This Sussex Life: Marco Abousleiman, Law student: “Never before have I felt as comfortable about my sexuality"
Marco Abousleiman, Law with Business and Management undergraduate, is taking part in this year’s Brighton & Hove Pride parade on Saturday 3 August.
For me Pride means two things: acceptance and appreciation. Coming to terms with being gay was something I found extremely difficult. I wanted to convince myself I was straight. After struggling to try to change it became clear that, even though accepting I was gay would mean having to accept a different life, the difficulties of that life would not be as damaging as what I had been doing to myself so far.
It took a long time for me to shake off my own negative connotations of the word ‘gay’. Though I felt very uncomfortable discussing things with others at first, trying to include others on your journey can be one of the most beneficial things to do. When people find out someone they know is gay they can end up seeing the person and the humanity behind one’s sexuality, not just the politics in front of it.
Pride was the first time I saw the LGBTQ+ community out on the streets and celebrated. It made me realise that the environment I had grown up in was not the same everywhere and that people could be happy being out and proud. I experienced an infectious happiness from the crowd. For many in the community who believe that life will not improve, Pride serves as a beacon for what life can become once they grow up.
Pride was, is and always will be a protest. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that sparked the modern LGBTQ+ movement. I think it’s very important that people from my generation remember how much those before us had to fight for the rights that we enjoy today. I also think it’s important that we don’t drop the baton. There is still a lot more that we need to do when it comes to supporting the transgender community, decriminalisation abroad and intersectional discrimination. We may feel like we are on an upward trajectory in regard to diversity and inclusion, but we must not forget that things can change, especially in a political environment as volatile and increasingly populist as our current one.
I chose to study at Sussex because I knew how famous Brighton is for valuing the LGBTQ+ community and how the University lives these values. Coming from my Catholic school, I needed an environment where I could feel safe and would not want to hide my sexuality. Really, I felt like I needed a healing period after sixth form, before facing life post-university, and Sussex was the best place to have that.
Another reason I came to Sussex was for its academics. Something I find really special about my degree is how it is a qualifying law degree yet I still have business and management modules. These modules have helped me to earn a place doing a work experience programme at Goldman Sachs, EY, Hyatt and Hogan Lovells. The number of co-curricular things on offer really spoke to me, as well. The junior mooting competition where you have to debate on a point of law in a simulated appellant court has really helped me develop advocacy skills. I am also looking forward to volunteering in the Law School’s pro-bono clinics, which give free legal advice to members of the general public. I can see how my degree can make a difference to people’s lives before I have even left university.
My first year at Sussex has been sensational. In my first term I was worried about whether I would have to change in order to fit in, but I found out quite soon that being your authentic self and having something different about you is really valued in an environment as loving and creative as this one. Never before have I felt as comfortable about my sexuality as I have at Sussex and I think marching in the parade will be the perfect way to embody that. When I think back to how I was a year ago I would never have imagined that things really could turn around so much for the better.
This interview is part of the This Sussex Life series.