Char Bailey (she/her), who is a life coach, part of the UK Black Pride team and the new Head of Wellbeing and Education at Birmingham Pride, speaks on Just Like Us’ new podcast series, Growing up LGBT+, in a new episode special released on International Lesbian Day.
On inclusive education
"I never learnt about LGBT+ community or gay rights in history or anything like that [at school] so being part of the community and doing what I do now is still really new to me. I would’ve been mesmerised to have seen Just Like Us ambassadors at my school. It would’ve given me the opportunity to feel in one sense – I don’t really like the term normality – but just on an even keel."
On growing up LGBT+
“It was really frightening and isolating. I didn’t know that people of colour could be queer – I thought there was something seriously wrong with me for feeling these feelings. For part of my time in school, I just sort of denied who I was. I said I’ve changed back, I did the whole coming out and coming in thing because it never felt safe.
“It took me a long time to realise that it was OK to be me. I love being me but I think sometimes there’s that whole thing of you can’t be what you can’t see.
“I come from a very white place, the majority of people where I live are white and so I often felt that I was the only person like me. And I had this idea that when I came into the LGBT+ community, that it would just be this safe haven of happiness and joy. But there is this real reality that there are these smaller groups – you know, the community is a microcosm of the world and so some of those same issues are prevalent in the LGBT+ community too.
On UK Black Pride
“I didn’t have anyone that I looked to – it wasn’t until I was much older and I discovered UK Black Pride and who Lady Phyll was.
“So for me, it was not just about being part of the community but finding my home within the community and that’s why I joined UK Black Pride because everything wasn’t just about creating this community but this idea of reciprocity. Not just to be saved and be pitied and having someone say ‘oh we’ll come and scoop you up’, but also to have this sense of self where I am worth something and I am valuable and I’m in a community where I can be valued. For me, that’s when you know you’ve found home.
"I slid into the DMs of Lady Phyll – she was very kind. I saw that they were looking for people to help and I went to a meeting. That meeting was the biggest exhale that I’ve ever exhaled – I’d never sat round a table of Black or brown or poc. And there was even a question of ‘do you prefer Black or brown or poc?’ and no one had ever asked me that before. That was home for me, I just knew right there and then that that was the place I was going to stay. I’m so proud to stand beside these people because they are all forces of nature.
"Being part of UK Black Pride has really opened up a whole new avenue of self-expression. I’m able to talk to the girls about girls and about things that maybe my family would embrace but wouldn’t be able to relate. So for me, having that chosen family is really important – it’s really nourishing to me, it’s part of building who I am."
On what she'd tell her younger self
"You’re amazing, you deserve to be loved whoever you love, and most of all, don’t forget to love yourself because that’s really important too. And I still often forget that one! And as much as we reflect back, we should also be consciously aware that we’re allowed to grow, we’re allowed to fall, we’re allowed to make mistakes, we’re allowed to not feel good, and we’re allowed to be better at the end of it, too."
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