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Shetland Lives / Shetland Pride trustee Kate Harvey: ‘Pride is important because it makes us visible’

For the final story on LGBT+ Shetlanders before tomorrow’s Pride celebrations, Shetland News spoke to committee member Kate Harvey

Kate grew up outside Manchester before moving to Shetland five years ago.

“My family is very LGBTQ+ friendly,” she said. “It wasn’t until I was probably in high school that I actually learned that wasn’t ‘normal’.

“I had family friends that were lesbians and it was totally open. In school you’d get the odd comment but it’s not something that someone would be bullied for.”

Due to her open and accepting family, Kate never felt the need to officially come out to them.

‘People tend to think like either I can be disabled or I can be gay.’ Photo: Kate Harvey

“I never had to come out. I was just always out.

“I don’t have a coming out story because it didn’t need to happen.

“Which to me I think, should be everyone’s experience… it’s not something you have to go against expectations [to be straight] because the expectations aren’t there in the first place.”

Despite Kate’s generally positive experiences and living near the diverse city of Manchester, the education system was still lacking on LGBT+ issues.

“It wasn’t taught in sex ed and stuff, but it just was a known thing,” she said. “I’ve been going to pride events since I was like seven.

“It wasn’t until I was in university that I kind of got my first brush with homophobia.

“That was not just overt homophobia, it was more kind of bi erasure, biphobia.”

Kate identifies as omnisexual, which is a sexual orientation under the bisexual umbrella. Omnisexual people experience attraction to all genders.

“I still get it now, like people not wanting to date me because I’m bi, because they don’t think I could be monogamous.

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“Most of my time in Shetland, I’ve been in a relationship with a man, and so people just automatically default [to heterosexual].

“When I started dating again and I was dating men and women, I think people were very confused.”

Kate said she now feels safe to be herself in Shetland, but at first she was uncertain.

“It’s not a sense of homophobia, I’ve never been talked down to… it’s just [the LGBT+ community] isn’t visible.

“Which is why I think Pride is important because it makes us visible, and it should be visible… it’s almost like hidden away.

“Here people ask me about [LGBT+] stuff more than I had down south because it’s just a lack of knowledge, but I’ve never worried for my safety up here.”

Whilst Kate wasn’t yet involved in the Shetland Pride committee for last year’s event, she still attended.

“I’m used to Manchester Pride which is one of the biggest in country, it’s hundreds of thousands of people.

“I was like ‘I don’t know what [to expect], is it going to be 10 people who show up, is there going to be issues, is there going to be protests against?’

“I was very pleasantly surprised that it was as positive as it was.”

Pride celebrations declared a huge success

Kate said she doesn’t want any LGBT+ people to feel like they can’t move to Shetland because of their identity.

“It’s important to have that visibility because I don’t want people to have the same reaction of ‘this is something I can’t talk about here’.

“When I first came up here and I was trying to go out and socialise, I was like ‘there’s no gay bar, there’s not even a gay night’.

“That very much put me in this place of like, okay this is just something that isn’t talked about here, I should just not talk about it.

“There was nowhere to go, nowhere to be visible and I felt like I couldn’t ask people out.”

Accessibility at Pride is also a very important issue for Kate, who has her own assistance dog Eevee.

“There is  no disability LGBTQ+ representation,” she said. “There’s hardly any disability representation, never mind combining the two.

“There’s not a lot of disability awareness down south either… it’s not something that’s necessarily unique to Shetland.

“People tend to think like either I can be disabled or I can be gay.”

Of her hopes for future Pride celebrations, Kate said: “I think that’s the ultimate goal, [that] it’s not just a small band of people putting together Pride that people can go to, it’s an event that happens in Shetland, it’s a community event.

“It’s not about just us, we want everyone to be involved. It’s not something that is an exclusive club, it’s a normal thing that happens.

“The most important thing for me is that it becomes a normality in society.”

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