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The youth group is welcoming, inclusive, accessible, and always catering to people's needs.

I first heard about the Proud Trust online, and have been coming to one of its youth groups for about a year and a half. I was looking for something that would get me out of the house, something that would have a nice atmosphere and good activities to join in with.

Before I came to the group I was nervous: I didn’t know anyone, and had been in low moods after just coming out of hospital. I dropped out of school in Year 7, and didn’t know what to expect. However I didn’t need to worry, as the youth group is welcoming, inclusive, accessible and always catering to people’s needs.

I’ve learnt the ability to vocalise my thoughts and opinions, and have been able to explore my identity, an identity often erased because of my disability. Here at the Proud Trust I’ve met like-minded people and really feel like there’s a place for me.

I would definitely recommend that other young LGBT people attend the groups, as LGBT issues can be focussed on in a safe space.

The Proud Trust is always there, and I know I can always go back.

I wanted an LGBT+ space to explore gender before coming out to my friends, and first came to the Proud Trust youth groups 7 months ago. It’s been so nice to get out and see people in a comfortable space – especially as I live on my own – and to feel like I don’t have to explain myself.

I wasn’t doing well before I came, experiencing both physical and mental health challenges and always being in cishet spaces. But at the youth group I’m always learning new crafts, and have become much more comfortable talking to people.

The group has helped me understand about both my own and others’ gender and sexuality, and gives me a routine; the Proud Trust is always there, and I know I can always go back.

The positive attitude of the staff, volunteers and young people means I would definitely recommend it to other young LGBT people: if you’re thinking about it, you probably need it! It’s friendly and will never make you do anything uncomfortable. When the world isn’t very understanding, it’s a safe place to explore your identity.

I have discovered my true identity and feel more at peace with myself.

I’ve been coming to the Proud Trust groups for about a year, and have made so many lovely friends. It’s given me opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have got: I’ve learnt life skills like money management and group speaking, as well as about sexual health and Black History Month.

Before I was at the Proud Trust I was so alone; I had been out of hospital for a few months but had no friends and some awful mental health issues. I was being home-schooled and hadn’t been able to socialise much.

These groups were and are a safe space for me, and I have gained massive knowledge of who I am. I have discovered my true identity and feel more at peace with myself. The Proud Trust has helped me to make friends and has given me a support unit. If I have any issues I always have someone to talk to, which has been so helpful.

I feel safe here; the groups are so good at being inclusive and accessible and I would definitely say it’s worth coming. LGBT groups allow you to be completely yourself and allow you to explore your true identity.

Before I came to the group I didn't really feel anything, but now I am a lot happier.

I heard about The Proud Trust through my mum, who supported me into going to the Oldham group. I wanted to attend to meet new people who are similar to me. I struggle with friendships and mental health in general but when I’m at the group I’m a lot happier and I feel a lot more wanted.

I’ve been going to Youth Out In Oldham for just over two months now and we’ve done sessions on things like sex and relationships, education, green spaces and Black History Month. My favourite things about the group are all the people who attend and all the activities we do — most particularly the game ‘G’day Bruce’!

We’ve gone over lots of things in the group that I had already encountered, as I’m 17 and at college, but I have learned more about several things, particularly about racism. I’ve also realised that I am pansexual whilst I’ve been attending the group.

I honestly love coming to group and don’t know what I’d improve about it. I wouldn’t recommend the group to LGBT+ people I know outside of it but that’s only because all my other LGBT+ friends and acquaintances live far away. If I knew other LGBT+ young people closer to Oldham then I would definitely recommend the group.

The group feels important because it gives me a better understanding of the variety of experiences LGBT+ people can have, and gives us all a better idea of LGBT+ history, which we don’t learn elsewhere; of how far people have come and, yet, how people can still, for instance, be killed as a result of LGBT-phobia.

I think The Proud Trust is amazing as it is and I wouldn’t change anything.

I wanted to make friends with people like me.

I first heard about The Proud Trust when I was 16, when Rachel (one of its leaders) came into my school. From there I started going to my local LGBT+ youth group in Liverpool, and in 2017 went on TPT trans residential. That’s when I found out about TPT and started coming to Afternoon TEA (trans youth group), and I’ve now been attending the groups for 3 years.

I wanted to meet other people who had the same experiences that I had, and other people who had taken steps in their transition like changing their name, or having top surgery. I didn’t have any trans friends at that point and I needed a community. I wanted people I could get advice from and speak to about what I’ve been through.

The best thing about these youth groups is the opportunity to meet other young people who have had similar experiences to me. I went to Scouts and a council youth group, and they didn’t have that specific support. Youth workers might not know what trans means, but at TPT you don’t have to explain yourself at all. Afternoon TEA was the first place I had NO reaction to saying I had a boyfriend. It’s easier to be yourself. It’s a whole next level of support and they can be with you every step of the way.

It’s amazing to be together as a trans group, and I love that we don’t just focus on being trans. My favourite sessions were the ones where we talked about the traveller community and learned about International Women’s Day and HIV/AIDS. We’re with people we can share experiences with, but we can learn about other experiences too. It’s holistic.

And I’ve become so much more confident: I presented and organised all my own material for the Art Activist Event we held, and even helped to apply for the grant that funded the event. I know now that I’m a lot stronger than I originally thought. I felt alone and isolated before coming to these groups; I was unsure, questioning my identity, and didn’t know what I wanted for myself. It’s been really nice knowing the group’s there as and when I need it.

It was so important that I knew I wasn’t on my own when I first started, as in college I was the only person like me who I knew. My family sort of knew that I’d started testosterone, but it was a big challenge. It mixed with some of my medication and I had some health issues, so I had a lot going on when I began coming to the groups. But the groups helped so much as I could air everything that was happening: through others opening up about their experiences, I could try what they tried.

It’s so important people know they’re not on their own in this. My friends come to me now if they have issues and want to ask questions about being trans. It’s allowed me to become the person giving the support, and it’s helped me find community.

It’s really helped me find the right path, and where I wanted to be.

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.

I'm always happier coming away from the group than I was arriving.

I fancied a fresh start, and enjoyed going out in the sunshine to group. My school counsellor told me about The Proud Trust, and I started attending its groups in the spring of 2019. It was somewhere I could be myself. I found friends who I had something in common with, and felt part of the LGBT+ community.

Before I came to the group I felt more alone, and didn’t have much structure to my week or life in general outside of school. I wasn’t confident about sitting next to people I didn’t know, but now I would happily sit next to anyone! Group has given me a routine, and has really helped me develop my social skills. I feel better at handling my emotions than I used to be, which has been due to working through things, meeting people and experiencing things. I’ve learned that I’m a better leader than I thought I was.

The groups have a really good, relaxing atmosphere and it’s always really fun. Learning something new is always good, and I have definitely developed my interpersonal skills. I’m better at talking to people and reading people’s emotions, and my confidence has definitely grown. I have always been fairly able to empathise with other people, but the group has given me opportunities to make sense of some of the things my new friends are going through, which has helped me make sense of myself a bit.

It’s nice to have somewhere to go where you can be yourself without judgement; you can really flourish.

I was completely accepted from the second I went into the group.

I first heard about Turtles and The Proud Trust in year 8 whilst having counselling with Barnardos. I put off going for a long time because I was anxious, but I eventually ended up going and have now been coming to Turtles for just over two years.

One of the reasons I thought about attending Turtles was because I didn’t have many friends, but I especially didn’t know anyone who was trans and would understand what I was going through. When I heard there was a group where people could relate to me, I knew that was something I wanted to do.

When I started coming to Turtles my opinions were set in stone, but I’ve learned to be more open-minded and tolerant, looking into things more for myself. I’ve learned a lot more about what I’m capable of: I’ve really come out of my comfort zone and can now travel to new places using public transport and talk to new people; it’s opened up a lot of doors for me. It’s nice to have people around you that can confirm that what you’re feeling is ok.

Before I came to Turtles, I struggled with my identity: I felt a lot more alone than I do now. Now I feel like I have the confidence to socialise with new people and do new things. I’d struggled a lot with family and friendships – especially after coming out – as a lot of people tried to understand me, but couldn’t. It was difficult getting people at school to understand that it’s not a joke; it’s who you are. So when we went on the trans youth residential, it was incredibly helpful to be around people in the same boat as me.

It really helps to have trans-specific groups, because whilst it’s good to be surrounded by people who identify as LGBT+, not everybody is going to have that trans experience. Trans-specific groups are confidential, private and safe spaces.

I would absolutely recommend that other young LGBT+ people attend the groups because it’s definitely been an extremely positive experience for me! You don’t have to reach out to make friends because they’re already there, and you know people aren’t going to judge you for who you are.

It's okay 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.

I always come away from sessions feeling my own strength and confidence.

I enjoy the friendship and positive atmosphere between everyone at The Proud Trust, whether it’s the workers or my peers on the course and in other groups. It’s a great place for self-expression too, among people who are likely to understand and empathise with my experiences.

I first learned about The Proud Trust through a Facebook ad for their employment project – Proud Futures – and I’ve been attending groups since that first started in October 2020. I’d left university and come out as a trans woman, but I didn’t feel confident making the next step into the world of work. I was worried about finding myself in an environment that was hostile to me, so I chose to join the group to have a safe place to learn more about work.

Through The Proud Trust, I’m learning to have a little more awareness of my strengths and limitations; when to ask for help and when to push myself, as well as when to take a break if something isn’t working. I’ve also learned a lot about the world of work: how people’s working days might look like, how teams work, and other small practical things that can feel intimidating to ask about. Alongside these practical skills, I’ve learnt that I’m more resilient than I realise, and that I don’t have to worry so much about whether or not I’m rambling when I talk.

Before I came to The Proud Trust I was really anxious about moving into employment. I didn’t know what options were available to me and I assumed I’d just have to get used to being miserable about work for the rest of my life. I’ve been very lucky to have a supportive family, but I’m keenly aware the rest of the world isn’t nearly so supportive by default. Plus, with lockdown, my ability to go out and meet LGBTQ+ people like me was really limited. I wasn’t in a dangerous situation, but there was loneliness there.

Since coming to The Proud Trust, the loneliness isn’t so much of a problem anymore. With the Creative Cafe every two weeks, I can be sure to catch up with other LGBTQ+ people and just enjoy their company. I also feel much more positive about work. I’m realistic as to how it won’t always be good, but for the first time I feel ready to give it a go, safe in the knowledge that if it got too much, I’d have resilience to push through, or could fall back on the support of The Proud Trust.

I’d definitely recommend people attend The Proud Trust! LGBTQ+ people are scattered all over Greater Manchester, with the lockdown only causing more isolation for all of us. It’s a win-win situation to join: you get a supportive community of LGBTQ+ people already at The Proud Trust, and through them open up a broader diversity of experiences and views.

LGBTQ+ specific clubs, youth groups, courses and spaces are important because they are a safe place to try identities out. I’ve seen many people at The Proud Trust change their pronouns and gender expressions over the course of time, knowing that it’s okay to be unsure, and that you will get respect as a default. Non-LGBTQ+ specific groups can be supportive of people’s journeys of self-discovery, but often they can’t quite appreciate the specific ins and outs, and will be slower to adjust because of a need for education. In an LGBTQ specific group, there is no need to justify yourself to others.


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