For many teenagers eager for independence, learning to drive can be an exciting new experience.
However the stigma that surrounds homosexuality means many members of the LGBT community feel uncomfortable under the teachings of an old-fashioned instructor.
While many people will mindlessly chat away to their instructor about the headaches of their opposite gender counterparts, others feel uncomfortable revealing their homosexuality to a stranger and continue a heterosexual façade.
The Gay Driving School in Manchester caters to the LGBT community, making them feel comfortable with a teacher who makes no assumption of sexual preference.
Karis Smith, creator of the school, teaches people of all gender, race, religion and sexuality, and credits the inspiration for her driving school to listening to the problems the LGBT community face when learning to drive.
She said: “As a pupil you’ll spend 40 to 50 hours learning to drive in very close proximity to a total stranger; part of feeling at ease during your lessons is building a good rapport with your instructor – this is much easier when you can just be yourself.
“After a conversation with a few gay friends and them telling me their experiences of learning to drive it quickly became apparent that many of them said they’d never felt that comfortable with their instructors.”
Some of the complaints made to Karis were issues such as constantly using non-gender pronouns when chatting with their instructor, mentioning their ‘partner’ rather than girlfriend/boyfriend, or lying about what they did for a living rather than admitting they worked in a bar on Canal Street was another.
Sarah Mcnally, spokesperson for the Lesbian and Gay Foundation Manchester, said: “Unfortunately some people still face discrimination and homophobia in society today, so feel more comfortable accessing LGBT specific spaces or services.”
Trans learners faced a larger problem of discrimination and rather than keeping their personal life private, face ridicule when their backs were turned.
Karis said: “Examiners laughing at trans students for presenting as a different gender to that on their driving licence is a story I’ve come across more than once.
“Trans pupils face an added issue in that they are more visible and therefore more open to discrimination and in some instances probing personal questions.
“I’ve had a pupil come to me halfway through her training as her previous instructor shared many of his far-right political beliefs and extreme views on race, immigration and sexuality during conversations in the lessons that made her very uncomfortable.”
For Karis, she believes that LGBT services may constrict society and that all businesses and industries should not stereotype based on a person’s life style choices.
“I don’t think we should live in a world where all LGBT people should only use services from other LGBT providers – but I do think it’s important for people to have that option should they wish.”
For more information, or to book lessons with The Gay Driving School please visit www.gaydrivingschoolmanchester.co.uk or call 07738 797524.
Picture courtesy of David D Muir, with thanks.