"You're not the only LGBT+ person out there and you will find love and acceptance."
For all the very worthwhile work we do at JLU, I started volunteering on a total whim: a sign-up link was posted in the Facebook group of my university’s LGBT+ society and I thought it sounded like it might be fun. But I think the reason I followed through with it is because I felt bound by a sense of duty.
When I was sixteen and closeted to everyone around me, a school assembly gave me the courage to begin coming out - first to my best friend as I walked home that evening, and then later to my inner circle of friends. So I feel that by volunteering with JLU, I am being that LGBT+ role model I was so lucky to have when I was sixteen for pupils in that same position now. In a sense, I’ve come full circle.
But, of course, volunteering with JLU has given me so much more than just that sense of closure. I've gotten so much back, from technical skills in creating effective presentations; to experience working with schools; to working out the logistics of all our activities in Bristol; to friendships with LGBT+ people my age.I’m especially thankful for the public speaking training JLU offers.
Until I did the JLU training, public speaking was my worst nightmare and I avoided it wherever possible. Now it’s something I do happily. JLU invests lots of time and energy in ensuring their volunteers continue being confident, LGBT+ trailblazers as they graduate university and enter the world of work.
Not only is my work with JLU an excellent talking point on my CV, but I’m also being personally mentored by a senior LGBT+ professional, which has given me lots of food for thought with regards to possible career trajectories I could take.
I think an element of JLU that I’ve perhaps taken slightly for granted and that I wouldn’t have at many other organisations is that everyone working or volunteering for the charity is LGBT+. When I started at JLU, I was instantly comfortable enough to regularly come out to a group of pupils at much-too-early-o'clock. But, privately, I was still not entirely comfortable with my own identity.
Volunteering in this young people's LGBT+ charity, surrounded by so many incredible LGBT+ people, working to normalise something that's so often a source of shame, has been an immensely positive formative experience in my life.
Clodagh is JLU's Bristol Hub Co-Lead