Living and growing up in Surrey as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person

February 10, 2019
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You can live in Surrey all your life and never know what it is like to be a victim of hate crime or feel trapped and unable to express yourself.

Minority stories deserve attention too – even if it is just to say, “it happens, we exist”.

Between October 2018 and the end of January, there have been 14 reports of hate crime against LGBTQ people in the county and 36 support calls relating to sexual orientation and gender, according to Pride in Surrey.

With just six months until Surrey’s first ever Pride event on August 10, we asked three people what it is like to live in the county as a non-heterosexual person.

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LGBTQ headlines

Comedian Emily Baum, Guildford

Born in Cobham, Emily knew as a teenager she was gay, but she did not have the courage to tell anyone until she was in her 20s.

She said of her formative years at a Church of England School: “It is tough. You realise you are different. Everyone wants a boyfriend and you don’t.”

She continued: “We were told that people like me were wrong. It was very confusing. Because you think there are all these things going on in the world – wars and murders. Why am I wrong? What did I do wrong to make them think it’s wrong?

Emily Baum and her wife Kris Cornell
(Image: Ann Yip / Surrey Advertiser)

“I spent the time being actually homophobic. I was trying to hide and trying to ignore the fact that that was my truth. It took until I was in university.”

Speaking about coming out to her mother, she said: “When it finally came out to all of my friends, my mother did not want anything to do with it, but her friends thought it was cool.

“Surrey is very much about status and what other people thought of you.

“My mother later became a huge advocate of my wife.”

Emily, 43, now lives in Guildford and works as a comedian for Mack entertainment. She met her wife Kris Cornell 18 years ago and has an adopted daughter, aged 12.

 

But before meeting Kris, she recalled it was difficult to find and date other women.

“Especially in Surrey, nobody was gay,” she said. “The only way to meet other gay people was in the newspaper ads.

“Having a gay guy best friend was like having a handbag dog. But for women, it was like: what do you want one of those for?”

Emily said she and her wife were one of the first gay couples to adopt when adoption by gay couples was legalised in the UK.

 

She explained: “We did not want either of us to carry it because we did not think it would be our child. It would be one person’s child so we chose to adopt from the UK.

“My daughter has multiple special needs but we have had so much fun. She is such an LGBT advocate. She is autistic. Autistic people find it difficult to deal with difference, but she never thought there was anything different about having two mums.”

Carer and musician Ashleigh Hennessy

Ashleigh Hennessy, from Camberley/Farnborough
(Image: Ann Yip)

“Being bisexual I get the best deal. I fancy everyone. I like people for the person. I do not care what the gender is,” 23-year-old Ashleigh said.

Ashleigh came out at the age of 10 or 11, as a pupil at Tomlinscote School in Camberley.

She said: “I did not know how to come out then. As a teenager, I was worried about what other people would think. I was worried that they would judge me, for being too masculine, for being too feminine.”

While the majority of her friends and family are very accepting of her sexual orientation, she said that a few “would be embarrassed about how other people think”.

 

As an aspiring musician now living in Farnborough, Ashleigh writes her own music and is preparing her first album. One of her songs is about an incident related to bi visibility, when people introduce her girlfriend as her “friend” despite knowing that they are in a relationship.

She said the majority of the negative judgments she gets is online, but said: “It is silly, because you should not care about online stuff anyway.”

Ashleigh was in a relationship with a woman for three years until the age of 21, but is now in a relationship with a 50-year-old man.

She met Ray Langstone two years ago and described him: “He’s loud, kind and funny. He likes music as well and used to play the guitar.”

She said: “I met my partner and I realised I was still attracted to guys as well. I was just attracted to the personality. But if I see a hot girl, I am still very attracted to them. I am still attracted to both, and anyone in between.”

Ashleigh’s next gig is at the Plough in Farnham on February 12.

Kim Jarred, mother of transgender son, Woking

Kim and Mike Jarred, parents of a transgender son will be celebrating Pride
(Image: Ann Yip)

In 2016, stay-at-home mum Kim, 47, and IT specialist Mike Jarred, 51, discovered their 10-year-old daughter wanted to be a boy.

Describing the moment her son came out to her, she said: “We both have a different recollection of it. It was something to do with clothes. I thought it was a purple gilet and he thought it was swimming trunks.

“He had been feeling really trapped for quite some time. He saw a CBeebies documentary called ‘I am Leo’. Then he realised what he was feeling was a ‘thing’.”

Almost immediately, Kim and Mike bought their son new clothes. And within four months, he had a new pronoun and name. Their son is now 12.

While Kim admits their son, who had always been “tomboyish”, is still the same person, she said it was her imagined future that came crashing down the day he revealed he wanted to live as a boy.

The Woking mum said: “You imagine what being a mother of a girl is, the mother-daughter bond, and it is not quite the same. You imagine the future of being mother of the bride and doing girly things together.

“We just have a son now. We just support him for who he is.”

Kim said: “It was a really difficult time to go through. We had great support from Mermaids [a charity which works with transgender children]. Our child is thriving with support. Unfortunately, there was not much support out there.

“I did not know anything about transgender people until I had to embrace it with open arms. I thought it was something really rare. I just did not know anything, now I know masses. I make it my business to know what’s going on. I am an advocate.”

Kim and her son attended their first Pride event in London in 2017.

She told attendees at Surrey’s Pride launch event at the HG Wells Conference Centre in Woking last Friday (February 1): “It was frankly a complete game changer in the way my son perceived himself. Before Pride he felt an outsider, he didn’t really fit anywhere, and he felt different.

“At Pride we found there was not only acceptance out there in the world, and a huge amount of support, but even better –  and I believe this to be the most important factor – there was actual celebration of difference.”

She continued: “Pride empowered him, made him feel everything ultimately could be ok in his world. His future looked brighter as he felt connected to his community.

“In a world which is not always kind and tolerant, being able to celebrate who you are can make a whole lot of difference to your self esteem and identity. And that’s why we are so excited about Pride coming to Surrey and will do everything we can to support it fully.”

Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/living-growing-up-surrey-gay-15782879


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