Rainbows and music, stickers and face paints …

20160903_122413

Hertfordshire Pride wasn’t too long ago, and I still can’t get the rainbows, music and amazing stalls out of my head! This blog post is dedicated to those who didn’t go.

Walking into the tent of stalls was incredible.  Left and right were people working busily at their charity stall, setting up posters, hand outs and stickers. I didn’t know there was so many LGBT+ dedicated charities. I was helping at the Youth Connexions stall and we had so many stickers, badges etc. I brought my own face paints- why not! 

10am struck and people began piling through the door. It was so wonderful to be able to see such diversity! It was so easy to talk to everyone as we all had something in common. Anyway, it turns out bringing face paints was a good idea as everyone wanted it done! I spent most of my morning just applying rainbow face paint.

Later on I went outside to see the outside stalls. There was a large tent on the far side of the field full of people dancing and a stage for singers. There was also some carnival rides to the other corner of the field playing loud music too. Scattered around were little desks with people behind them, advertising stuff like Healthwatch Hertfordshire (by the way, I won a free portable phone charger from them somehow) and stalls selling shirts and food.

Near the end of the afternoon it started to rain so everyone ended up packing up even though we were planning to stay until 10pm. It was a really lovely day and I recommend going next year to anyone!

Emi, 14, Who not What member

Advertisements

Tattoo Fixers on Holiday

With a large rise, in body modifications and body art, E4’s Tattoo Fixer’s were clever in jumping on the bandwagon and designing a show in which three tattoo artists; Sketch, Jay and Alice correct some of the UK’s worst tattoos, and on occasion, create original designs for their clients. 

The show has been widely critiqued for its originality and honesty, relating to the artists and designs however in the most recent series that has just ended the final episode featured a lesbian couple.

The couple, Amy and Chantelle, walked in having booked an appointment with Sketch for an original piece to represent their love for eachother, as they were due to be married in a number of days. 

Both aged 21 and with their birthdays just six days apart, the couple have been together for nearly three years and already live together, so marriage seems naturally, like the next step for the pair.

They stated that they met online and clicked instantly, and it was evident to all viewers that they were completely head over heels in love with each other and were besotted with each other.

Chantelle wanted to propose on a romantic boat trip with Amy, however the inseparable duo went out the night before and in her alcohol fuelled excitement, Chantelle blurted out the question and had to improvise with a ring to ask Amy to marry her.

 The soon to be weds describe themselves as best friends and wanted a joint tattoo, to accompany the same wedding rings and “same everything” that they already have.

Paisley, the shows receptionist asked to see Amy’s ring and Sketch questioned whether they would both be wearing dresses or if one would be wearing a suit, which begs the question, why are lesbian couples still being stereotyped and categorised in to who is butch and who is femme?

On further discussion the couple disclosed that they will be getting married on a beach, and both will be wearing different dresses.

Sketch designed a tattoo combining two women kissing, with some flowers that was initially created as one design but drawn so that it could be split into two parts, so that both Amy and Chantelle had one half of the design each.

He chose to input the LGBT flag in the background of the design which was a subtle but nice touch, showing that he had thought about the design, and the pair decided to have the piece tattooed on their forearm.

Whilst tattooing the pair Sketch questioned “Are you always this cute?” as the couple quite clearly displayed their affection for each other.

Also soon to be wed and featured on the episode was couple Jodie and James; James had come in for a cover up of an awful tattoo on his leg which was covered with a casino inspired piece.

Amy and Chantelle’s tattoos were soon finished and looked really stunning, with both stating “Oh my god, we love it, it’s even better than we imagined, it’s beautiful.”

 

Samaya, 21, Herts

Long Distance Relationships ….

Entering into a long distance relationship (LDR) may be one of the best decisions of your life, but equally it may be one of the hardest choices you can make. I myself am currently in a LDR with my girlfriend, who has flown to Minnesota for 4 months so she can do Camp America. (She is literally over 4000 miles away, across the ocean and with a 6 hour time difference).

 My girlfriend and I had been together for just under 4 months before she flew out to Minnesota. She had already had the trip planned before we met, so there was nothing I could do to change it. We had multiple arguments about it before she went away, but at the end of the day it is such a fantastic opportunity for her. Honestly, letting her go was the hardest thing I think I have ever done. I went to the airport with her mum, brother and sister to drop her off. That last hug I gave her with tears falling down my face and every inch of my body not wanting to let go, was the most heart breaking experience of my life. I kept telling myself that everything was going to be okay, that I wouldn’t miss her too much and that everything would be fine.

 I was pretty much wrong about everything. I miss her every single day, she’s the first thought on my mind in the morning and the last thought on my mind before I go to sleep. Nothing has been fine since she’s been away either. Unfortunately for me, my life has turned into a series of unfortunate events and everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. The only person that I want to turn to is my girlfriend, but I can’t. It is difficult, but I would never ever let her go because of that difficulty.

We have had numerous arguments over the silliest of things, whether it’s not replying to a message, or not saying ‘I love you’ back… trust me these arguments are stupid! But at the same time, hearing her voice will make my heart race, and being able to see her on FaceTime, well that brings a smile to my face that takes hours to disappear. We are lucky enough to be able to talk daily, even if only a quick text. Despite that though, my girlfriend has sent letters home for me to read and keep (and cry over). I’m currently building her a shoebox of her favourite things to post out to her!

 I guess the point of this blog post is to explain that although a LDR is incredibly hard and lacking the physical comfort your partner can give you, doesn’t necessarily mean that an LDR isn’t worth it. So many people will end a relationship when their partner has to leave for whatever reason, but I can assure you that maintaining a LDR is incredibly rewarding. Being able to count down the days until you see your partner, or writing them love letters, it keeps the spark and the romance alive. If you genuinely love your partner, then no matter how hard a LDR may be, I can assure you will be worth it in the end.

F, Hatfield, 17                                                                              Supported by Youth Connexions

 

Losing my Pride virginity …

As of Saturday 25th June 2016, I can officially say that I am no longer a Pride virgin!

Through working as a member of Who Not What, I was offered the opportunity to attend Pride in London as part of the Stonewall Youth Event. As my fellow WnW member Lizzie described, it was a truly humbling experience.

Attending Pride made me truly feel like a part of the LGBT community and I finally felt at peace with myself. My sexuality has always been something that I have struggled with, since coming out a year ago I have been almost afraid to flaunt my ‘gayness’ and in a way I have been afraid to be out and proud. Going to Pride with a group of inspirational people and marching with Stonewall made me feel at home and I felt finally able to accept myself.

So to all of you Pride virgins out there, come along to Herts Pride on Saturday 3rd September 2016 at Gadebridge Park, Hemel Hempstead from 10am to 10pm. I hope to see you there

 

Female, 17, Hatfield                                                                  Supported by Youth Connexions

‘Dating apps – yay or nay?’

Having been previously skeptical about the success of LGBT dating apps in forming long term relationships, after the breakdown of my last relationship I thought I would give it a go. I personally used the app Her (which you have to be 17+ to use), which is aimed at women amongst the LGBT community. The app works by using your location to show you all of the local girls in your area, and allowing you to ‘like’ their profiles. If you and a girl like each others profiles (aka matching), then you are able to instant message and chat.  

After a few days on the app, I had been inundated with notifications of girls that had liked my profile, and I had matched with a few girls too. I spoke to a couple of these girls, all of whom seemed lovely and I exchanged personal details with a few. None of them particularly gave me any sort of feelings or any desire to meet them, so I went quiet on the app for a little while.  

A few days later, a notification came in one evening from a girl about 17 miles away, who was the same height as me, looked stunning and was interested in me! I immediately liked her back and as soon as we had matched, I received a message from her. We began chatting and immediately hit things off and exchanged a few, not a  lot, personal details. This happened on the 26th of January and soon after she asked me on a date! An actual date! It was at this point I had the ‘chat’ with my parents who said I should probably check that my date wasn’t some sort of serial killer or catfish, so we had a chat on FaceTime beforehand, and she was definitely the person in the pictures!

We went ice skating on the 31st of January and we both had an awesome time! I hadn’t even finished driving home before I got a text from her saying she wanted to meet again. The next time I saw her was the 5th of February and it was at about 3am of that night I asked her to become my girlfriend. We are still going strong now and I have never found anyone that I connect with or love more, than I do with this girl.  

So, coming from someone who used to be extremely skeptical about the success of using these apps, I have had nothing but good experiences. I met my soul mate on an app and I plan to spend my future with her. Obviously things change and plans change, but I have never seen a future with anyone ever before her.  

The only thing I recommend with these apps is being extremely careful who you do talk to. In my short time on the app I did speak to a few girls who turned out to be straight men who wanted to sext, before revealing an inappropriate image. Also, if you are planning to meet someone off of an app, try to FaceTime them beforehand or get them to send a photo of themselves holding up a bit of paper with your name on it! Then when you do meet them, make sure your family know where you are going and try to meet somewhere public!

It’s always better to be safe, than sorry!

F, 17, Hatfield                                                       supported by Youth Connexions Hertfordshire

 

‘Acceptance without Exception’

I was lucky enough to be a part of the Stonewall Youth Event at Pride in London 2016 with my youth group in Hertfordshire,  Young Pride in Herts and Who not What. A group of 8 of us attended and marched in the parade alongside other individuals and youth groups from across the country.

I met some amazing, inspirational people and had the best time. So, I thought I would share my experiences. 

Ruth Hunt, the Chief Executive of Stonewall, spoke to us, eloquently as always, about the history of Pride. Since much of the focus of media surrounding Pride nowadays is more of a ‘who has the most outrageously fabulous outfit’, it’s easy to forget where we started. Of course, we had a sprinkling of people with us who were there in the pride marches of the eighties, when Pride was a protest more than a parade; where, in stark contrast to today, people would jeer and threaten, instead of applaud and encourage. Ruth drew the contrast of how in years gone by, the police had lined the streets of London to protect those marching, whereas now the police march alongside us, as one of us. That was certainly made clear by not only one, but two proposals made during the pride parade by police officers!

We also heard from two Stonewall Young Leaders- Charlie Craggs and Courtney Francis- about what they have done on the Young Leaders Programme. Charlie deserves a special mention for her work setting up Nail Transphobia which is a pop-up nail salon that she takes round the country where people can get their nails done for free and can ask questions about being transgender and how to be an ally. Charlie says “the most important part of the interaction for me is just having a laugh and a chat because what I’m really trying to do with my campaign is humanise the issue and show that trans people are just normal (actually pretty nice) people. I’m trying to change hearts and minds a nail at a time.”

After ‘rainbow-ing up’, donning our red Stonewall t-shirts and taking some ‘before’ photos (before we potentially got lost in the crowds), we set off to join the hundreds of people eagerly awaiting the start of the parade.

This year was more diverse than ever, from the Armed Forces, who showed their colours in the Red Arrow fly by; to the Warwick Rowers, who of course were kitted out in their lycra. Joking aside, it made me proud to see representation of so many diverse groups, not to mention the fact that the LGBT community as a whole seems to be the most welcoming and non-judgemental of any I know. There were groups campaigning for refugee rights, others for anti-discrimination protection of all kinds and most of all an atmosphere of positivity which after recent events such as Orlando and a certain dividing referendum for the UK, was greatly needed. Of course, the events in Orlando were not forgotten, but marked by many tributes to the victims and a two-minute silence in Trafalgar Square. Moments like this remind us not to get complacent and the need for Pride is just as important now as it was when it first started, no matter who you are, as Stonewall says ‘Acceptance without Exception’. 

It was an absolute privilege to be a part of the Stonewall Youth Event and to represent such a fantastic organisation. I would recommend it to anyone if you get the chance! My thanks have to go out to Alex Ferguson, our youth worker from Youth Connexions, Stonewall UK and all its volunteers as well as Lloyds Bank who supported the Stonewall Youth Event.

Happy Pride everyone!

Love Lizzie x

Some useful links:

Twitter  @hertsyoungpride @1125wnw

Young Pride in Herts  http://www.youngprideinherts.org

Stonewall http://www.youngstonewall.org.uk

Courtney Francis  http://www.youngstonewall.org.uk/what-we-do/meet-people-we-work-with/courtney-francis

https://twitter.com/MrCJFrancis

Charlie Craggs http://www.youngstonewall.org.uk/people/charlie-craggs

http://nailtransphobia.com

https://twitter.com/Charlie_Craggs

 

 

 

Where I am now …

When I joined Who not What I was relapsing back into severe depression: I was eating half the amount of food I should have been, suffering from anxiety with irrational and delusional thoughts and was desperately trying to cope with problems at home and the loss of a family member.

In short I was feeling incredibly low and was struggling to keep it all together.

This was until I had been approached by a wonderful member of who not what at school, and was asked if I was interested in joining a strategic LGBT+ group. I had never been a part of any LGBT+ group, let alone a ‘strategic’ one, my coming out experience had been relatively isolating: despite the support from my close friends, I literally felt like the ‘only gay in the village’, and that people like me were few and far between. Despite the general anxiety I felt about joining I took the plunge and (after a considerable amount of paperwork) I was suddenly thrust into this group full of young people who were all super passionate and driven to really make a difference in the lives of Hertfordshire’s young LGBT+ people.

At my first meeting I was so nervous I could barely speak to anyone but I still felt welcomed and like I was a part of something, and it was this feeling that kept me coming back to each meeting.

For the first time in my life I was meeting such a large number of people who were part of the LGBT+ community, which was something I could have only dreamed of two or three years ago. Although in the beginning the group was quite a small part of my life, I still felt like I had a purpose, something to do and somewhere to be, and for someone with depression it has been so very important to me to have a reason to keep going, however small it may be. The work we were doing was interesting, particularly in terms of setting up smaller support groups, which was something I really wanted to get involved in, as it was something I really could have used when I was coming to terms with who I was and I wanted to give other people an opportunity I didn’t have.

Over time I have become more and more involved in who not what and in the things that it has done, and I am now a part of 3 different LGBT+ groups and have been presented with so many amazing opportunities I can barely count them all.

Despite all the rough patches and relapses I’ve been through recently, going to these different groups has cheered me up, has meant I can feel like i’m making a difference and helps give me a break from a pretty stressful home environment.

My confidence levels are much higher and I have met some fantastic people and my drive to help others and contribute to the groups and give something back has greatly increased.

In terms of where I am now versus where I was before, I can’t say things are entirely better, that’s just not how life works and I don’t expect being a part of LGBT+ groups to cure something as vast and complex as mental illness or to sort out any problems in my life but I am in a much better place than I was then, and I am so thankful for everything this group has given to me.

To any young person out there questioning their sexuality or gender: go ahead and join a group, I cannot recommend it enough and if you are feeling isolated or lonely because of who you are it will give you such a wonderful boost and make you feel like you truly belong to a community.

At the end of the day I may just be the person that makes the badges but I can genuinely say I do not know where I would be without this group and I will always be grateful for being able to be a part of it.

Anon, 16, Herts

supported by Youth Connexions