Lesbi Reasonable: Coming out and Cambridge

Caitlin Saunders 7 May 2014

My secret crush is Ben Whishaw. Except it’s not secret at all – I tell pretty much everyone – and it’s also not really a crush, but more of a bout of wistful intrigue. If you don’t know who he is, watch Skyfall. If you don’t like him, rethink your position.

In August, a few articles about him started popping up online. It turned out Whishaw had a secret. There are a lot of things we don’t know about celebrities, and it’s always big news when these things come to light: Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy, Cameron Diaz’s body hair, George Clooney’s fiancée; the list goes on. However, I found the gossip surrounding Whishaw heart-warming rather than mind-numbing.

Guess what? He has a husband! Or a civil partner, to be precise. All the rumours were confirmed, all the half-formed questions answered: Ben Whishaw plays for my team. Or the other team. I’m not quite sure how the teams work out, most of the time it just feels like drunken ultimate frisbee or an egg and spoon race around Spaghetti Junction.

The teams are rarely so clean cut                                            Credit: Hamish Darby

Either way, knowing I had my sexuality in common with one of my favourite people was really exhilarating. It’s a kind of comfort, of validation, which is hard to explain if you’ve not experienced it yourself. I know straight people can have happy endings – I’ve seen it a thousand times – but learning that people like me could as well had a powerful impact on me.

Quite a few public figures have come out recently. For some, it has been in happy circumstances, like those of Tom Daley and Ellen Page; for others, it hasn’t – MP Mark Menzies springs to mind. The whole concept is definitely a little uncomfortable; it seems strange that we have to let the whole world know who you like to sleep with, or, taking into account the rest of the LGBT+ community, if you even like sleeping with anyone at all.

Last December, Daley announced over YouTube that he is gay    Credit: Fire Twink

This kind of discomfort is felt by a lot of students throughout their time at university. Whether you’re out, closeted or only just realising that you might be somehow different from what you thought, finding a way of bringing it up can be very difficult and usually feels like a total conversation killer.

One of the things I love about Cambridge is how coming out is rarely seen as a big deal by our friends and fellow students. If anything, there’s an air of ‘so what?’ – not out of apathy or disdain, but because for many people sexuality is simply not an issue. That’s a really healthy atmosphere to begin with, even if there are some areas in need of improvement.

In the wider world, if celebrities don’t want to discuss their private lives then that’s their prerogative, but those who decide to come out and raise awareness of LGBT+ identities are doing us all a huge service; not only by providing role models for people who share their experiences, but by normalising a wide range of sexualities and genders for those people who aren’t on the spectrum.