Jeff Carter (he/him)
I have always grown up feeling like ‘The Other’. Growing up as a mixed-race boy in a predominantly white community resulted in always yearning to fit in as a child, and some resentment of my own bloodlines. I remember wasting so many birthday wishes on waking up as a white boy with blue eyes. Growing up was hard, because of my race. And then when my skin colour didn’t matter anymore, it became hard because I was gay. It was impossible to keep my head down when I always stuck out like a sore thumb.
I don’t remember fancying boys when I was little (in fact, my first crush was Yuffie from Final Fantasy VII)… and I didn’t become aware of my own sexuality until puberty. I came out when I was 17 after I’d had time to internalise and process this myself, and I am privileged to say that I was accepted by my family, though my mum took a little while longer to fully accept this. My Roman Catholic mum had grown up with the old Filipino superstition that all gay people were possessed by evil spirits, so I had inadvertently made her challenge her own belief system at the time.
Working at UEA
For staff communities like ‘Staff Pride Network’ and ‘BAME Staff Network’ to even BE, is mind-blowing to me. I haven’t worked anywhere before with Staff Networks like these, so I feel privileged to keep them running as both a member and part of my role in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Office.
As my knowledge and awareness has grown, I’ve reviewed previous life experiences with a new lens, spotting the microaggressions that I had been drowning in alone at the time. I was not bullied because I was Asian, I was not bullied because I was gay. I was bullied because they were racist, I was bullied because they were homophobic. I was not the problem, they were.
Since joining the UEA, I no longer feel the burden of representation. I don’t have to dress straighter, style my hair ‘less like an anime character’ or put on a hetero-normative work façade (and voice) to prove gay men can be ‘bros’ too. I can discover who I want to be; and that’s a very freeing feeling.
I’ve gone from a misunderstood child to an out and proud gay man with an adopted child. After a lifetime of closing myself off to others, I am still on a journey to find my own inner pride; but now find openness a great place to start disarming prejudice.