Living queer in Cornwall: my experience

| Cecilie Johnsen / Unsplash

Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community anywhere in the world is always challenging, however, where you live can present its own unique challenges too. I can’t vouch for cities like London or Bristol, but I can definitely talk about my own experience of both growing up and living in Cornwall as a queer person.

Living in Cornwall is a strange experience in and of itself. For some reason, most of the people who live here for any period of time develop a strong opinion on how they have their scones and usually try surfing at least once (I definitely have, and I am not good at it). Cornwall often has a somewhat strong impact on those who live here, especially if they live here for long enough. Having been raised here and attended university in Cornwall, I have quite a deep insight into what its like to live here as a queer person — I live it daily. Living in Cornwall is just as strange as a queer person.

I had an incredibly strong sense of being an outsider whilst growing up in this little county

The main thing that I have noticed is that there appears to be very few queer people actually in Cornwall, or at least that is how it feels. Honestly, I blame the small population and the distance between towns. It was not until I joined the University of Exeter that I met a range of queer people and was lucky enough to make strong bonds with them. Even college felt like a huge change since there were actual out and proud queer people just… existing. My experience at primary school, where I genuinely did not know that being gay was an actual thing, and secondary school, where anyone who was queer did not proudly tell people, left me with a warped view of the LGBTQ+ community. In my secondary school, if you did tell someone, it often ended up all over the school by the end of the day. The boredom of secondary school students knows no bounds.

Considering the lack of LGBTQ+ knowledge in my childhood, as well as the taboo and gossip surrounding the topic in secondary, I had an incredibly strong sense of being an outsider whilst growing up in this little county. Even those “out” people that I did know of personally were just as wary and isolated as me; trust issues included. Arguably, this kind of isolation and lack of knowledge has to do with the smaller population, the insane amount of small and contained villages, and the distance between towns that is specific to Cornwall. Each of these factors are, in my personal opinion, the main reason as to why Cornwall seems to be so isolated from, and ignorant to, the LGBTQ+ community. All of this seems to be exacerbated by the traditional, nuclear ideals of Cornwall overall. 

Most of the places I have been to in Cornwall during my lifetime were openly kind and caring, but yet often still steeped in a conventional, nuclear family sentiment that left me feeling like an outsider in my own county. Knowing the ingrained ideals of those around, despite the charming sweetness that (somehow) nearly all Cornish people portray, often left me feeling distanced due to not fitting in with the long-established, apparent norm. I put this down to the lack of queer education and the fact that parents have passed down their own ideals to their children for so long. The younger generation which I belong to, those going through university and starting their own lives, are (thank goodness) breaking this deep-rooted ideal, whether that be through social media or just word of mouth. Knowing that those around me are finally changing this broken mould practically eradicates this outsider sensation for me.