‘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 

 

 

 

How being part of something can change almost everything …

A few months ago I was scrolling through Twitter when I came across Young Pride in Herts.

At this point I didn’t get out much due to anxiety, I felt isolated and not knowing anyone else from the LGBT+ community meant that I didn’t really accept myself. 

I found information about an LGBT+ group in Hatfield and after much deliberation I decided to go along.

Looking back on it now, that is one of the best decisions I have ever made. As well as meeting loads of new friends, joining Serenity has opened so many doors for me. Since joining, I have become a part of the strategic group Who not What as well as helping to set up an LGBT+ group in my local youth centre, Prism, in St Albans.

It’s crazy how much can change over a few months. I’ve gone from hardly leaving the house to being part of three different groups, going to meetings and even standing up and speaking in front of a room full of people. I may not be the most confident person, and yes I am not happy all of the time…but I have come so far.

Who not What has helped me gain confidence in myself and given me a huge support network of amazing people. I honestly don’t know where I would be without them.

Anon, 17, Herts

Supported by youth workers from Youth Connexions

‘… there was nobody at my school who was lgbt+, and I felt rather lonely …’

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a ‘tomboy’. I never played with barbies, despised the colour pink, and you would never be able to get me into a dress. When I was around eleven or so I found the website known as tumblr. (Yes, I was one of those people who discovered that website at a young age XD). There, I discovered a whole range of different sexualities.

I knew a little bit about gay/lesbian people people, and I did hear the term bisexual before, but that was just from TV. However, there are so many more sexualities out there that I had no idea even existed! I also found out the term ‘transgender’, and it seemed to fit me…sort of. For a while I identified as ftm, two whole years actually; That was when I found out about non-binary identities. I felt so happy! There were finally some terms out there that suited me! The term that I felt like I could relate to the most was ‘genderflux’. I just linked with it instantly! It was this very term that made me realise that I fluctuated along the male side of the gender spectrum. A few months later, I came out to my immediate family. Luckily, they seemed pretty accepting of me.

Now, there was nobody at my school who was lgbt+, and I felt rather lonely. Sure, I loved the friends I made online, but I wanted to meet people who were, well, in the same area as me, rather than an entirely different country. After a bit of research online, I found this website that you’re reading this from right now – Young Pride in Herts. I checked out some of the support groups that Young Pride in Herts ran, and I found out about ‘Free2Be’. I was pretty nervous on my first time going, but both the youth workers and the volunteers there, as well as the lgbt+ teens that went to this group, made me feel accepted, and most of all, like I was a regular person. It was so much fun! I know that I have definitely made some friends that I’ll stick with for a long, long time.

For anybody else out there who is feeling low because they don’t feel accepted, if you can, try going to a group like Free2Be. It’s so much fun! It truly is 😀

N, 14, North Herts

 

For info on all the groups currently running in Hertfordshire, check out
http://www.youngprideinherts.org/info-advice.html

Note; Hatfield group to be added

 

 

 

Opening Night for LGBTQ Hatfield

The opening night of the new LGBTQ group gave Hatfield a sense of acceptance and understanding. The youth workers heard the LGBTQ cry for a place where we could meet new members in Hatfield; they delivered quickly and with enthusiasm.

On arrival I was greeted by a youth worker who was ready to show us all of the plans for the new group. They made me feel very welcome, which was a relief as I didn’t quite know what to expect at first. We were shown around the building so that we could settle in. The youth worker pulled out all the stops so that we all felt comfortable (even bringing out biscuits and drinks).
We then spent some time with the youth worker talking about our favourite television shows and making art using the colours of the rainbow and the pride flag. It was very relaxed and set an environment that made it easy for us all to get to know each other. The evening was full of laughs and questions about each other’s LGBTQ experiences and I feel that we all bonded.
Over all, the night was great and I came out feeling happy that there was finally something like this taking place in my home town!

Tiff, 17, Hatfield

If you would like to attend the new Hatfied LGBT group, email the Youth Connexions Youth worker, Tracy, tracy.Lee@hertfordshire.gov.uk

“You hide from every person you love …”

Coping mechanisms.                                       Trigger warning 

It’s not often that we choose to compare damaging coping mechanisms, because our first thought is directed at how horrible, saddening and addictive they all end up being. However once in a blue moon, I will come across a person who chooses to voice an opinion which ends up hurting a lot of people.

Tonight I have witnessed somebody say that self harm isn’t as bad as people say. Instantly I felt my stomach drop because I couldn’t believe that somebody would ever even consider saying this and backing it up by saying that there are worse coping methods such as drinking or taking drugs.

Self harm is insanely addictive to the point where you carry a blade with you anywhere you go and hide it in your phone case. It’s addictive to the point where it’s your immediate response to anything that affects you negatively. To the point where you’re around your friends or family and try coming up with a good excuse to leave the room and not cause any suspicion just so you can release every bit of your frustration, anger, sadness or panic onto your skin.

You hide from every person you love because you can’t let them suffer by seeing your wounds. You throw your bedsheets away when your mum isn’t home because you can’t explain the blood drenched fabric that you’re expected to sleep on, your bed is meant to be relaxing, safe and comfortable, isn’t it?

You always hear words such as “you’ll regret it in the future” about countless of things such as your tattoo’s, piercings or hairstyles, but you’d never think about the future when the blade is gliding through your skin. Future doesn’t exist when you’re burning your wrist or thighs on a heater lighter you stole from your dad. A cut, a scar, it’ll stay with you forever. Two scars, four, five. A hundred and nine. They’ll be there and it’s your job to learn how to live with them.

Same way you’re damaging your liver and kidneys through abusing alcohol, the same way you’re destroying your body through self harm.

To think that one way of hurting yourself isn’t as much of a big deal as the other invalidates us, erases our problem and addiction. I have found this to be the case of treatment I’ve experienced through therapy and my family. I had to be drunk every night for months so I would be taken seriously because it’s considered more harmful that the conveniently hidden cuts on my body. We’re always in fear of people seeing those but get taken seriously when we’re seen in a intoxicated state which can be found everyday on happy and sad people in a bar or at a pub. Self harm isn’t an act of recreational way to have fun, however drugs and alcohol commonly are. So why? Why do we still struggle to be validated?

Anon, 19, Herts

If you are looking for information and support http://www.youngminds.org.uk/for_children_young_people/whats_worrying_you/self-harm/self_harm_help

Dating online?

When searching for a potential partner most people in the modern age of technology look online. Some people find it hard to go out and socialise with people face to face. This gives them one option, social media, or dating apps if they’re looking for something more than that of a platonic relationship.
Finding people online to talk to has become more prominent in the LGBTQ community. I believe that this is because sometimes, it’s hard to find LGBTQ people within your area, so you talk to people who live miles away or from completely different countries altogether. When using dating apps, this can become tricky. Talking to someone on a romantic level that lives a great distance from you can be heart-breaking. Unfortunately, for some people, and the LGBTQ community in particular, long distance relationships become more of a “only” option. At least, that’s how it can feel.
Using dating apps can be risky for anyone; you may not know who you’re really talking to etc. However, for LGBTQ people who use dating apps, it can be even more daunting. The people you could end up talking to may just want to experiment with their own sexuality, whilst most people may not mind this, (when coming out, we all have to start somewhere) this may be off putting to members of the LGBTQ community that are looking for something serious or have only recently came out themselves and are already apprehensive about the whole thing.
I would say that using dating apps are a great way to meet people (even on a friendship level) however, always get to know someone through their other social media first before taking things further.

Anon, 17, WnW member