Hi, my name is Camara. I was born and raised in London.
I have two brothers, one's older than me and the other is younger. I'm Jamaican and a lot of my extended family live over there. I go back at least once a year to see them...and also to enjoy the sunshine and beaches! In fact I lived and went to school in Jamaica from ages 6 to 8.
I'm a Christian and growing up, church always played a big role in my life. My Dad is a Seventh Day Baptist and I went to church every week. I had no choice really! Seventh Day Baptists are Christians who believe the holy Sabbath day is Saturday. As Sabbath is the day of rest and worship, they go to church on a Saturday. I don’t consider myself a Seventh Day Baptist, but I still see myself as a Christian and I believe in God.
Being a Christian is important to me. My upbringing played a large part in that, and ultimately being a Christian affects my life and how I see things. Some of my morals are affected by my Christianity and my spirituality and my relationship with God is central to my life.
In my early teens, I didn't have particularly strong views for or against gay people. I don't ever remember my church openly saying anything negative about gay people and although I didn't have any gay friends, I was aware that there were gay people out there, and I was alright with that. I remember being about thirteen, when people at school started using the word "gay" to refer to something that was rubbish. Some of my friends used it, but I never did...I couldn't. To me, it was clear that using the word "gay" in that way was just disrespectful and offensive to gay people. It was comparing a gay person to being rubbish...and even if my friends and school mates didn't mean it, it just wasn't appropriate. It would have been like if people had started saying "that's so black", or "you're so black". It's obvious that that's not okay...so I could never see why it would be fine to do that with the word "gay".
Then when I was fifteen, one of my best friends at school told me he was gay. He was the first gay person I knew properly, and I was really relieved when he told me. I knew it was hard for him to come out to me. He was so nervous and embarrassed when he said it, but I was fine about it. I’d known him for years so I was just happy he felt comfortable telling me!
Now, many of my friends are gay. I guess I’ve learned a lot from my friends and I realise now that being gay means different things to different people. There’s no set type of gay person. The stereotypes of the feminine man and the masculine woman are often not true! And everyone experiences being gay differently. I have friends who feel that being gay is just a small part of their lives, whilst for others it has taken years for them to feel comfortable about their sexuality and to be able to tell people that they’re gay. I guess one reason why I didn’t ever have homophobic views was because my father’s brother was gay. He died when I was a few years old, but my dad always spoke openly about the fact that he was gay. And despite my Dad being such a strict Christian he was fine with his brother’s sexuality. He says that he’s sure he was born that way and it wasn’t a choice. So growing up I never heard any negative comments from my parents about gay people, despite them both being Christians.
In spite of my positive experiences unfortunately I think a lot of people are homophobic. Recently I bumped into someone I had known a few years ago. She asked me where I worked and when I explained that I work for a gay equality organisation, she immediately asked if I’m gay. I explained that I’m not and she literally breathed a sigh of relief! It clearly would have made a difference to her, if I had said yes, it clearly would have bothered her. That’s an example of casual homophobia and I see things like that all the time. A family member of mine thinks that being gay is a mental illness! That’s just ignorant really though isn’t it? And some people use homophobic language and refer to being gay as if it’s a joke or something that’s a bit weird. When that kind of discrimination is happening on a day to day basis, it’s understandable why some people find it so hard to come out. I'm now employed by an organisation that works for equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. I do lots of work with teachers and schools around homophobia and homophobic bullying. It’s something that I’m passionate about and I love doing a job I enjoy. I know that I’m making a difference and I’m probably one of the few people who actually enjoys going to work every day!
A lot of people ask me why a straight woman would work for a gay equality organisation. It’s simple really - I feel strongly about the issues that affect lesbian, gay and bisexual people. I’ve seen homophobia first hand and it often seems to be accepted unlike other types of offensive language and behaviour. Of course, I’ll never know what it‘s like to be gay and to experience things like coming out, but I like to do my bit to help challenge homophobia and make a change in society. It’s important that people remember that there are gay people who are Christian, Muslim, Jewish and so on and that not everyone who is religious is homophobic. It’s never okay to discriminate against anyone because of your beliefs though. One person’s right to have their beliefs doesn’t outweigh another person’s right not to be discriminated against. And for those who ask me can a person really be Christian and gay - of course you can! There are elderly Christians, black Christians, female Christians, disabled Christians…so why wouldn’t there be gay Christians?