A call to our readers to acknowledge and act upon the inequalities experienced by the writer involving the gender disparities within the LGBTQ+, art and poetry communities in Leeds.
I am a first-year male student here at the University of Leeds. I would like to share a story of how I came to realise that I was excluded from most socially progressive projects here in Leeds – all the “inclusive” LGBTQ+ events, all sex-positive art and poetry – simply because I am male.
I should start from the beginning, I suppose. Back in my home country, somewhere in Eastern Europe, where same sex marriages are still outlawed, and popular art is still very conventional, I was happy to read and hear about all the “cool stuff” they do in the West. I was delighted to see empowering art looking at the female body from a different perspective, inspired by the contemporary western poetry and looking forward to the open-minded LGBTQ+ events. I may sound like I look up to Western culture a little too much, but that’s how I felt, and I don’t think there’s any reason to hide that. And then the day came when I moved to Leeds.
In the very first week, I visited an LGBTQ+ meetup and was surprised to be the only male in the group – everyone else happened to be female. As much as they were friendly, I hardly understood their struggles and they hardly understood mine. I didn’t feel at home, so I left.
Then, one day, I bought a student poetry zine. “Finally,” I thought, “I’ll get to read something fresh, a new reflection on the human condition”. It was a new look, without doubt, but it was a consideration of the female condition. All of the poems in that zine were about female bodies and female struggles. It wasn’t a zine for women, at least it didn’t say that anywhere on their website or the cover. “That’s okay” I thought,” I’ll just buy a different zine”. The second one was the same.
Today, I noticed an art event advertised at the University. I grabbed the leaflet and – guess what – “event celebrating women and female bodies”. I have never heard about a “male body festival”. Are male bodies so ugly that they can’t also be put under the spotlight?
The point of writing all this is to say - current social progress seems to have left males behind. Zines and events which claim to talk about human bodies and issues, in reality, strongly favour female bodies and issues. In response to this, I have to say - contrary to, I guess, popular belief – men do have bodies, body issues, paradoxical experiences and even sexuality. However, as it is now, if I was an alien who studied humanity only by looking at contemporary art and events – I would probably conclude that males went extinct. And I urge you, the reader, to change that.
Featured Image: 'Dancers' by Keith Haring