LGBTQIA+ issues have been in the media recently due to the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, also known as just marriage, as well as Caitlyn Jenner coming out as transgender. This has sparked dialogue amongst others, and it has had its fair share of very negative, degrading, and disparaging comments.
For those of you that have followed this blog and my social media accounts for a while, you may have noticed that I’m private about my personal life. So – some of you may not have known that I have a boyfriend. A few months ago, I was asked via my Ask.fm whether my boyfriend was transgender. I chose to ask that person to message me personally because I didn’t feel comfortable discussing that with someone that was anonymous, and it led to multiple harassing, degrading comments. However, what struck me most about the original question is that the person felt someone of “my influence” could start a positive conversation about trans issues and education about the trans community. I never thought of it this way, and after talking to my boyfriend about the whole thing, decided to allow one more piece of my personal life become a part of this blog.
I’ve answered a lot of questions since then – some of them rude; some of them genuinely curious (By the way, it’s never okay to ask someone what they do in the bedroom, especially when you don’t know that person or their significant other, or if your significant other has had a sex change, if they happen to be trans) – and after speaking with a good friend on Twitter, I decided to put together this post – a survey of LGBTQIA+ equestrians. It is not as diverse as I’d like, but I also recognize that many individuals still do not feel comfortable discussing their sexuality, so please note that I tried as hard as possible to gain many diverse viewpoints. I think these issues do need to be pushed to the forefront as they are very important and obviously something that has high visibility today.
Also, it’s no secret that the equestrian community tends to fall a bit more on the conservative side. I was curious to see how this has affected equestrians who identified as anything other than ‘straight.’ I interviewed several equestrians that fell on different parts of the gender identity and sexuality spectrum. Some of the equestrians declined to be identified for personal privacy reasons which is why they are either not identified at all or only referred to by their Twitter handle. I hope this post helps to generate positive discussion and awareness.
To start, I am going to talk about myself because if I am asking other equestrians to be open – then I should be too. I have always been incredibly open-minded – maybe too much so – if there is such a thing. When it comes to gender, I identify as female. When it comes to sexuality, I am more fluid and flexible. I consider myself to be pansexual. I received some asks wondering exactly what pansexual meant, and the best way I describe it is that I am attracted to a person, irrespective of their gender identity or sexuality. Historically, though, I have date straight males and consider myself to be pretty much on the straight side of the sexuality spectrum. However, I am not opposed to pointing out when another woman is attractive (and no, I do not need to say “no homo” and neither should you). There is nothing wrong with recognizing that someone of the same gender is attractive. If you are confident with yourself and secure with your sexuality, you should be able to point out who you find attractive – whether the same gender as you or not – without qualifying it with “I’m not gay but…”
For a more detailed definition of what pansexual is, you can go here.
I’ve never really felt direct discrimination from people I know personally, though I have suspected it indirectly. After coming out to an equestrian regarding my relationship, I coincidentally lost that friendship, but other than that, everyone has been super supportive. My current barn family is extremely accepting of who I am and of my relationship, and I could not be more thankful for that. (Editor’s Note: Many of you have requested to follow my boyfriend on Instagram because you’ve seen me tagged in his photos. Out of respect for his privacy, I ask that you stop doing so unless you know me personally or we are close online. He often gives me his phone to go through his requests, so if he does not accept you; it is not him personally; it’s me being the “gatekeeper.” I do want some parts of my life to remain private).
I am going to break my interviews down by sexual preference or gender identity. Each one will have a header in bold, and you can hit CTRL + F to see if a certain sexual preference or gender identity is on here. I have tried to get as many sexual preferences and gender identities as possible so that this article is all inclusive.
My first interview was with @RaverEquestrian “Raver” who wanted to be identified solely as her Twitter handle. Raver identifies as a heteroromantic asexual female. What is asexuality, you ask?
“Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction, I don’t feel the urge to have sex with anybody,” Raver said. “However we can have sex, masturbate, ect. (sic) It’s just we don’t feel like we want to have sex with any gender/people. I am romantically attracted to males, which means I only want a romantic relationship with no sex.”
Raver said she has always been very “sex repulsed.” She was called “prude, immature, and a baby.”
“I remember a friend saying ‘[o]ne day a guy will make you want to have sex. If not he’ll just rape you so enjoy it.’ And it stuck with me. Last November I learned about asexuality through [T]umblr and identified since.”
Raver is out to Twitter followers and to her friends, who she said are very supportive. However, she has found it hard to come out to her family whom she describes as “very conservative.”
Unfortunately, Raver has experienced a lot of harassment due to her sexual identity.
“I have been harassed for being a prude. Many guys have tried to ‘fix me,’ but I really only like one guy right now, and he’s very much like me,” she said. “I can imagine he is demisexual just due to his behaviour (sic), and he tends to talk about not having children and finding sex stupid. I was harassed by my former friend who also physically and verbally abused me. She used to try and make sexual advances [towards] me to show how sex isn’t bad which has caused me to go through a period of sex repulsion before becoming more comfortable with the idea of sex. I currently am sex=neutral and positive…”
Raver said that she has become popular online and has actually helpedd people come to terms with their own sexuality.
“I honestly never imagined I would become more well-known for being a social justice advocate and proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community than I would have for raving and riding,” she said. (Raver & I share a love for EDM and horses which is why we are such good friends. Oh, and we both love what some have dubbed the “armpit of America.”)
When asked about the conservatism of the equestrian world and whether she feels the equestrian world is acceptive of the LGBTQIA+ community, Raver said:
“I believe we are half and half with liberals and conservatives. I generally ignore people who are rude that respond to me on Twitter. I am not at all conservative in riding and politics so I’ve been made fun of. I brush it off as opinions are not fact. I think we have accepted that ‘most male riders are gay,’ which I don’t believe. I believe more gay male riders are popular online as I’ve really only come across 2 gay men out of 10 straight men.”
Raver believes the sport itself is becoming more liberal. As a dressage rider, she owns a sparkly JR8 Charles Own, a navy jacket with “tons of bling accents” and a small rhinestone browband (on occasion).
Raver thinks that more awareness is needed regarding LGBTQIA+ issues.
“There are more than just two genders! Bisexuality and pansexuals are NOT the same! Asexuals feel love! Aromantics can be sexual and still love platonically! Intersex is an actual biological thing that DOES NOT need to be fixed! We are on a spectrum of gender identity and sexual and romantic orientation! There’s even more orientations!” She said. “You can be sensually attracted to people which means you crave their touch (not generally sexually) or love their aesthetics, which means you are attracted to their looks … The community is open for all and we’re not “recruiting” or “going to hell”; we’re just being ourselves. We were born like this. I can’t just magically be sexually attracted to every man I see.”
Raver hasn’t experienced any negativity associated with being “out.” She hopes that she can be out and become a professional rider. She also does not believe her sexual identity should lower her scores in any way.
When asked about advice for those who are afraid to come out, Raver said:
“Don’t come out if you can’t guarantee safety! This is number one,” she said. “If you’re afraid your parents would kick you out, just wait. I know it sucks, but that’s my life right now. If you are safe, do it however you like and whenever. It’s a relief to tell close friends how you feel and many will be supportive. Be proud of your sexuality. I have the asexual flag in my Twitter [avatar] now because I am a proud asexual. Be as ___sexual/romantic/gender as you want!”
One thing Raver wants others to know about identifying as asexual is that an asexual individual can still find someone attractive. Being attracted to a man, woman, or other gender does not mean the person’s asexuality goes away. Asexual goes beyond physical attraction.
Overall, Raver feels that equestrians should be known for what they do not to whom they are attracted.
“We don’t want to be just labeled ‘[T]he gay who ran 100M in record time’ or ‘The bisexual scored the winning World Cup goal’ because that isn’t cool. What if I said ‘The straight won an Oscar’? Sounds kinda stupid[,] right?”
I spoke with QueenQuarter (“Quarter”), also from Twitter. She did not want to be identified by anything other than her Twitter handle. She identifies as bisexual which means she is “attracted to both males and females equally and indiscriminately.”
“My freshman year of high school I was curious about the same gender but didn’t officially come to realization with my sexuality until my sophomore year; even then, I tried to deny it as friends who were far from ignorant tried playfully ‘shoving me out of the closet’ before I came to terms with who I was,” Quarter said.
Note: It is never okay to out someone before they are ready. Don’t do this.
Quarter said she is out amongst her close friends and people in school; however, she is not out to her family or her parents. Although Quarter said her dad is “incredibly accepting,” she does not think he would 100 percent approve of her bisexuality. Additionally, her mom does not agree with what her mom terms “the gays.” She also did not really have to come out due to having an intimate relationship with a close friend who identifies as a lesbian.
“…[M]y friends found out, but I am lucky enough to have incredibly accepting friends, and though I currently have a boyfriend, he knows who I am and keeps just as careful of an eye out for females making moves on me as he does with males,” she said.
According to Quarter, her sexual identity has not affected her riding or anything in the equestrian world. However, her sexuality also is not “very out there.” Quarter has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy meaning she doesn’t really broadcast her sexuality unless asked by someone.
“…[Q]uite a few of the girls at my barn know, but there’s quite a few people out there who identify as gay or lesbian, so they are all very accepting,” Quarter said.
Quarter also said she has never met any “homophobes” in the equestrian world.
“Everyone I come across doesn’t really seem to mind, and I think I have been very lucky, as the equestrian stereotype does seem a bit homophobic to me,” she explained.
Although Quarter does think anything needs more or less attention when it comes to LGBTQIA+ issues, she did say this:
“We are people, just like everyone else[.] We only want the same rights and freedoms and less slander from people on the street who don’t necessarily agree with it. If you believe your religion is against anything in this community, that’s okay. But, that comes with a general rule: Just because someone of a different religion dislikes something that your religion doesn’t mind doesn’t give them the right to protest what you are doing or say it is right or wrong, as everyone has the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness – given the fact that your pursuit does not hinder someone else’s,” she said. “…I believe government should try and implement something that protects people from blatant slander and protest such as happens on the streets.”
Quarter stated she has a very outspoken, bisexual trainer, and she feels that while being “out” would not put her at a disadvantage in the equestrian world, if anything was to be said, she would be backed up by multiple friends.
Quarter’s advice for other members of the LGBTQIA+ community was:
“People may be kind; people may also be unaccepting. Whatever happens, you continue to stay true to yourself. The only other being in this sport that matters other than yourself is your horse. And I promise that your horse does not care. You are the same as you have always been, and at the end of the day, as long as they have a loving rider and a nice place to sleep and food, they will be happy. ”
Finally, Quarter asked that everyone “love unconditionally.”
“You never know what kind of day someone could be having, and this is not just about this large and growing community, but about life and people in general,” she said. “Being kind, no matter how much or little, or what someone has to offer you will take you farther than you could ever imagine.”
Another rider, Kate, also identifies as bisexual. She realized her sexual identity in 10th grade.
“We were having a volleyball party,” Kate said. “I was dared to kiss one of the other girls, and after the fact I wasn’t as freaked out about it as the other girls. Then, I just slowly came to realize I viewed girls in the same scenarios as I would boys when it came to dating and whatnot.”
Kate is currently out to her friends and other people with whom she is close. She is also out to her parents who reacted in an interesting way.
“My mom actually told me she thought I was a lesbian growing up, so she had prepared herself for something like this, and my dad just didn’t care one way or another,” Kate said. “Most of my immediate family was fine too[;] there was one aunt I didn’t want to tell, but it got out to her anyway.”
Part of the reason Kate didn’t want to come out to this specific aunt was because of how religious the aunt was.
“…she called my Jewish side of the family once to tell them she found them a loophole to get into heaven. I got the same kind of call [after coming out] only that I was going to hell and an abomination to this world.”
Additionally, Kate hasn’t really come out to anyone in school.
“…I didn’t want to deal with it. I got bullied for ‘being a lesbian’ which I’m not, and it really shouldn’t matter if I was,” she said.
Kate, unlike most of the others I interviewed, has had some backlash regarding her sexual identity when it comes to the equestrian world.
“I’ve had some girls on the A Circuit tell me they didn’t want me too close to the because I would ‘rub off on them,’ she said. “It was a really weird experience. For the most part my trainers treat me the same, and everybody at my home barn doesn’t care.”
Kate said that she doesn’t want to sound like she is generalizing, but the hunter and equitation riders with whom she competes with at shows are the ones “who disliked it [her sexual identity] the most.”
“Otherwise I’m part of a team, with my horse (who doesn’t care as long as I have food for him) and a wonderful show team who loves me the way I am!” She said.
Kate wishes people knew “[t]hat just because we are accepting doesn’t mean we want to force being one of us down your throat. We can’t change who you are[;] we don’t want to change who you are[;] we just want to be accepted as ‘normal.'”
Kate has also found that competing on the West Coast, for her, has been much different than competing on the East Coast.
“Having shown on the [W]est [C]oast…, you’re much less likely to find people that are derogatory towards our community. I think that has to do with the way those states tend to be governed. They’re more liberal … Now I’ve also been on the [E]ast [C]oast … and they’re much more conservative. The vast majority of people won’t say anything to your face, but you can feel them staring behind your back. I can’t say for the rest of the world or other disciplines,” Kate said.
Kate had this to say to those who are scared to come out and to those who are also members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
“You’re a beautiful human who is perfect just the way [you] are, however that may be! You can’t let other people get in the way of feeling beautiful too. People that don’t like you just the way you are aren’t worth your time – not your time spent worrying or your time spent thinking about them. Surround yourself with people who do accept you and forget about the ones that don’t. If you love you, everybody else will too.”
She continued, “[b]eing seen with someone from the LGBTQIA+ community doesn’t make you any less of a person. They were born that way, just as us you were born you. You can’t change them, and they can’t change you. Hating them for it only makes them hate themselves, it doesn’t change who they are fundamentally.”
Kate suggests being kind to everyone as “you never know where they could’ve gone or who they could’ve been before somebody bullied them for something they didn’t choose, and they can’t change.”
Pansexual / Bisexual
SmallTownTrainer (“Small Town”) is another equestrian that identifies as bisexual, though she said that pansexual is a better label. According to her, “biological sex, gender, and gender identity play no part in [her] preferences.”
“When it comes to sexual attraction, I don’t see gender,” Small Town said.
Small Town said that high school was the time when she realized she wasn’t straight. She had the same feelings for the “cute drama guy as [she] did for the sexy cheerleader.” She didn’t learn what she really was until college after having more experiences, and that is when she knew she was pansexual.
Small Town, unlike some others, is not “out” at all; although some of her friends do know. She follows a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which most people don’t violate. Additionally, she tried to come out to her mom once, and her mom interrupted her by saying, “well, we all know you’re straight so it doesn’t matter.”
Small Town has never experienced any direct harassment or discrimination based on her sexual preferences or identity. However, she said this:
“I once listened to a barn owner I worked for tell me she would never hire any ‘queers’ because it would cause too much drama. I have had many derogatory remarks about bisexuals said to me without people ever realizing,” Small Town said. “It always made me hate myself to hear that bisexuals are just confused or that gays don’t deserve rights. I don’t think I would still be here if they [the comments] were directed towards me.”
According to Small Town, no one cared what was done outside of the barn while she was in college.
“[Our] equestrian team was like an episode of Jersey Shore but with hungover girls trying to show at the end. I still have a shot glass that says Purdue Horse Show from my first place. After college I felt the pressure to stay quiet about my sexuality,” Small Town explained. “As far as the people at the barns I worked at knew I never had sex which made it really hard to see my girlfriend at the time when I worked seven days a week. Later when I tried to become a trainer on my own one of my clients found out. Somehow almost all of my clients found out. It became frustrating when clients would come out while I was training, not to watch me ride but to ask me questions. “
Small Town feels that the equestrian community, as a whole, comes off as conservative but tries to pretend they aren’t – mainly in how they treat male equestrians.
“Especially in the English world a male equestrian is allowed to be guy. However said male equestrian will get strange looks if he brings his boyfriend to a show,” Small Town said. “However I feel for women it’s even more taboo. As a women I am to have a man who helps around the barn and/or pays for everything. If it’s anything other than that it is a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy. People are willing to ignore those who are different.”
If Small Town could educate people on one thing, it would be this: “It is not all about being confused and we are not going through a phase. There are feelings involved that are often not fully understood. Just because those feelings are different does not mean they are wrong.”
According to Small Town, she believes that being “out” in the equestrian world does the following: “All of a sudden no one is talking about your most recent show or your horses improvement. It is more about your sexuality and questions about it.”
Small Town also emphasized that no matter what your sexual orientation or gender identity is, there is nothing wrong with you. Small Town also said that if you’re afraid to come out, it doesn’t mean you’re weak – it just means you’re human.
SJWEquestrian (“SJW”) identifies most as lesbian/queer. According to her, this just means that she is “pretty much just attracted to women.” SJW realized she was attracted to women before she realized she wasn’t attracted to men, and this was around age 12, though she did think it was “just a phase.”
SJW is “out” to close friends and on her Twitter account but not yet to her family. She came out as a lesbian to her best friends when she was about 20 years old.
“I decided to finally tell them because I was sick of them trying to set me up with guys!” She said. “I sent them an email[,] and I was so scared[,] but they ended up being really supportive.”
SJW said she hasn’t really been the target of any bullying, harassment, or discrimination since junior high when some girls used to make fun of her and call her a lesbian because she never had a crush on any guys.
“I used to get so upset[,] but now I just wish that I had as good of gaydar as they did! Nowadays it’s mostly dealing with people saying derogatory things about the LGBTQIA community when I’m around because they don’t know that I’m queer. While it helps me figure out who I should keep in my life, it still hurts sometimes,” she said.
Because SJW is not fully out, her sexual orientation has not affected her too much in the equestrian world, though she hasn’t ruled out that it might once she does fully come out.
When asked about how conservative the equestrian community tends to be, SJW stated:
“The equestrian community is kind of strange in that even though a lot of the members are very conservative, they are usually very pro-LGBTQIA rights,” she said. “For example, I’d say that most of the people at my barn vote Republican, but at the same time they’re also very supportive of the LGBTQIA community. Even though I disagree with them on a lot of other issues, it’s nice having a safe space where people are generally very accepting.”
SJW said that even though same-sex marriage has been legalized in the United States, there are still many steps that need to be taken and hurdles that need to be overcome.
“For example, I can legally get fired in my state for being gay, and I don’t think that a lot of straight people realize that,” SJW said. “I also think that we need to address the very high suicide attempt rate of teens in the LGBTQIA community. I think that a lot of LGBTQIA teens feel very alone because there still isn’t a lot of discussion about LGBTQIA issues in school and that can get confusing, and adolescence is already pretty confusing. Add bullying and rejection by family and friends, and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed.”
SJW thinks that sexual education in schools should become more friendly towards LGBTQIA individuals and issues and less heteronormative, such as including queer historical figures.
When asked what is most misunderstood about the LGBTQIA community, SJW felt that many “conservatives” felt the community is a “a wild bunch of people who want to take over their lives and corrupt their children with the gay agenda.”
“In reality, I’m actually really boring! I just want to find a good job, maybe find someone to marry, and play with my pony when I have the free time!” She said.
If SJW were to come out to those at her barn, she feels most would be very accepting.
SJW had this advice for those who may be afraid to come out:
“I would recommend to be safe but be yourself!” She said. “If you’re afraid of being thrown out of the house for being queer, I’d highly recommend waiting until you’re financially independent to come out. It sucks, but it’ll keep you safe. After that be free!”
Finally, her once piece of advice? “Keep on fighting! Educate other people too! Share LGBTQIA positive posts on social media because you never know who’ll see them and realize that they’re not quite as straight as they thought. Maybe your homophobic aunt will even learn a thing or two from them!”
She also encouraged anyone who needed advice to contact her via her Twitter account.
I hope this article has helped those of you who either didn’t understand some aspects of the LGBTQIA+ community, are members of the community and were afraid to come out and be who you are, or who had questions that had remained unanswered. Of course, if you ever have any questions, I am always available, whether it’s via email, Twitter DM, Facebook private message, or Ask.fm. Please note, though, that invasive, derogatory comments and questions will not be entertained, and you will be blocked from contacting me.