Pride Month is far from over, Loungers.
We’re back with even more pride-worthy content and this time, we caught up with influencer, Bel Priestley, another beloved member of our Female Family.
Bel has racked up more than 94,000 followers on Instagram and over 924,000 followers on TikTok over the years. She’s got quite the fanbase! Talking all things fashion, lifestyle and LGBTQ+, Bel has created a growing community over the years and is beautifully transparent about her transgender journey.
We caught up with Bel on Pride Month, Lounging, self love and her own personal journey of self discovery and acceptance.
Hey, Bel! Thank you so much for talking with us. How are you?
Hi Lounge, thanks for having me on this blog feature and I'm good, thank you! I'm super ready for this lockdown to finish so I can continue progressing in my career.
Are you excited about Pride Month this year? Hopefully, festivals might be on the cards which is something to be excited about!
I am so excited for Pride Month. The last time it felt like a proper pride was when I was 16 (because of covid) but now that I’m 18, I can celebrate in full swing!
Speaking of Pride, it must be such an important time for you. As a transgender woman, how important is Pride Month to you?
Pride Month feels so important to me as it’s a time to educate and spread awareness about the LGBTQIA+ community. I feel like transgender people are constantly faced with misconceptions, so this month really gives us a chance to educate others. It’s also a time to express who we are and celebrate our individual differences. Being trans, it took me a while to come to terms with who I was and it took even longer be proud of myself. So Pride Month has really helped me feel accepted by pushing the narrative of inclusivity.
When were you first aware of your real identity?
I had always been aware I was slightly different. From a young age, I went through several episodes of trying to find myself. Eventually, I finally came to the realisation of who I was and how I felt and I’ve never looked back. I think it’s invaluable how we all have different experiences to get to this stage and who we are.
Was it difficult revealing your identity to friends and family? Sadly, so many people feel like they can't be true to themselves out of the fear of rejection.
It was difficult to come out as I was so young. It was tough because of school, and teachers made it harder for a smooth transition. Peers at school would treat me differently and teachers still treat me as a male and addressed me by my dead name. However, my parents were so much easier to come out to as they had already accepted me when I was wearing make up and dressing differently.
In my situation, I was so lucky to have super supportive parents but I know it’s not the case for everyone, which is why Pride Month is so important to kill the stigma and educate people to respect and understand the topic more.
Was there ever a point where you were treated differently in person or online?
Yes, without a doubt. I’d be treated with less respect and people would get away with doing a lot worse to me because I was trans. For example, people would hit me, bully me, call me names and this would come with a ‘you’re trans, so you should expect this’ narrative. Even the teachers would turn a blind eye to it. Talking about it feels so weird as I forget that that was my life and the way I was being treated wasn't normal.
In terms of online, the hate comments are on a different scale. It’s outrageous, and the ‘you should expect it’ narrative is amplified due to having followers. The whole ‘well you’re putting yourself out there so deal with it, it comes with the job’ perception really comes in to play.
No one deserves that, but it's humbling to see that you deal with it so well. How do you deal with negative comments online and stay positive?
I think you can get into a toxic place just reading the hate. I try to avoid reading the comments, for example when I post, I’ll avoid going on Tiktok for a bit. Then I’ll see what the top comments are and reply to the viewers who support me! Unfortunately, the top comments aren’t always nice though.
I feel like Youtube is more communal and has less hate though, which still is not an excuse. To be honest, I don’t really contemplate how much hate I get because it's so bad. At the end of the day, I am grateful for my job and I think enjoying my job and having a supportive circle really helps me feel more positive.
Agreed. How important do you think it is for people to embrace their sexuality and/or identity?
I think it’s important that we express ourselves in order to be happy. One of the most important things is happiness which I don’t think you can do if you aren’t yourself, so I feel for the people who haven’t been able to do this. It's so hard to go through life feeling like you won’t be accepted for you.
What would be your advice to our Loungers who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality and/or identity out of fear of rejection?
My advice is that it’s okay to be different, and you will find those people who will accept you. You are never the problem - they are. At the time of coming out, I felt like I was the burden when in reality, I was surrounded by the wrong people.
Whatever you’re feeling is completely normal, it’s not weird - it’s okay! Take baby steps at your own pace and everything that is meant to be, will be. Don’t be afraid to seek support when you need it. There are so many organisations and people out there who care about us. And lastly, if you are you, and you're happy within yourself, congratulations and Happy Pride Month!
You can follow Bel on Instagram here.