Proud2Be Guest Blogger | Charlie- Guest Blogger
Pride season is upon us already, meaning that it’s almost a year now since I came out and started going to the Proud2Be youth group. Recently I’ve been looking back and seeing just how far I’ve come, and how much I’ve learnt about what it means to be part of the LGBT+ community, and what it means to be proud of that.
I vividly remember meeting up with Maya just before first attending the group only a few months after I had found it within me to come out as trans to my parents, friends and a few carefully selected teachers. Although most of them had taken the news as well as could be expected, the feeling of finding someone who knew what it was like to come out as LGBT+ and who didn’t just see me as weird or difficult was amazing. In front of me was someone who embraced their own identity with open arms and seemed happier for it, and who embraced that part of me with the same warmth. There was none of the pity, shock, disgust, intrigue or disappointment that by now I was used to, only acceptance and understanding. It felt amazing.
Even so, admitting that I was trans, even just to the others at the group (some of whom were trans themselves), continued to fill me with fear for months after. It wasn’t just that I was scared of people’s reactions, but also that, deep down, I was desperately ashamed of who I was. I believed those around me who were telling me that I was just being selfish or that I was an inconvenience, but hearing everyone’s experiences and simply being able to be in a non-judgemental space with other LGBT+ young people proved to me that being a part of this amazing and diverse community is more than something that I could learn to tolerate, but a part of me to embrace and to be proud of.
The truth is that there’s no magical transformation – there never is. The negativity that I felt towards my identity didn’t just flow out of my mind there and then. To a certain extent it’s still there, it’s just that it’s a lot smaller now. I think we all have times when we struggle to find that pride. Hearing homophobic and transphobic language going unchallenged by members of staff at school can wear down even the strongest of people, and it’s hard to be proud of being trans when you’re too scared to use public toilets and changing rooms because you never know how people will react when they think you’re in the wrong one. Watching your parents cry because you aren’t the child they wanted is enough to make anyone feel guilty – sometimes it’s just easier to wish that you were ‘normal’.
But with pride comes power. Pride in the face of a society that would rather you kept your head down in shame is a powerful act of rebellion. Over this past year I’ve discovered that to hold your head up high and fully embrace who you are is immensely freeing, and brings with it a confidence that I never thought that I had. Just telling myself that I loved who I was regardless of what other people might think, even if I didn’t quite believe it at first, was one of the kindest and most rewarding things I’ve done for myself. A year ago I was scared to come out to an LGBT+ group, now I’m out to my entire school and have spoken in assemblies about what it means and how it feels to be trans and to be a part of the LGBT+ community.
All of this assembly speaking was part of the mission I’m on to make my school a more welcoming place for LGBT+ students. Right now, that means helping to run a Proud2Be-inspired student LGBT+ group which gives LGBT+ students a place to socialise as well as a much-needed voice in the school. Hopefully soon we’ll start seeing some big changes in the form of a new policy to help the school support transgender students as well as making sex-education more inclusive.
And just as I have grown, so has the Proud2Be youth group. At the first group I went to there was a small group of people in a little room having immense fun with the stickers and glitter glue from the box of arts and crafts stuff. Now, with a lot of hard work from Max and Maya, the group has gained funding and members. We’ve moved into a larger space (which has its own kitchen!) and we’re planning a group outing in the summer. The welcoming atmosphere and the message that it’s okay to be proud of who you are is stronger than ever.
Where will I be in a year’s time? Who knows, but looking to the future I can’t help but be optimistic. With a bit of luck I will finally have started hormones, and will be preparing to leave school knowing that I have been a part of something that will have made, and will continue to make a difference to other people’s lives. And I can’t wait to see the progress that will be made by Proud2Be with the help of all the amazing people who help to make it happen. I know it’s a cliché, but things really do get better, and we all have a lot to look forward to.
Please note It was the wishes of the young person to have his first name published in the blog post.