I tuned in to watch Megan Markle get married, as i’m sure most of the country did. I was fully prepared to treat the viewing like an episode of E, live from the red carpet and critique their runway lewks. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer beauty of the day. Not just beauty of the dresses, the weather or the Beckham, but beauty of the theme, the message; of being ones authentic self.
What this wedding represents is a watershed in the British psyche. Finally, a diverse member of the Royal household and an American divorcee to boot! This is a seismic shift. Could a same-sex Royal wedding be that far from reality?
As I watched the day unfold, I saw an interview that really struck a chord with me. A young woman was being interviewed about Megan, who professed that Megan is being unashamedly, unapologetically authentic. She is not diluting her blackness, nor back-tracking on her desire to make progress on women’s rights or charity work.
With so much diversity being represented on national TV, at a service that is probably the most entitled, white family on the planet, it was hard to disagree with this woman.
As an LGBT person, editing myself is something I am all too familiar with. I have improved over the years. But what a lot of straight people do not realise is that we are continuously having to edit ourselves or ‘come-out’. To the shop assistant who asks if me and my partner are brothers, or cousins. To the Sky engineer who asks who i’m sharing my flat with, to the receptionist at the hotel who wants to make sure I made the right reservation for a double bed, the list goes on. We are constantly making that risk assessment as to whether or not it is safe to come out and what sort of reaction the other person is going to have. That constant risk assessment is detrimental to our authenticity and also our mental health.
The damage it can do
When I first started work, I wasn’t officially ‘out’ although some people knew, When colleagues would ask me what i’d got up to at the weekend, I would actively avoid discussing where i’d been and with whom. “Oh it was just a bar” i’d respond. “Yes, what bar? What was the name of it?” Quick! Think! Lie! “Err ‘All Bar one’ or some other generic city haunt i’d reply with.
The truth was that I didn’t want anyone knowing that i’d been to the joiners arms or the George & Dragon playing tonsil tennis with a hot Spanish hairdresser who couldn’t speak a word of English. Not. A. Dickie. Bird (but could mack-off like a dream). It wasn’t their business i’d think. But actually, all that editing, thinking up alternate venues and scenario’s used to cause no end of anxiety, that perhaps one day I might slip up and my lie would be rumbled.
I have a work colleague, a person of colour, whom I see go through the same struggle. They do not talk about their weekends, where they’ve been or who with. Probably because they don’t think it any of my business. Maybe they do not want to be their authentic self. Maybe they don’t think i’ll understand or appreciate their culture. Maybe they are experiencing a shame that comes with their authenticity, who knows? But what I do know, is that I can recognise something in their behaviour in what I have been through with editing myself.
Now it is not up to me to say if that is right or wrong. As an observer, all I can do is think it is a pity they aren’t more comfortable. But, I don’t have the same lived experience as them, so I do not know their reasons for not being their authentic self. I do know however that one cause is a lack of BAME representation and role models in the main stream media. For decades.
What I saw on the day of the royal wedding was an attempt at change by the institutions and the media, and I hope this is the start of something much bigger.
And I hope the change has a positive impact on both LGBT and people of colour.