“I am visible and able to exist as I truly feel, without hesitation”
I had been questioning my identity for a long time prior to attending The Proud Trust’s youth groups. I felt isolated, and had never found an appropriate space to explore how certain labels might apply to me. After a quick online search for LGBT+ social groups in the local area I found The Proud Trust Website, and I’ve been attending their groups now for 2 years.
I enjoy being within a space of likeminded people and friendly, approachable youth workers. Coming to groups, taking part in sessions and being surrounded by LGBT+ young people who can understand your experiences is invaluable; my only wish is that I could have found groups sooner during my more difficult teenage years. The venues of the Manchester groups I have attended have always been physically accessible and alcohol-free, which is rare in the queer social scene. I have not yet attended a group where I was unable to take part or felt ‘othered’ because of my disability and differences. In TPT youth groups I have never felt like a burden or an outcast, and don’t have to worry about the negative consequences usually faced by young LGBT+ people.
Before attending the groups I felt abandoned by the world. I had never experienced a place that didn’t attempt to misguide me, especially concerning my LGBT+ identity. Having left school in Year 7 with no formal qualifications, and having various health needs, getting back into education felt near impossible. Being LGBT+ and disabled were not intersecting identities to people I was around, and I began to believe this myself. I was stuck at home with no routine and nothing that looked like hope for the future. I was fragile when I was on my way to my very first group in central Manchester; I hoped that place would lead me elsewhere, on perhaps a less self-destructive path. And I was right!
I have gained so much knowledge from attending TPT sessions: I’ve done everything from zine making and screen printing to taking part in sports at Pride Youth Games; I’ve even learned to ski. What I value the most is how I have been able to develop my social skills: I now have four close friends, more than I have ever had before or ever expected to. I can listen for extended periods of time and take turns in conversations, meaning I can have great discussions on a wide variety of subjects. Once upon a time this wouldn’t have been possible; I am so grateful for the staff, volunteers and other young people who had the patience to teach me.
Now I am so much more confident, and willing to try new things. I feel optimistic about the future and don’t consider myself to be ‘at risk’ anymore. With the youth group I attended Pride Youth Games, a sports-based weekend hosted by The Proud Trust. As a person in a wheelchair, I wouldn’t have thought this was possible. But now I’ve been to Pride several times and have been inspired to make it more accessible for people like me.
Most importantly, I have learnt that I’m not alone! My gender doesn’t have to be binary and neither does any part of me. I have learnt that I am capable of so much more than I could ever imagine: that it’s ok for me to ‘take up space’ and that there are good people who are willing to listen and help. I’m content with myself, my life, and what is ahead of me.
I have learnt to be at peace with myself.