Who Represents You?
What is it that defines who you are? Think about it. There is something that sets you apart from others. Maybe it’s how you take your tea, the type of broadsheet you read, who you love or whether you pray to something beyond this world.
What sets you apart might not be that big of a deal. You might feel pretty similar to those around you: friends, family, colleagues, fellow fans of your favourite football club. You may have never gone through life feeing unrepresented. But, for some of us, this is not the case. Fighting for representation is most important when your identity sits on the margins.
Extra keen reader in the shop today! Thanks to @NicolaSturgeon for popping in and supporting this fiercely independent queer bookshop – we hope you enjoy all those books! 🏳️🌈📚🙌 #govanhill #lgbtqiabookshop #SmallBusinessSaturday pic.twitter.com/3QPWv01ZaQ
— Category Is Books (@CategoryIsBooks) November 30, 2018
Therefore, in rare instances when you feel ‘seen’ it’s a huge deal. Last week, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stopped by a queer-Glaswegian bookshop: Category Is Books. Let’s unpack that sentence. The political leader of Scotland – a strong, well-read, intelligent LGBT ally – stopped by a bookshop set up to promote and create a safe-space for queer people in Scotland’s largest city. Seeing this photograph – the First Minister’s smiling face standing with shop staff – felt revolutionary.
Though much international progress has been made to advance equality, LGBT rights, civil rights and education, much has also gone backwards. Here in the UK, the unfolding disaster of Brexit has made me as a gay, immigrant, person of colour – the ‘other’ in many respects – feel like a target for rampant hostility.
The minority Conservative government is (barely) propped- up by the extremely problematic Democratic Unionist Party. One of the most powerful and openly-gay politicians, who also happens to be Scottish, Ruth Davidson and her Conservative colleagues are complicit in this setup. So, while Davidson and I are both gay, she does not represent my politics. That’s why it is important to support politicians and political parties that uphold values of equality, acceptance and inclusivity. For me, Nicola Sturgeon embodies these values, and in turn Scotland does too.
I see Scotland as a nation of hope and of possibility, characteristics that don’t seem like a priority in Westminster. In the 1960s, my grandparents immigrated to the USA for all that the country offered. I did not immigrate to the UK for the same reasons. Instead, I met a Scotsman, fell in love and married. At the time, my immigration was based on pragmatism and not idealism
I now live in Edinburgh and watch global politics with a vested interest. Here, I have been met with kindness, warmth and hope. In the six years that I have been with my partner, I have learned a lot about Scotland’s politics, its customs and rich history. Of all the things that I have learned, the standout lessons have been an understanding of Scotland’s belief in equity and fairness. It’s not a perfect place, but it is a hopeful place.
I have spent a lot of my life in the UK and the division that bleeds from Westminster is not an identity I want to align myself with. I support Scottish independence because I believe Scotland can be a beacon for good in the world and can be a welcoming nation standing proudly against xenophobia.
Representation is important. It means lots of things for different people. It’s finding a character like you in a book, it’s hearing your accent on the radio, it’s watching politicians on the news who speak to your values and belief systems. In these trying times, if we don’t feel represented by Westminster, what will we do about it? We need to be bold, loud and uplifting in our actions. We need to take a page from Nicola and proudly represent the causes that mean the most to us.