The Right To Be Who We Are

Gwen, who writes over at The Foodie Historian,  recently heard some astonishing stories from incredible women.  And we are lucky that she has decided to share some of the (anonymised) stories that she heard.  The right to be who we are should be a given.  For many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, that right is not absolute.   

Over to you, Gwen:


I really wanted to write something witty or sharp for AOW’s International Women’s Day campaign this year, but every time I sat down to do it – or thought about it – I couldn’t. I didn’t have anything to say that I could convey in a couple of lines.


This is largely because I spent last IWD on a training course. I work in social services – most of the training courses I go on are terribly dull or frankly terrifying, but this one was different. I spent the day with a group of older (65+) LGBT volunteers, the Highland Rainbow Folk, who travel around Scotland telling stories about their experiences.


There was the lady whose parents had tried to have her “cured” because she was a lesbian. She had to move to away to be with her partner, to a place where they were anonymous. When her partner was dying of cancer, and visiting was limited to “immediate family”, the nurses bent the rules so that she sit with her for the few minutes that they had left. They understood, in the days before civil partnerships and marriage equality, that the love was more important than the label.

There was the lady who wasn’t invited to her daughter’s wedding. When she began to transition, her employer had been understanding and had quietly changed her name on business cards and documents. They informed her clients, so that she returned from an extended holiday with her new identity and a reduced need for awkward conversations. Her family had been less supportive – her children stopped contact, and didn’t want to know her, or to try and understand. She hadn’t met her grandchildren.


And then there was me, the “professional” who cried, who spent two hours humbled and shocked at the experiences that other women had been through because of how they identified themselves or who they loved. It seemed particularly pertinent to me that I was hearing these stories on International Women’s Day.


Women fight every day – both in the UK and abroad – for the right to be who they are. For some, it is everything. It is quite literally the difference between life and death, between living a lie and having the ability to express themselves and to be in love. For me, feminism is about ensuring that all of us have the choice and opportunity to be who we are. It is about avoiding judging others and the decisions they make, and being glad that they can make those decisions. It is about ensuring that others can make them too.

Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships
6 interesting thoughts on this


  1. mysparethoughts
    Posted April 2, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Wow. Gwen you always blow me away with your posts. So thought provoking.

  2. Posted April 2, 2014 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I love this post. I have more thoughts than I can put here for now. Will come back to this soon x

  3. Fee
    Posted April 2, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    ‘For me, feminism is about ensuring that all of us have the choice and opportunity to be who we are. It is about avoiding judging others and the decisions they make, and being glad that they can make those decisions. It is about ensuring that others can make them too.’

    This is just exactly what I believe but far more eloquently put. Having v close family members who are gay, I can’t imagine turning my back on them because of their sexuality. I hope one day it really IS a non issue across the board.

    Amazing post xxx

  4. Posted April 2, 2014 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Gwen you write the best posts. How wonderful that you were able to meet these people and hear their stories. Thought provoking stuff.

  5. Anon
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Commenting anonymously today-I don’t want to be judged for what I am about to write!

    What a thoughtful post….

    Going off on a bit of a tangent here….I’m not sure I would be quite so drastic as to not let my transgender mother see her grandchildren. However, that must be a difficult change to come to terms with. Does anyone else agree or have experience of this?

    I often feel that if one of my children were gay I would have no issue with it. However, I can honestly say I would find one of my parents changing gender very emotional and confusing! I wouldn’t cut them out of my life, I would find it hard to accept though. I know I’d always love them. I wouldn’t care about what others thought, but something about them changing something so fundamental about themselves would be a very difficult thing to come to terms with.

    • Posted April 4, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      I don’t doubt that it would be a very difficult and stressful time for the family of the person too – perhaps a sense of grief for the parent that you won’t have any more and perhaps guilt for being upset and worried. But, in all honesty, now that I am an adult I see my parents less as “parents” and more as people. If I am completely honest, I don’t approve of all of the choices my parents have made with regards to spouses and lifestyles (albeit nothing quite as drastic as changing gender!), and I have no doubt they haven’t agreed with all of mine, but I try to support them just as they have supported me.
      Ultimately for me – it comes down to what you said – the love you have for someone. If I were to have a friend or family member struggle for so long with who they were and how they identified themselves, I think it would hit me as overwhelmingly sad and I hope that I would continue to love and support them to be happier(while perhaps seeking extra support for myself).

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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