Jamie, 16 (he/him)

“It’s ok to ‘just be’: you don’t have to label yourself or care what other people think.”

I’ve been attending the groups since February 2018. Before I came I didn’t know many LGBT+ people; at the time there was only me and one other trans person out at my school, and when I moved schools there was only me.

I really enjoy all of the different stuff we get to do in the group. It’s great when we do sport in the park: the experience is so different to sports at school – which can be difficult when binding – but youth workers always allow for breaks. I also enjoy learning new things about LGBT history such as the Stonewall Riots, and going on trips; earlier this year we went to Blackpool for the LGBT Youth Festival. I’ve also learned how to screen-print my own t-shirt, something completely new that I had never experienced before which was really cool. I still have that t-shirt that I made with my friend.

Before I started to attend the group I felt a lot of pressure to figure out who I was there and then. A lot of people seem to want to know who they are straight away, but some people might never know, and that’s ok. I’ve learned that I don’t have to listen to people who make boxes for others to fit into. People are like colours: there are so many of them, you can’t split them down the middle and say they’re half one thing or the other. Most people are a mix of strong colours like red, orange, blue and more.

I had been struggling to cope with the long waiting times for the Gender Identity Clinic before coming to the group, and really needed distraction from thinking about when my appointment was going to be. This group has helped me to meet new friends and be supported by them. You hear other people’s experiences with life, which widens your perspective; the things you are worrying about sometimes feel smaller and more manageable.

It’s incredibly important to have LGBT-specific groups because LGBT+ youths are one of the most vulnerable groups of people. They may have unaccepting peers, schools or families. If you went to a general youth group there could be homophobia or transphobia, and you may not feel comfortable or safe.

When it’s an LGBT space, everyone there is LGBT and our identities feel more normal. When you first come out you can feel weird, and sometimes think: “why am I the weird one?”. When there’s a lot of LGBT people in the room, you don’t feel like that.

I would definitely recommend Rainbow Reflections to other young LGBT people. You can come and go as you feel comfortable and all the other young people are really friendly; everyone is there because they want to be.

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