I have a really exciting job this summer, still in shock that I got it, by simply taking this role I’ll be actively teaching a lot of young people that non-binary people exist, by just, existing. This does mean stepping down from a lot of the creative work I’ve been doing recently. So I wanted to write about it, so if my social media starts becoming more ‘corporate’ it’s just my auto-schedules trying to keep getting my work out there while I’m gone (so I can find more when I get back)
This is the plan as it stands at the moment:
This will be my longest break from doing creative media work, either personal or professional, so having your continued support over this break will be very very welcome because if I know me (which I do, a bit too well) I’ll come back all outdoorsy and never want to do this stuff again… so y’know, drag me back!Something else?
This summer I’ve been lucky enough to be doing some work with NCS (National Citizen Service) who are a personal development programme for young people in the UK aged between 15-17. Even though I did the programme myself 2-3 years ago, it was still nervewracking going into a room of up to 80 young people and have to deliver a workshop to them for the first time, I almost didn’t go. See, my first day on NCS came just two days after I’d been at 10 Downing Street with Stonewall, I was still buzzing from the experience and still had my nails done and my hair looking STUNNING! Even with all this confidence, I was still TERRIFIED of what the young people would think, so much so I tweeted NCS Staffing
Their tweets really did help a LOT!
And so my first wave was a tiny bit of a disaster (wrong rooms, hot rooms, no resources etc…) but none of it was my fault and a huge thanks to my co-facilitator that day Jack for helping me realise that and for teaching me a few games to do with the young people too!
That leads me nicely onto some G R E A T moments from the program, starting with the group of lads that chose to re-create Banksy’s mural ‘Kissing Coppers’
This wave was one I’ll never forget for loads of reasons and the lads re-creating ‘Kissing Coppers’ is just one of the reasons! That particular wave was also the one which had NO air con and TINY windows, so considering the unbearable heat, I was so impressed with all their work and thank goodness for that kitchen with the drinks facilities!
This next video is content from the biggest wave I facilitated on, for some reason, there were close to 90 young people on this wave, and despite a slow start they turned out to be super, creating so much good work, I wish I could show you all of it!
Those girls were just the start, while we had some incredible videos and photos produced, I’m not allowed to save those since they feature our young people so you’ll have to take my word for it!
One I can share though is this poem an amazing young man created, all about the future!
Everyone in the room was in awe of this guy’s writing talent! He set an incredible example for the others too, as a team too, they were incredibly strong, with good leadership and a real drive to do good!
Working across the West Midlands allowed me to meet such a huge variety of young people all from different backgrounds and walks of life. One thing that still shocks me is the difference in response I got to the question we ask in one of our activities “do you ever feel not listened too” to which in Stratford-upon-Avon got very few hands up whereas, in North Birmingham, we got a lot of hands going up. While I knew about the differing levels of income in the varying areas I was working it, I really thought us as young people, in general, didn’t feel listened to a lot of the time, I know I don’t, just look at the ‘votes at 16’ campaign, yet my experience working for NCS tells me different, and that’s going to stick with me.
This blog could easily go on & on with all the great work and stories but I need to keep this blog at a readable size! I do, however, want to leave you with my personal favourite highlights of working on NCS this summer.
Remember a time when YouTube paid its creators an actual decent amount of money for their work? Remember watching a load of YouTubers, being influenced, inspired and mesmerised by them? As my generation grows up a lot of us lose that need to consume content on an enormous level and start to condense the number of channels/creators we follow. I’ve been through these phases over the years and I’ve now reached a point where YouTube doesn’t interest me half as much as it used to and that brings me nicely onto the topic of NerdCubed.
A load of today’s creators evolved into clickbait monsoons but Dan (NerdCubed) has evolved in a different way, he’s stayed true to himself, his health and his wellbeing, all while keeping a sense of humour matched by no other (except maybe me, but that’s questionable). I have a fuck tonne of respect for Dan not only because I do love a good video game to play in my spare time & he recommends the best of games but also because of what an amazing person he is.
As the LGBTQ+ community, we have a pretty strange habit of celebrating cis, straight ‘allies’ that haven’t really done anything apart from saying they don’t hate us when it comes up in interviews. Dan isn’t like that, his brand is gaming videos, live streams and toy unboxing stuff but he isn’t afraid to talk about LGBTQ+ if it comes up. Some might argue it’s because he married his wonderful partner Rebecca (who I think is non-binary and pansexual BUT that’s just based on the flags in her profile picture, please don’t kill me) but if you’ve been a long time fan of Dan’s you’ll know he’s said stuff in support of us in the past too. #ThisGayKiss!
The reason I’m writing about this as a blog is because I don’t think that Dan, or Rebecca for that matter, know just what an amazing impact they have on the gaming community and beyond. I try to catch live streams whenever I can and seeing the pride comments and conversations is incredibly exciting to see. Your ‘typical’ gaming community can be queerphobic, even if it’s just regarded as ‘banter’ but Dan’s following embracing LGBTQ+ members definitely has a lot to do with their willingness to talk, even if it’s insulting poor Matt (he works with them) while playing Overcooked 2 by calling him a TERF or reading out a comment on a stream from someone struggling with sexual or gender identity, the fact those conversations are being brought into a mainstream setting by someone who has a huge following and isn’t LGBTQ+ themselves (Dan, if you’re reading this thinking ‘BITCH I AM LGBT’, please feel free to slap me) is not something I’m willing to overlook!
Yeah, I’m not done praising my favourite person and his wife JUST YET… Fuck Yeah. Video Games is the book they recently crowdfunded which at the time of writing has over 10 TIMES the funding needed to fund the book, because of this they decided to donate 5% of the profits to the Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity that helps LGBTQ+ young people who are homeless, living in a hostile environment or in housing crisis get back on their feet.
I don’t think I’ll be able to express how much I love these two for deciding to do this and having met some volunteers from the charity at Downing Street when I was there with Stonewall a couple weeks ago for the Pride Celebration, I know just how much this money will help them continue their incredible work helping the some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Big love Albert Kennedy Trust & Big love Dan & Rebecca!
So if you do enjoy a good video game in your spare time and don’t follow NerdCubed yet, I’d get on that if I were you! The sole purpose of this blog is to share my love for Dan, Rebecca, Matt, Steve & everyone else who does stuff for NerdCubed, you use your popularity for good and you’re all inspirations in your own ways!
Much Love, Jacob.
Wanting to work in Radio feels like waiting in line for a rollercoaster you’ll get 3 minutes on after queuing for 4.5 hours. It seems like once you get one break it snowballs from there, my friend Tim is a great example of this and seeing people I like do well is just the best feeling in the world, it feels like you can do it too, one day. But it’s never as simple as that, nothing is.
I saw every red flag but still let it let me go mad.
For those who don’t know me, I used to work for community radio station TCR FM before that closed down and got resurrected as Radio Tamworth. During my few months at Radio Tamworth, my mental health was deteriorating thanks to multiple rejections from professional radio stations as well as my desire to create an LGBT+ inclusive radio show without talking to any of the management about it first, partly because I was on that management team. I became really paranoid about the show going out, which when you think about it, is totally normal after spending 18 years of my life hiding this part of me away from the world.
I felt judged by everyone, scared to put the fader up, the only thing that kept me going was how well the show was going, every man and his dog has done a new music show, but this show was new, I’ve not heard one like it and I knew how much I would’ve loved it as a teen, so I presented that format of the show for four weeks before I left the station due to some very hurtful things being said about some other young presenters at the station. I don’t want to go into the full story because if I say too much the powers that be will get involved and before we know it five different versions of events come to light. These comments didn’t actually target me or even mention me, but the fact they were being said about others also suggests things may have been said about me in the past. I didn’t have to leave, but I care about my friends and despise anyone who thinks their status is high enough to justify judging others.
It was only a couple of months previous I’d taken up an internship (unpaid) at Touch FM. Oh the things I want to say, but honestly looking back at the emails and everything leading up to that and then the subsequently dropping out of existence after a week working there may only account for a burnt bridge in my head, all the same, I still think everyone there hates me, I didn’t feel comfortable going in for the three days I ended up doing, certain staff completely blanked me while others just didn’t seem to care. It felt like it was on its last legs or that it was a community station with funds (that’s a rare find btw).
I’ve had experiences with Bauer, where they’ve invited me in, done training, done work experience and now REJECTION. ALL. THE. TIME. I don’t think I’ve had a reliable contact with Bauer in well over a year now and I don’t know why! What am I doing wrong? I applied for a trainee job at one of their hubs that I’ve done work experience at a couple months ago, the guy I had to email is the person who set up the work experience for me last year and so I made up my CV nice and perfect as I was confident I could get an interview, I wasn’t too fussed if I didn’t get the job I just wanted to prove to myself that I’m not blacklisted by stations and I’m just being paranoid but here we are. I got an email back about this job, from a completely random person just saying I didn’t get any further! That there was the last straw.
I went into Radio exile. Started a podcast, started focusing on my work at YoungMinds and Stonewall, for once I wanted some kind of stable environment to work in and I got that. But it was never like radio. I know radio better than I know myself, from making power intros on songs to presenting links and having fun on air, there is just nothing better. I refused to go back, the anxiety, the rejection, the lack of care was just too much… until a conversation started.
I still had connections in radio, well, the ones I hadn’t blocked in my mass cull of all things radio from my social medias. Mostly young presenters who were making their way through the community sector too but one thing someone said really hit a heart string “you can’t let such a talent go to waste”. I’m not sure why it hit so hard because most compliments just go straight to the ‘they’re only saying that to be nice pile’ in my head but that was quite possibly the first time I think I’ve heard something positive about my presenting style and taken it on board. I started listening back to the TCR FM shows and while they’re not perfect they were a very high standard of personality radio, the kind only radio 1 can really rival. Not only my solo work but Oscar, Lucy & Grace, the adlib conversations only worked because I kept control, it’s really funny content and I’d never noticed before. The spark inside me lit up after realizing that and I was ready to fight, all the way to radio 1! (I actually got there a lot sooner than I planned and fucked it up but there’s a blog about that HERE)
I used to think it was something bad to be bad at commercial radio or to want to aim for a station as high as BBC Radio 1 but it’s not, it’s ME, THIS IS ME! It’s who I am and it’s how I work so if Capital don’t want to hire me because I want to work at Radio 1 SO BE IT. I’ve launched a network syndicated radio show for community radio stations across the country to take for free as of TODAY to show these professions just who they’re dealing with. Of course, I’m scared of what people will think of it, of me, but I’m past caring what they think, what anyone thinks, it’s time to be the real me.
This is just one of many stories of young presenters who want to do great things but can’t. The rejection, lack of empathy and darn right rudeness at the very top of this industry has caused me SO much stress and anxiety (see above!) I know I’ll have even more enemies once I post this blog but if you take anything from this it’s be kind. The kid who emails you asking for advice, find some time to at least answer them or notify them that you may not have time but thanks for the email. For me, getting ignored is a “no”, so after emailing stations when I was 15 and getting no replies, it put me off for life as ‘I’ve already sent one’.
Some advice someone told me once “to get a job in radio, you need to be good at networking” OHHHH that horrible thing where you talk to people you don’t know and hope they like you WOOO there goes my social anxiety. I’ve got mental health problems, I’m a queer gender non-conforming human who wants nothing more than to present on the radio, just because I’m shit at eye contact and talking face to face, doesn’t mean I can’t present a radio show because bitch when I’m on the radio it’s like we’ve flipped the switch and I’m off! It’s my way of expressing myself and I’m so mad that this industry can’t see through that. Saying all of that risks me sounding like an entitled little shit. I’m not owed a job, hard work and perseverance gets you a job in radio, I know that, but as I said in the BBC Radio 1 blog, I feel disadvantaged because of my social anxiety around new people and struggling to hold eye contact, I don’t feel like I have a voice and I feel ignored, believe me that’s not a nice feeling either when you’ve been experiencing it for over 4 years.
Any radio stations bosses who wanna start some dialogue, EMAIL ME!! – firstname.lastname@example.org
Some people think the earth is only 2018 years old. But that’s what happens when Christianity is taken as fact. The year is in fact 4 billion 5 hundred and 43 years old (best estimate) and I want to welcome you to this wise old planet and it’s inhabitants today.
As far as science can tell, there is but a single species on this planet that are intelligent enough to feel complex emotions such as, love, hate, anger, etc… they’re called Humans. I believe that as humans, we struggle to cope with our own minds, there are those amongst us who completely understand the power of their intelligence while the rest of us struggle with our own minds that are then tainted from the outside.
I can’t find a single article anywhere showing that animals other than humans have the intelligence outside of instinct to act upon feelings. We are the only ones who are burdened with intelligence, some of us are lucky enough to understand critical thinking and the world around us, patterns of human behaviour and empathy to all, yet here we are. 2018. 4.543by.
The US is being led by an abusive dictator who’s out for no one but himself, others like him and the people above him pulling the strings. Their latest conquest is separating children from their parents at borders in order to ‘stop’ illegal immigrants seeking help because of their own countries failings or the USA’s pointless wars with other countries. There even reports coming from these ‘camps’ holding children in cages that they’ve started injecting things into the children, apparently to sudate them/keep them quiet.
Chechnya is still torturing gay men in ‘concentration‘ style camps with no consequences being brought upon the country and the leader there denying there are even any gay people in Chechnya.
The world cup is being held in Russia, a country with an appalling record on LGBTQ+ rights and safety, the UK government even warned fans about showing PDA (Public Displays of Affection) to same-sex partners in the country over fears they’ll be attacked, as reports over the past few days have heard, our fears have been realised, not that the mainstream media would ever report that though.
Those are but a few examples of the world today, with Racism, the gender pay gap, abuse of power, so-called ‘religious freedom’ (aka, an excuse to be a dick), discrimination, conservatism, wars and much more. The world in 2018, 4.543by is a scary dystopian reality, where conservatives and religion singlehandedly holds too much power, the balance has been lost and even the most together people I know are scared, as am I.
Stick together friends, keep your humanity alive and stay safe.
I’ve got a real treat for you today, a guest blog from my friend Sam! As part of our #YouAreYou campign, Sam agreed to share his story of coming out at the age of 27. Having read through this multiple times now I think it’s one of the most well written, honest and straight from the heart pieces I’ve seen in a long time, if you relate to Sam’s story, please consider sharing and using the hashtag ‘YouAreYou’ when you do!
There is a time that is right for everybody to come out, and it’s something that you have to do when you feel most comfortable to broach that sometimes not-so-easy conversation with your friends and family. But furthermore, you have to accept yourself first.
I had known for a few years that I was gay, notably more attracted to boys than I was to girls. In my younger years, growing up as a teenager and even into my early twenties, I’d brush my thoughts and feelings under the carpet, because (and it sounds silly now, but) I didn’t want to believe it was happening. You could say I was in denial.
In school, and growing up, I was never really educated about same-sex relationships and due to that, there was a stigma attached to words such as “gay”, “lesbian”, “bi-sexual”, “transgender”, amongst others which I guess made it challenging for people to be open about who they were and for others to be accepting and understanding. Whilst its been over eleven years since I sat my GCSE exams, and I am sure that attitudes have certainly started to change, I do not think society is quite there yet.
There’d be the typical occasions where my fellow classmates would say “she looks nice” (in reference to a girl), and whilst I’d think maybe, yes, she does… I never really had feelings for somebody of the opposite sex. Having said that, when I was 21, I was asked out by a girl, who I dated for a short period. The relationship didn’t last, partly because we were both unsure what we wanted from it, but looking back now, I realise there was more to it than that.
Years passed with me finding no love interest. One of my elderly neighbours would often ask me if I was “courting yet”, in the hope that I’d give her some good news, but it never materialised. Mum would often try and find me girlfriends, and apparently tried to set me up an online dating profile. I tried it myself, with apps such as Tinder, PlentyOfFish and Match, hoping I’d… well, y’know, meet my match. But I always find it’s better to meet people in person in an environment where you both share mutual interests, which brings me on to how I met my boyfriend.
In 2016, whilst at a hospital radio conference, I met a guy who at the time I did not know would become my boyfriend 18 months later. Shortly after my twenty-sixth birthday, one of my best friends came out. It transpired that we had both been going through the same thought processes and feelings. He did it via Snapchat, so as to have no conversation papertrail with the uncertainty of how his contacts may react. But nonetheless, he did it and it made me feel proud to see him happy and comfortable.
Not long after he came out, and not wanting to gate-crash his news, I waited and waited until Christmas 2016, when I told him I was gay, too, along with a couple of other really close friends who I trust. Thankfully they were really supporting of me and helped me through what would be a struggling few months.
I decided not to tell my family, or anybody else of my thoughts or feelings due to fear of rejection, anger, and also embarrassment that I had not expressed my sexuality sooner. These were all concerns that passed through my mind, and I figured I could handle it better alone. How wrong I was.
In March 2017, I attended my third hospital radio conference in Bolton, and met that guy (who I will now refer to as Dan), and we seemed to get on remarkably well. Dan was 21, but there was a spark, chemistry and excellent (though maybe slightly drunken) conversation. After the Conference, Dan and I began chatting on Messenger, and soon we were talking every day. We later agreed to meet in Oxford, as Dan had never visited the city before and we could be independent.
The first date went so well, that we ended up chatting for hours on end, so much that I missed my last bus back to my Park&Ride to fetch my car. For the first time I had kissed another boy, and I felt this wave of overwhelming relief and happiness. We began dating and then seeing each other on a weekly basis, and he then surprised me and took me out for my 27th birthday. We ended up in The Yard, a well-renowned LGBT friendly bar in Coventry, where we had slightly too much to drink, and caused a bit of a scene with glasses falling over and smashing to the floor (SORRY!).
Soon, Christmas came around again, and my family had began to notice something was amiss. Dan had bought me a Paddington Bear cuddly toy (which now sits proudly on my bed) and my mum kept on asking me where it had come from. Paddington Bear 2 was the first film that Dan and I went to see at the cinema together. I was the one who was sobbing at the end, naturally.
Despite my efforts and wanting to tell my mum, I couldn’t bring myself to; Until New Years Eve. My mum and I were sat in the front room, watching television. She questioned me on the Paddington Bear again, and asked me who the girl was. I replied “there isn’t a girl”, clutching onto the lid from the Quality Street tin. Eventually the penny dropped and she realised that I was hiding something. She then asked “Well, if it isn’t a girl, is it a guy?”. Holding up the Quality Street tin lid, I squealed “Yes”, then came the typical questions, tears, and surprise.
From that moment I knew I had the full support of my family, I was so relieved, thrilled and finally able to relax. Dan and I have never really received any negative comments and are often told how happy we make other people feel when we are together. I have since become a member of Dan’s family, similarly to how he has become a member of mine. We see each other weekly, go out in public & even better is that most of our friendship circles have merged.
My only real regret is not having the courage, emotional support or confidence to talk to my parents sooner about how I was truly feeling. I firmly believe that armed with the right tools, I would have been able to come out sooner. Education is also to blame, however. With individuals in society and indeed religion preaching that homosexuality is wrong, a sin or otherwise, and the stigma associated in the school playground.
One of the other people I spoke to was the founder of this website, Jacob Edward. Jacob presented a radio programme on the same station as me, and I actually found myself talking to Jacob about my own issues with my sexuality. Sometimes it is often easier describing your emotions to someone who doesn’t know you in person, and I owe part of my coming out story to Jacob for helping me.
I read a book by a Youtuber who I discovered, Lucy Sutcliffe, who now lives in Arizona, but is originally from Oxford. Her autobiography, Girl Hearts Girl described her experiences meeting a girl from the other side of the pond, and her emotional experiences, growing up and the struggle to break the news to her family, and feelings which I could relate to.
The book really inspired me to confront who I was and I stayed awake a whole night to finish reading it. By the end I have to say there were tears in my eyes. I would strongly recommend this book to anybody who is going through that stage of coming out.
Sexuality is not something you ever have a personal choice over. It is part of who you are, deep within your persona. Whilst you can brush off those feelings initially, you will find that the older you get, the harder it becomes, particularly in telling your immediate family and relatives.
Why did I come out at 27? The truthful, honest answer is, looking back, I do not know. I guess it was because I was backed into a corner where I had no choice but to open up and be honest. It was a huge weight off my chest, no longer having to bottle it up, or fight those demons on the inside and being able to have those conversations with my family. Therefore I would encourage anybody going through the same thought trains as myself to talk to someone. Whether this is a friend, a relative or even online through forums and websites.
We all wish we could turn back time and change what we have done or how we have done something. But sadly, life is not like your average Word Document, and you cannot press CTRL+Z or Edit, Undo when you want to go back a step and pretend it didn’t happen or change how it did.
No matter your age, background, religious beliefs or otherwise, you should feel comfortable and confident to come out when you feel it is right. Do not let anybody else try to force you to do so, or do it on your behalf, unless you are truly happy to let them. If you have no-one you feel you can talk to, there are charities out there such as Stonewall, who have volunteers and realms of information and tools to support you.
Fundamentally, as long as everybody in this world is happy with who they are, and can have the freedom of expression to be who they want to be, showering this world with love, who is anybody else to judge?
If you want to share your experiences or can relate to my story, or even want some friendly advice, feel free to comment or contact me privately by email: email@example.com
– Jacob isn’t responsible for anything Sam says if you email him! (Sam is his own person)
The title should really read ‘I was unbelievably close to Radio 1’ but details, details… I WAS AT RADIO 1 YESTERDAY! I somehow managed to get a place for the
#R1WeekendsStartEarly Q&A featuring Scott Mills, Matt Edmondson, Mollie King, Dev, Alice Levine & Maya Jama. I was SHOOK to be on the floor under Radio 1 and got to London 5 hours early (whoops) but getting there that early wasn’t just cheaper, it also meant while waiting at the R1 reception area, Brad Simpson from The Vamps just casually walks in! (I was having such a good time!)
As for the Q&A itself, it was awesome, this panel of pros really do know their stuff. I felt all kinds of emotions and even more determined that one day I sure as hell am going to work there. It wasn’t all fun though and in the ‘mingling’ time afterwards, my anxiety really started to get the better of me. My plan had been to somehow persuade Dev & Alice to let me sit in on one of their shows since I think it’s such a unique format they present with and I think out of everyone there I’m most like them (Alice) from listening to her on the radio for YEARSSSS! But of course it’s me and instead of coming across as myself, I ended up greeting her by saying “omg I can’t believe you’re real”. Now I have no idea why I said that and it 100% sounded better in my head but she was so distracted and went on to ask a few questions to me, which I answered in flustered ‘omfg ALICE LEVINE IS TALKING TO ME IDK WHAT TO SAY’ sentences.
The remainder of that session was me standing around trying to get into a conversation with a presenter, ANY presenter and proceeding to do that for 45 minutes before I had a TINY window with Dev before some angry BBC staff told us “WE HAVE TO CLEAR THE ROOM FOR THE NEXT EVENT”.
Now I like to think you all know me by now, I will happily preach to no end that ‘it’s ok to cry’, ‘it’s ok for boys to cry’, ‘it’s ok to not be ok’ or something like ‘it’s normal to be upset if things don’t go as you planned, you need to pick yourself back…’ WELL. I had a full on break down in the toilet at London Euston at 1pm on a Thursday afternoon. And I don’t feel great about that. Working in Radio is a dream job for me, echoing what some people said on the panel, most other Radio stations force their presenters to basically be robots. I don’t like that, it’s why I’ve burned so many bridges in the radio industry already, I have a distaste of three, twenty-second links in one hour with the occasional 1/2 minute link for a competition or to sell something. As you must know, Radio 1 isn’t like that, it’s the station I have listened to since I was too small to remember, it’s the dream job for me, the only job I think I’d ever be fully happy in, on that top floor of New Broadcasting House. Today I had such a rare opportunity to really make an impact there, start the groundwork, get advice from people who work there already, try to book another visit, shadow some shows, but oh no, my mental health had other ideas.
I know all too well that I don’t do well in situations like this (however much I love the place) but I’d prepared for this beforehand, I was ready to cope with whatever was thrown my way and I crumbled into a blubbering mess at the first sign of opportunity. I’m not confident in the same way others are and I wish people could see that.
What I am trying to say is that confidence isn’t everything, I feel completely worthless compared to the lads I saw networking with RADIO 1 presenters today… MY DREAM! 6 PRESENTERS I KNOW AND LOVE IN ONE ROOM AND I FUCKED UP! OF COURSE I’M GOING TO BE UPSET, my anxiety stopped me making the most of what was most likely a once in a lifetime chance to throw my name into the lottery that is radio 1. This is my dream and I need this to be heard because the number of times I’ve been to other BBC interviews + companies, they keep coming back with the same feedback of eye contact and self-confidence… how’s one supposed to get self-confidence if you keep turnin’ them down! I know I would put my ENTIRE SOUL into any job I got in radio, be it faxing or presenting a 3am comedy show. Yet no one gives me the time because they can’t see me, I feel inviable and that hurts. I want to prove myself. Radio 1 better be ready, I’m gonna get there… soon. somehow.
It’s being widely reported on LGBT+ News sites this week that young people as young as 13 are using Grindr to find others like them instead of using the app is intended (for hookups)
This echoes something I’ve always felt, our LGBT Youth NEED somewhere to go to meet others like them, who understand what they might be going through, what they are feeling, everything. You can’t put a price on finding someone who relates to you over a professional counsellor or therapist. Think of how dangerous Grindr could be for a 14 year old who is struggling with his sexuality or gender identity or BOTH! You are putting yourself in such a vulnerable position and all because you have nowhere else to turn. That 14 year old was me. Pride wasn’t an option, it was too expensive and busy, I just wanted to find others like me, in my area but there wasn’t anything, my school was a faith school so there was no chance there, I just felt alone and turned to Grindr in hope of finding people. It didn’t work. Instead, I found myself being pressured to meet men much older than me to have sex, it was scary, I didn’t want sex, I wanted friends.
I started ‘You Are You’ as a Stonewall Young Campaigner to help oust gender stereotypes because let’s be real we don’t need them, but now I want to focus the movement on to youth inclusion by urging local youth services, schools and councils to make sure LGBT+ Youth have a place to go to. Grindr is not for teens and teens don’t want to have to turn to Grindr! As a matter of safeguarding this should be a priority! Especially in areas where there is NILL for LGBT+ kids. Where I live, the nearest youth group for LGBT+ youth is 2.5 hours away on a train. The Stonewall site even says ‘SORRY, THERE WERE NO RESULTS IN YOUR AREA…’. I did find one that is apparently local to me, but this group only has a phone number and I’m sure, like me, a lot of kids that need to access that service, don’t feel confident or comfortable in phoning up a random number to ask if they’re a gay youth group! Looking into it, this seems to be a trend with a lot of youth groups and my only thought is that it is a safeguarding thing. To prevent the service from being hijacked or invading by HBT (homophobic, biphobic, transphobic) thugs but that creates an issue in itself as teens (like me) who don’t feel they can phone the number have nowhere else to turn other than places like Grindr. In 2018 we should be safe to run a group without fear and if the only reason for keeping groups like this under the radar is because of that fear then the government need to step in! The only other reason I can think of for keeping the groups so lowkey is funding. Anyone reading this who has worked with LGBT+ Youth will understand the thought of turning a child away because of lack of funding is the most heartbreaking thing ever. If this is the reason for hiding these groups then we need more MONEY from somewhere!! I don’t know where but this is a problem and we need to start to tackle it before things get completely out of hand.
That’s why You Are You is now being dedicated to not only being the best BE YOURSELF Twitter account ever made but a log and advice Twitter to help young LGBT+ people find something in their area. Whether that is helping them to write an email or phoning the group on their behalf and inquiring about joining, we want to make it as easy as possible to access these groups! 🙂 – help us do this by spreading the word and following us!
For me personally, I couldn’t leave school any faster than I did. While most education establishments in this country are broken in some way BY FAR the worst is our schools, from primary education to senior, schools continue to baffle me as to just how awful they still are!
With mental health awareness on the rise and society getting better at understanding difference, why is it schools still insist on outdated dress codes, huge punishments for the smallest of things (Like dying your hair) and continuing to push for attendance over well being? You may be thinking ‘oh but kids need to learn respect and prepare for the working world’ maybe so but this is NOT the way to do it. Children who can express themselves are proven to be way happier, it’s just a known thing, what schools do is punish difference, dye your hair, DETENTION, wear jewellery, DETENTION, wear trainers that YOU feel comfortable in, DETENTION. You think you’re teaching them that expressing yourself outside of a formal setting should be punished, well I’m here to say being different is what MAKES these kids, for some of them it’s all they’ve got. Being able to express yourself is the best feeling in the world, I should know, I spent 18 years in the closet hiding from my sexuality and gender identity, I felt angry that ‘boys’ were forced to wear ties at school and ‘girls’ weren’t, I was isolated but we all looked the same, not a soul dared to defy the school because they threated expulsion! When my mental health hit rock bottom I wanted to die, I couldn’t cope with this environment anymore, punishing anyone for being different is ridiculous but that especially counts for young LGBTQ+ kids, it can be such a battle for us and being forced to conform to such tight rules is just damaging. My only friend in secondary school was my Geography teacher, she wasn’t like other teachers, she was fun, kind and understanding, the UK needs more teachers like her but she was driven out of the school because of stricter marking and teaching rules. On her last day, I went to her classroom after school and cried. She really was my only friend at school and she wouldn’t be at school come Monday morning. That weekend was tough but come Monday I stayed in bed, I point blank refused to go back to school, ever.
6 months down the line and lots of ‘taster’ days to try and convince me to return to school I was officially moved to a specialist school, a school without a uniform policy, one that understood my needs and barriers and supported me rather than just fought for a tick on the register. During that one year, I started to speak to people again (hard to believe now but throughout the 4 years at the previous school I’d been selective mute) I dyed my hair and got praise and love rather than punishment. It was a one in a million chance I found and got a place at that school and I still believe to this day it saved my life, showing me the world is full of different and diverse people instead of just white Catholic children in uniforms because for such a long time that’s all I knew and I hated it.
Both my sisters have had similar problems at the same school, however, this is where double standards come into play. With me, the school actively tried to get me to return even though I was adamant I wouldn’t, yet my sisters were basically pushed out. Yeah! The only explanation is because they didn’t attend as often as me and had much lower grades, to me, that means they’re happy to just kick the failing kids out but if the kids are getting good grades get em’ back in!
It doesn’t even end there. Both my sisters currently attend specialist schools yet (AGAIN) because of schools being REQUIRED to keep up attendance or face LOSING FUNDING, the school insist on my younger sister going in DESPITE her obvious objections. She’s crying most mornings and nights, self-harms and is offen forgotten about completely because she doesn’t speak. THIS SCHOOL IS FAILING A VULNERABLE CHILD TO GET A TICK ON THE REGISTER. This is where a LOT of problems come from, the kids that need funding and support the most are kicked out of school if they don’t attend because the schools lose funding for them if the kid doesn’t attend all the time which is such a broken system I want to SCREAM.
Yeah, that was a mess but I hope that highlights just some of the things wrong with our school system in this country. While the conversation is ripe I wanted this to be highlighted so that any other in this position know that they’re not alone and we’re fighting for better!
This week is Mental Health Awareness week and I had actual time on my hands this weekend to sit down and write this blog. I work for YoungMinds, if you’re unsure who they are, they’re a charity fighting for young people’s mental health support, services and awareness. The work they do is amazing, however, today I want to think about YOU! You reading this right now! Yes, you! How are you? I haven’t seen you in a while, you doing ok? it may seem simple but checking in with your friends like that could have a much greater effect than you even realise. Our Mental health issues can be so brutal, I should know I’m battling fucking loads of them, and the tiniest thing like messaging me, could absolutely make my day! I’m serious! I can’t by any means speak for everyone but I certainly over analyse everything, from how you word messages to me all the way to who messages first. I think it’s no secret that I don’t hold myself very highly, like AT ALL, yet being the one who isn’t initiating things makes me feel that bit better about myself, ‘maybe I am likeable’ as thinking I’m not likeable is something I do a lot and so anyone that messages first is a blessing!
Something I’ve learned really recently is that mental health problems can sometimes be side effects from other things happening in your life, therefore, to reach the problem you must first take a huge step back and really look at yourself, and I know how hard it is but you understand yourself way better than anyone else, and with such an underfunded and stretched mental health system in the UK, going to your appointment with an idea and lots of notes can offen speed up the process a little, you get to avoid the ‘give it 4 weeks then come back if it doesn’t improve or gets worse’ trick. I can give you an example from my own life. On my latest Gay Culture Podcast I opened up about my gender identity and I feel way better in myself having finally accepted that part of me! Don’t get me wrong, I still have huge anxieties over just about anything but I’ve noticed some subtle changes to my mental health which I confidently put down to finally being open about both my gender identity and sexuality for the first time, that stuff really builds up.
So on Mental Health Awareness week, even though it shouldn’t just be a week. I ask that you be kind to someone in your life, your best friend, a friend you’ve not spoken to for a while, your quieter friends, anyone at all! You never know who’s day you might be making by messaging and being kind!