The LGBT+ community in my school is a welcoming and loving community that celebrates pride, diversity and individuality. And you don’t need to be LGBT+ to be part of it: I have found myself so welcomed in as an ally. Being a part of the community as an ally has helped me meet new people and form new amazing friendships. I’ve never felt closer to a group of people before discovering my LGBT+ community friends and I’ve grown to have a better understanding of society and the world itself.
Our Umbrella club started off being a small group of people, ‘chilling’ and talking about our lives without worrying about being judged. One of the first things we did to raise awareness of the group was have a bake sale. It went successfully and raised around £130 in just one day! Not only that, but more people joined our club. It brought us and the school itself together.
We also had the LGBT+ Club from a University come to visit us to talk about the community and answer questions. It was informal, but very friendly. At this point I began to feel more comfortable with talking to people and had more awareness of how others may feel. I became more open-minded and welcoming to everyone, starting to love everyone for who they are rather than what they are. This is vital. People’s sexuality and gender identity don't define them. Their character and personality do.
After this, our club decided to work on an LGBT+ display - the photos in this blog all feature student art from the display. Making this was wonderful as I met people I never would’ve thought about talking to. Working together on this display helped us develop close friendships and get to know each other more, and realise just how diverse we all are and just how amazing this diversity can be.
Recently, we had quite a unique event at our Pride Group. A PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) visited to talk about hate crime, and specifically hate crime against the LGBT+ community. I didn’t really know what to expect, but was excited for the session. I thought that they’d just tell us about hate crime itself and putting people into jail - but it was more than that.
We found out how people professionally deal with the victims of LGBT+ hate crime and how they deal with those who perform the hate crime itself. Talking about how often hate crime against the LGBT+ community occurs helped the club have more of an understanding of why it is so important to raise awareness about the struggles the community faces and how dangerous hate crime can be. The club didn’t really know that saying something negative to someone about their sexuality can be classed as a hate crime.
It made us all feel like we shouldn’t be afraid to express ourselves as we have rights if something bad does happen to us. Many people in the club felt happier and secure as they all know where to go if something negative is said to them about their sexuality. As an ally, I have also dealt with negative things being said to me, just because I was an ally for the LGBT+ community. So the talk meant a lot to me as well because it showed me how to support my LGBT+ peers as well as how to support myself if I too was ever subjected to hate.
We also discussed different local groups where we can talk about worries with people who have experience of being in the LGBT+ community and know how to deal with problems. The talk really emphasised that LGBT+ hate crime is just as serious and as dangerous as any other hate crime.
I’m hoping the future holds many things: I’ve previously been to a Pride Parade and I’d really love to go to one again! The energy and the atmosphere were electric, and I’ve never seen a group of strangers feel so much joy and have so much fun before. It felt like a family. A very large, loving family.
I also really hope to continue raising awareness about the homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language used around in school. I’ve actually helped to create an assembly that aims to tackle this in my school – particularly the ‘that’s so gay’ throwaway comment that is heard all too often. I also want to help embed LGBT+ content in lessons as a way of raising awareness for students and teachers.
Most importantly, I want everyone in my school community to feel comfortable for being who they are. I’d like to reduce and prevent bullying, so that everyone has a safe place to develop as a person and to learn happily.
Our Pride Group is a place where everyone is welcomed, and is the safe place some people may need. It has been a great way of getting to know more about the people around me and how different we all are. Together we are making gradual, but major, changes to our society, and empowering young people like me to celebrate diversity.