I discovered this amazing charity back in 2016, during my final year as an undergrad student. Since then, through being an LGBT+ ambassador I have contributed positively to the life of so many LGBT+ teenagers! But something I really couldn’t have imagined before volunteering with the charity, is how much being a JLU ambassador would empower myself as a confident LGBT+ young person.
Having grown up in a very rural and conservative environment, where being openly gay is out of question, I knew first hand how hard and isolating it can be to grow up as an LGBT+ teenager. The idea of the JLU Ambassador Programme is to send LGBT+ young adults to secondary schools to discuss sexual orientation and gender, becoming positive role models in schools. Because I was, and am, very certain that having something like this in my secondary school would have made a complete difference in my life as an LGBT+ teenager, I had no doubt that volunteering here was for me.
Being a JLU ambassador has been one of the best experiences in my life. It’s so rewarding speaking to school children about the different sexual orientations and genders, and how being LGBT+ won’t stop them from having an amazing life. My speech not only empowers young students that might be questioning their sexual and gender identity, but I also hope that, by explaining my personal experience growing up LGBT+, this will make all school pupils understand why and what they should do to support LGBT+ people. For example, something as simple as not using the word “gay” in a negative way, can make a big difference to someone growing up LGBT+.
I knew the effect that someone like me could have on isolated LGBT+ school kids, but something that I wasn’t aware of is how much I’d empower myself through volunteering! My confidence and public speaking have improved, but there is a lot more than that! When I started at Just Like Us, I wasn’t fully comfortable with being openly gay. Talking to large audiences about my sexuality has definitely changed this.
Doing this has made me much more proactive about something I deeply care about: improving the lives of LGBT+ people. Now, as a postgrad student in Oxford, I am a student LGBT+ officer. I am a point for support for any LGBT+ students, as well as running events to help LGBT+ people connect with each other.
Only a couple of years ago, I was struggling with being gay. Supporting other LGBT+ people would have been unimaginable. I’m certain that if I hadn’t started volunteering in schools first, I wouldn’t be doing all the things I’m doing today!
Laura is a Just Like Us Ambassador.