of sentence. 

7) “Prove it” 

No one is a performing monkey. Why don’t you prove you’re straight and see where it gets you? 

8) “You’re too pretty to be a lesbian.”

“I’m so sorry for the inconvenience caused to you by the fact that I am conventionally good looking and not into your gender” said no one ever.

9) “Who’s the man/woman in the relationship”

For real, in 2019 do we really need to keep comparing everything against heterosexual relationship roles? Not even that, but like super outdated ones. Guys can be sensitive, women can be powerful. Get with the times guys, because we are not here for this. 

10) “I know a gay person/my friends gay too”

“Oh do you? That’s great! I probably know them because ya know, we all have a secret club where we all congregate and discuss this shit”

11) “But won’t I get hit on in a gay bar?”

Dude for real? Just because you might hang out with people who happen to like your gender, it does not make you instantly irresistible.

12) “You’re just doing it for attention”

A huge amount of the attention that LGB+ people get is negative. Why would anyone want to put themselves in that position unless they were doing it so they can live like their true selves? 

Want to know what people think about LGBT+ issues today? You can read our Annual Bullying Survey in full here.

Need to talk to someone about your sexuality, bullying or anything that might be bothering you? You can speak to one of our trained Digital Mentors here for confidential support and advice.

Dating or starting a new relationship is scary enough as it is, so throwing a chronic illness or disability in there can make the process of finding your lobster evermore challenging. 

I’ve been on Tinder. I’ve had one-night stands. I’ve dated people casually and I’ve been in long term relationships. All of these experiences have helped me understand what I want in a committed, long term partnership with someone.

I have a chronic illness and also a stoma bag. I was given my stoma after being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at 21 and undergoing 11 months of unsuccessful treatment. Throughout my treatment and my surgery, I was single, and considering I couldn’t really walk or eat very much throughout that time, dating someone wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. 

Nine months after my surgery I decided I was ready to swim in the dating pond. I took to tinder and was faced with a predicament; how do I date when my body isn’t ‘normal’? I had come to terms with my new body and intestine poking through my stomach, but I didn’t think about how someone else would take it. 

Billie wearing a beige top showing her stoma bag
Photo by Amber Schormans Photography

So, logging into Tinder for the first time and I was faced with a crossroads. What photos do I choose? Do I pick one with my stoma bag on display or do I hide it? How do I hide it? Do I mention it in my profile or not? I’m proud of my bag, so why should I hide it? What if I get negative messages about it? Do I put it in my bio? 

So, I decided to make a promise to myself: 

“If someone doesn’t like me or sends horrible messages about my stoma or IBD, that says more about them than it does about me” 

I chose to be upfront. I popped a picture of me on holiday in Ibiza in a low-rise bikini, bag on show. If anyone wanted to know what it was, I would explain without giving away too much. I went on a few dates and was lucky that I didn’t get any negativity.

There was one night in particular that sticks with me. I was on a social event with my netball society and started chatting to a guy. We hung out back at mine and had a couple more drinks. The next morning, he asked for my number and if he could take me for a drink; obviously after a night of chatting into the early hours of the morning, I said yes!

On the first date I told him about my IBD and my stoma. I explained most of the journey and chose to show him how I share it on Instagram. He didn’t really say very much, and I now know that was because he was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to say. But he asked me on another date, and we are still together nearly a year later! 

Billie sat on a log outside in summer

He always says my IBD and stoma bag were never a factor on whether he should date me or not. And even now, he says he can’t imagine me without the bag as well as respecting the path I’ve been on to get where I am now.

As we have grown together, I’ve involved him more and more in my life; IBD and stoma life included. He likes to know about how it affects me and has always been incredibly supportive. I’m lucky to have someone who loves me the way he does and is willing to stick with me through further surgeries and hospital admissions. He comes with me to my hospital appointments and would happily sit there while I’m on my iron infusion for anaemia.

People always say you should find someone who ‘looks past’ the bag and the illness, but I find this negates the fact you’ve been through it. I have someone who respect my illness and respects how I’ve handled it. He doesn’t shy away from poo talk, but most importantly he doesn’t pity me. He looks at it and at me as a sign of strength. 

My advice to anyone who is about to jump into the dating pool:

Don’t run before you can walk. 

If you’re not 100% sure you’re ready to let someone in on your private life or wear your heart on your sleeve, then take some time for yourself. 

You have to love yourself before you can let someone else. 

Letting someone in, even if you don’t have a chronic illness or a disability, is a big step and I think you have to work out who you are, what you want from a relationship and your priorities in life, before you go all in. 

I found my lobster and I feel very lucky to be loved and accepted bag and all. 

Follow Billie on Instagram for more about her IBD, stoma and self-love journey @billieandersonx

Ditch the Label Ambassador, model, activist and writer, Jessica Megan shares her thoughts on why gender roles in relationships are complete rubbish, and 5 ways we can stop doing it.

Since the times of hunter and gatherer, humans have categorised one another. Pregnant people needed to be protected to decrease prospects of extinction, whilst the physically able must go out and hunt. But now we have iPhones. We have gummy bears. We have fluorescent yellow coats and pugs. Times have changed, and so have our roles in relationships. The problem is, there is a BIG, vomity, existential crisis hangover from when these roles actually mattered.

We are still expected to implement and uphold these boring and very restrictive notions about what it means to be a “woman” or a “man.” Aside from the hugely problematic fact that this manner of thinking does not take into account our non-binary, intersex and trans siblings, I repeat, IT IS VERY BORING AND VERY RESTRICTIVE. There isn’t much fun to be found in constantly being expected to play roles. 

Photo by @rebeccaspencer_photography

Women are often expected to nurture, empathise and fix. Not just this, but now women are earning their own dollar, and they’re using it to prove their financial independence. Problem is, we already get paid 79p to every £1 a man earns, on top of the emotional expenditure we are expected to provide. So now we are poorer and more emotionally drained thanks to the role we are trying to upkeep in our relationships. On top of this we are also expected to remain hairless, thin and somehow not have a spotty bum. 

Men have a whole other struggle. They are expected to be strong, brave, and determined at all times in relationships, perhaps never discussing how they really feel. “I feel like a waste of space in comparison to my girlfriend, who has tonnes of drive and determination.” Says O. “Rather than celebrating her achievements and ambitions like a good boyfriend should, I internalise her success and punch inwards. She notices and then feels like she has to dilute her success to make me feel better.”

The key in every relationship is communication. If you can’t be honest with your partner about your concerns and fears, this leads to an erosion of trust and can have a huge impact on the way which you approach future relationships. Of course, there will be bumps, trips and great big sheer drops along the way, but we are trying to be a little better behaved, right? 

Here are 5 key ways to stop gendering your relationship


1. Be honest. 

Honesty is not a well that that can dry up if you take too much from it. Emotional bonds are vital because it means honesty can travel between them. If you allow those bonds to decay, its harder for the words to get there. Bathe in it like a gorgeous bubble bath. Say what you’re feeling, say if you’re feeling jealous or sad. 

Be constructive with it. Be honest there and then and not later on when it’s built up like a big wall and now it’s too much. Say things like, “I feel safe with you and I want to say something that’s bothering me…” “talking about this makes me feel vulnerable, but it’s important to be honest…” Take their hand and look at them while you speak. Engage, be honest, and build something amazing.

2. Don’t use words that are gender stereotyped. 

Words like “crazy” for women and “pussies” for men are harmful and perpetuate dead stereotypes. Women are not “crazy” or “hysterical” when they are emotionally honest and men are not “pussies” for choosing not to comply with rigid emotional rules. When your partner is feeling sad, listen to them. Ask them if they need space and if they’d like to talk. Remind them that they are in a judgement free zone. Respect their needs. 

3. Don’t follow scripts

This one is not for our asexual friends, but we still see you! 
When you begin having sex, it can be easy to copy what you’ve seen online, in porn and in films. But with a partner you trust, you can fall outside these scripts and explore each other in a healthy, consensual way. There is a wealth of beautiful and fun ways to explore the body. Sex is a gorgeous, bouncy, sweaty thing that we get to do in relationships, so make the most of it! 

Your sex life has a huge effect on the person you are outside of the bedroom. Great sex can relieve loads of mental ailments and even if it doesn’t go as expected, it can still be turned into a hilarious naked escapade where you both end up with jam on your bums (this happened to me once). But bad sex (sex without proper consent, sex in the wrong headspace, sex when you’re not ready) can diminish your ability to know when you don’t want to have sex. If we cannot tell our closest when we are not comfortable, this will make it harder to create boundaries outside of the bedroom. 

4. I’m a woman, does this mean I shouldn’t clean or make dinner for my boyfriend?

It’s not a case of should or shouldn’t! These words suggest there is a set of rules to play by based on whats between your legs. Just do what you feel like doing. And don’t date people that don’t do their fair share or don’t bother making the effort. You are worth making the effort for. It is not your responsibility to raise your partner and clean up after them. 

5. Who wears the trousers?

As we unanimously agreed earlier, pigeonholing people into masculine and feminine roles is boring and tacky. And yet, same sex couples often find themselves the target of inane questions such as this. “When I’ve dated girly girls I find myself feeling more masculine, inclined to hold the door, pick up the check more, etc,” notes H. “I think gender roles are similar to sexuality,” said M. “It’s fluid and can change based on the person you are dating at the time.” Ask instead, “who wears the pleather catsuit in this relationship?” If neither then you must all go and purchase pleather catsuits immediately. Because everyone looks great in a pleather catsuit. 

There is a bit in comedian Daniel Sloss’s show ‘Jigsaw’ which went viral recently and caused over 7000 breakups, including divorces. It’s something I say to everyone. It’s something we should all consider. 

“If you only love yourself at 20%, that means someone can come along and love you at 30%. You’re like wow, that’s so much. It’s literally less than half. Whereas if you love yourself at 100%, a person that falls in love with you has to go above and beyond the call of duty to make you feel special.”

Above all, you must love yourself and know your worth. This is the best thing for a communicative healthy relationship with others. Put yourself at the forefront every time. 

For more from Jessica, check out her Instagram @jess_megan_