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Digital Subscriptions > Psychologies > July 2019 > Living in a box

Living in a box

When Ellen Tout came out as a teenager, she found the word ‘lesbian’ restrictive. As the queer community moves away from compartmentalizing, she asks, wouldn’t all our lives be better without labels?

T

en years ago, I went to my first Pride event. I had come out to only a few friends and still felt unsure about who I was or how I indented. I remember staring in amazement at the veritable rainbow of people and communities. It felt like a new world – one of freedom and self-expression where difference is embraced and the focus is on love. Today, for me, Pride still embodies acceptance, inclusivity and fun. Last year, my girlfriend and I took part in the Pride in London parade. Walking down Oxford Street, we were met by cheers of positivity and love as people waved lags, ran up for hugs and celebrated our shared pride. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. I love that at Pride nobody is restricted by boxes or labels – there’s the lucidity and freedom to be whoever you want to be.

I’ve noticed these values being embraced more nowadays. I think the future is full of the possibility to create our own identity. As ideas and social norms evolve, we can all step out of our boxes and experiment with who we are – not just in terms of sexuality, but whatever labels we have, letting go of expectations around gender, family roles, job titles, education, class, interests and traits. This thinking is welcomed by young people. Research by the Oise for National Statistics found that 4.2 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds identify as lesbian, bisexual or gay. And YouGov reported that 49 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds describe themselves as ‘not heterosexual’, shifting to a more open view. It’s progress from when I was at school and being called ‘gay’ was an insult!

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