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Nine queer moments that made me

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Nine years ago today on a sunny Friday in Southend I told my Mum I’m gay. No rainbow flags or unicorns or cute boys to kiss. Just us.

Perhaps you know that already. I’ve made a lot of narcissistic noise about my official Outiversary before. But that scene is just one episode in my coming out story arc. Like many other LGBTQ people, it’s a story that spans more seasons than any TV network would commission.

Because it won’t make it to screen any time ever, here’s an abridged version of nine queer moments that made me.

When I came out to myself, sometime in 2005

It was a Monday, I was 15, sat in the music corridor waiting for my saxophone lesson. And there I scribbled a letter to myself, to God, to both of us. Even though it was conditional and silent (‘I think I’m gay’), it was the first time I’d found the words.

Last day of school, 2008

Walking into Warwick Chaplaincy, October 2009

When I arrived at University, I knew I wanted to join the Christian Union and I thought I’d found them at the Freshers’ Fair. Turns out it was the LGBTQ inclusive Christian Focus instead. Thank God.

The friends I made round cuppas in the Chaplaincy and the choir showed me you can be an LGBTQ person of faith. They’re the first ones I came out to without any doubt. ‘I’m gay’. And then I went home to tell Mum.

Teaching the Joey Dance to my choir friends

My first time, September 2010

My first time having sex was awful with an even worse fall out. I hate how one bad early experience made me retreat. Now I can look back and see some positives in what happened.

Me in Summer 2010

My first kiss, February 2013

It was in Revenge, Brighton on a birthday weekend away with my friends. Mysterious, magical and drunken. I was hugging the hostel toilet afterwards.

Pre-drinks in our Brighton hostel

That conversation with Rev Mel, March 2016

Rev Mel was a local church minister unconditional in her support for the oppressed. I didn’t know then the vulnerability that comes with being visibly queer in a heteronormative world. ‘Don’t ever forget you are a minority Joey.’

The local church where Mel was minister, now closed

Soho vigil, June 2016

At least 7000 people gathered in London’s Soho the day after the Pulse Orlando shooting. This is what the LGBTQ community does. We remember, we protest, we party.

Where’s Joey? I’ve kept the Soho vigil centrefold photo from The Guardian

Mighty Hoopla, May 2017

I’d just started work at Stonewall, moved back to London and was utterly unsure in myself. Heading to a festival with my new colleagues sounded like a pleasant distraction. I honestly thought if I wasn’t having fun, I could make it home in time for Songs of Praise.

This was a bright day in the dark season of Spring 2017. It was an excuse to wear nail polish and a crop top for the first time. Now the only excuse I need is sunny spells or a night in Vauxhall.

On the way to Mighty Hoopla

Joining London Frontrunners, June 2018

When I’m at work or running, I don’t need to explain who I am. I just am.

Last summer, I joined LGBT running club London Frontrunners to make more friends and improve my running. My 10k time still hasn’t improved, but I felt instantly embraced by a crowd who accept my idiosyncrasies and go to karaoke every Thursday night.

An Easter Croissant Friday with my Frontrunner friends

When Oliver left, January 2019

We met at my favourite club night and only had a month until he was moving out of town. We didn’t have time to play it cool or hold back. He wasn’t my boyfriend but it was a relationship. And suddenly it was the end. I left him at the bus stop in the morning. He went to Australia, I went to Angel.

Club DJ Darren and I. Later that night I met Oliver.

I still have those pinch me moments of euphoria when I’m dancing with queer friends in a queer club. ‘What feels normal also feels like an incredible privilege’* (and it really is, when discrimination and hate crime makes LGBT nightlife in the UK unsafe for many people).

The gay man I am now wasn’t made the day I came out. I’m excited for another queer year and seeing what moments come next complete with rainbow flags, unicorns and cute boys.

Lorraine, the mini unicorn a friend gifted to me

*tweet by Hugh Montgomery.

#LGBTQCalendar Day 28: Looking back

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It’s the final day of LGBTQ History Month. Whether you’ve followed the calendar every day or dipped into it on some days, I hope you’ve learnt more about LGBTQ history, identities and arts and culture.

Use today as a chance to tell someone what you’ve learnt or enjoyed. It could be the same person or group of people you spoke to on day one about why this month matters to you.

I’ve really enjoyed listening to LGBTQ podcasts and being a new regular listener to Nancy. I’ve learnt more about intersex rights.

I’ve thought about the impact of the words and acronyms I choose to use. I’ve realised the power of an LGBTQ community isn’t a shared identity, but a shared movement for human rights and equality.

What have you learnt and enjoyed? Who can you keep sharing that with after LGBTQ History Month?

Thanks for reading and taking part! I’d love to hear what you’ve learnt, and your feedback on the calendar.

Please keep sharing, learning and standing up for LGBTQ rights.

#LGBTQHMCalendar Day 27: Take action

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I hope this month you’ve learnt about some inspiration role models and the discrimination that LGBTQ people can face.

Today is a chance to think how you can help end that discrimination. What can you do where you study, live or work to increase LGBTQ inclusion?

Here’s some ideas:

  • There are specific days to mark and celebrate LGBTQ identities throughout the year. The next of these is Trans Day of Visibility on March 31st (TDoV). Could you hold a talk, film screening or write blog post?
  • Earlier this month we looked at different LGBTQ groups. Could you hold a fundraising event for one? It could be the classic office bake sale, or a personal challenge like a sponsored run.
  • Does your workplace have gender neutral toilets? Who can help you introduce them?
  • Get involved with or set up an LGBTQ network where you work or study. These groups need the support of allies as well.
  • Suggest people say what their pronouns at the start of meeting and introductions, along with their names.
  • Find out when your local Pride is. Could your workplace support it or take part in the parade?
  • Ask your LGBTQ friends how they are, especially when you hear news that might matter to them.
  • Keep being a visible role model or ally. Keep learning about LGBTQ history and identities. Keep using your voice.

There’s no shortage of actions you can take. Think about what you’re passionate about , what you can do and who can help you to make the most effective change.

What will you change?

#LGBTQHMCalendar Day 26: Five ways to be a visible LGBTQ Role Model or Ally today (and every day)

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Wear it

I wear my rainbow laces everywhere and people really do notice. There’s no shortage of t-shirts and badges you can buy with LGBTQ inclusive messages.

Tell your friends

Use your social media accounts to share LGBTQ news stories, role models, campaigns and why it matters to you. You could just share this blog post. Lots of my friends on Facebook are friends I’ve carried with me from school, uni and faith spaces. They may not always hear about LGBTQ inclusion.

Chat with colleagues

Next time you’re in the kitchen, ask them if they know it’s LGBTQ History Month. Or tell them about that really interesting LGBTQ book or article you read.

Make a change

Have you noticed something that can change in your workplace or community group to be more inclusive of LGBTQ people? Email a leader about what’s wrong, how it can be changed and why it’s important. Offer to talk to them more about it in person.

Speak up

The sad reality is it’s not always safe to be a visible role model or ally:

  • Two in five trans people (41 per cent) have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months.
  • More than a third of LGBT people (36 per cent) say they don’t feel comfortable walking down the street while holding their partner’s hand (Stonewall, 2017).

You can report any homophobic, biphobic or transphobic behaviour that happens to you or you see happening. This could be in your workplace, in public, or online. You can also support your LGBTQ friends when you hear they’ve been a victim of an attack.

It’s your choice of when and how you are a visible LGBTQ role model or ally. It’s OK not to be visible all the time.

#LGBTQHMCalendar Day 25: Support an LGBTQ group

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Today’s post is guest written by Hannah Graeber.

As enriching as it is to celebrate history, it is also important to look forward, and ask ourselves what we can do to further our community’s wellbeing, rights, and sense of community.

With that in mind, and in celebration of day 25 of LGBT History Month, here are five suggestions for charities that you can support in a variety of ways, in diverse locations across the UK.

The Albert Kennedy Trust

It is estimated that 25% of homeless youth in the UK identify as LGBTQ+. Considering that estimates of the percentage in the total population rarely exceeds 10%, it can safely be said that the 25% figure is disproportionate.

Due to evidence that there are often specific reasons why LGBTQ+ young people become homeless, and that therefore specific solutions are often required, a group of volunteers decided to set up The Albert Kennedy Trust.

The trust was founded in 1989, and has been providing safe homes, mentoring, training, advocacy, and support to young people ever since.

This year, AKT will be celebrating its 30th birthday, and takes on volunteers on an ongoing basis for a variety of roles, such as champions, mentors, and fundraisers.

Currently, they are actively looking for suitable people, who are over 25 and located in London, Greater Manchester, and the North East, to host vulnerable young people.

akt.org.uk

The TIE Campaign

The very existence of LGBT History Month indicates to us that there is a lot of work to be done to combat the erasure of contributions to society by marginalised people in terms of their sexual and/or romantic orientations and gender identities.

The TIE (Time for Inclusive Education) Campaign is a Scottish charity that was founded in June 2015, in order to remedy exactly that. They believe that the inclusion of LGBT role models and history, as well as the current issues facing the community, is an essential part of education.

In addition to running a national, political campaign for inclusive education in all schools, TIE also provide assemblies, workshops, teacher training, and resources, all free of charge.

tiecampaign.co.uk

Galop

In addition to celebrating our achievements and successes, it is also important that we take time to take care of each other when things go wrong.

In amongst celebrations of steps forward for equality such as marriage rights, where a pressure to present ourselves as upstanding, fine members of society is often present, it can sometimes be forgotten that just like cis, straight, allo people , we too can have issues within our relationships. (Allo is short for allosexual, meaning people who experience sexual attraction).

As well as dealing with the effects of hate crime and sexual violence, Galop, founded in 1982, provides services for survivors of intimate partner violence.

Like the Albert Kennedy Trust, Galop recognises that there are often extra or different issues specific to the LGBTQ+ community, which cannot always be solved by mainstream services.

Galop are looking for donations for their helpline, support services, and outreach, and are open to applications to volunteer on an ad hoc basis.

galop.org.uk

Intercom Trust

The Intercom Trust works across Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and the wider South West, providing services such as counselling, training, advocacy, and consultancy.

They have also compiled an extensive directory of groups and services in the region, and run a confidential, non-judgemental helpline.

As well as their team of dedicated staff, who have been training organisations and groups such as the police, schools, and healthcare professionals since 1997, Intercom Trust also has a small team of volunteers, which welcomes all new, skilled applicants.

intercomtrust.org.uk

Birmingham LGBT Centre
The centre provides services relating to sexual health, wellbeing, and mental health, as well as fitness classes and peer mentoring.

You can also find a range of social groups on offer, which provide alternatives to the nightlife scene, and encourage people to meet and spend time with people who can relate to them.

Birmingham LGBT also make a particular effort to reach out to older LGBT people, and LGBT asylum seekers; two groups who can be vulnerable to being put last on the list when it comes to services and advocacy.

The centre accepts one-off and regular donations, and are opening their ext round of volunteer training in Spring 2019.

blgbt.org

Whether it’s donating time, money, skills, or a combination of all three – these are just five of the many dedicated, life-changing charities currently doing amazing things for the LGBTQ+ community, needing continued support for their vital work.

If you don’t see anything local or feasible in this list in terms of your location or skills, perhaps it can instead give you a few research ideas if you would like to find something similar in your own region.

Happy helping!

#LGBTQHMCalendar Day 24: Thanking role models

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We’re into the last week of the LGBTQ History Month Calendar. The final five days has some actions and reflections to bring together everything we’ve learnt and discovered.

Today’s action is to thank an LGBTQ role model. This could be sending a friend a postcard, baking a cake to share with a colleague tomorrow or tweeting your thanks to a famous LGBTQ person.

Remember, our role models aren’t perfect. Your thanks doesn’t need to be profusive or about every part of their life.

What do you especially admire in that person? How have they helped you personally and LGBTQ communities?

Let them know the impact they’ve had, and how much you appreciate it. If you’ve got the time, thank someone else too.

#LGBTQHMCalendar Day 23: Reading

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It’s super easy to find LGBTQ content to read, whether it’s articles from the mainstream or LGBTQ specific press, young adult (YA) novels that never make an identity a problem or poetry, memoirs and history books.

My top tip for finding LGBTQ books to read are the same as finding any book to read:

  • Browse, either online looking through recommendations, bestsellers lists or going into your local bookshop or library. My local council libraries helpfully put all LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction books together in one place. And if you’re in London, don’t forget about bookshop Gay’s The Word, 40 years old this year.
  • Ask your friends: currently I’m reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which a friend lent to me ahead of our book club meeting
  • Keep reading how you want and what you want: it’s good to read what you like and hopefully that will include different voices and different types of books. Last week I bought a Heartstopper, a graphic novel. Queer: A Graphic History is also an exceptional read.

So, what’s on your reading list?

#LGBTQHMCalendar Day 22: Intersex Role Models

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Intersex is a term used to describe a person who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological attributes do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes male or female.

Intersex people may identify as male, female or non-binary (definition from Stonewall).

LGBTI or LGBTIQ might be an acronym you see, with I standing for intersex. (I chose not to use it for this calendar, because I didn’t think I was talking enough about intersex identities throughout the month).

It’s irrelevant if an intersex person identifies as queer or not for LGBTQ people to care and campaign for intersex rights.

There is the common experience of discrimination and stigma against a group of people who don’t fit society’s broad heteronormative template.

Here’s some resources to learn more about intersex rights and role models:

#LGBTQHMCalendar Day 21: Local LGBTQ groups

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Before working at an LGBT charity and being ‘out on the scene’ (going to LGBTQ venues), I started going to a group for LGBTQ Christians and people of faith.

This was where I met my friend Adam and haven’t looked back. Now I’m a member of London Frontrunners, the LGBTQ running club. These groups and the friends I’ve met have let me be me.

Local LGBTQ groups and events can be vital, providing a space where you can just be your identity, rather than explaining or justifying your identity to anyone.

They also provide a chance to meet people away from the bars and alcohol.

These community groups keep going and thriving because of the time, money and effort that people generously put into them.

Pride events, especially outside our big cities, only thrive because local LGBTQ people and allies make the events happen.

What local groups and events are in your area? One I’m going to learn about today in area is Rainbow Growers. Your local council website might list some groups in your area.

There’s also lots of groups on Facebook and Twitter that you can support and be a part of.

#LGBTQHMCalendar Day 20: Disabled LGBTQ Role Models

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LGBTQ people who are disabled can experience discrimination in their local LGBT community and are more likely to have experienced homelessness (Stonewall, 2018).

Many local LGBTQ communities are focused on bars and venues, which often lack accessibility for everyone. Drag queen Sugar Cube runs the Disabled Queer and Here night, next happening on 28th March at Two Brewers, Clapham.

One prominent LGBTQ disabled role model and activist is Nyle DiMarco. The American actor and model is deaf and often shares how to sign videos on his social media channels.

Another role model is Claire Harvey, who was the British Sitting Volleyball captain

I’m also thinking about my queer disabled friends and colleagues today, and what I can do and ask them to make sure I’m not unintentionally excluding them.

Who are your disabled LGBTQ role models?