Today, our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Beth Warriner, has been chatting to J – a participant of our LGBT+ Youth Club, which runs in conjunction with Bolton Council’s Play and Youth Service.
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Beth: Hey J! Could you introduce yourself?
J: Hello! I’m currently 16, almost 17, and have been attending the BWCT and Bolton Council LGBT+ Youth Club since 2017.
Beth: Why do you think it’s important to have a dedicated provision specifically for LGBT+ young people?
J: In the modern world, so many more young people are coming out as LGBT+, and I feel it’s important for them to have a safe place to go, and express themselves without worrying of judgement from their peers – plus many don’t have safe home environments and may need an escape, a safe haven per se away from the negativity they may face in their average lives. Although the outlook on the LGBT+ community is far more positive than it used to be, it still isn’t perfect nor entirely safe for LGBT+ to simply exist in harmony with everyone else.
Beth: What positives have you gained from attending the LGBT+ Youth Club?
J: When I first started attending the youth club, I was an extremely anxious young person, I found it hard to even maintain eye contact most of the time aha, but since attending the youth club, my confidence has skyrocketed! Back in 2019 I made an award acceptance speech without any pre-written notes, in a room full of strangers, adult strangers at that- if that isn’t a testament to the amount of confidence the club has given me, I don’t know what is! As well as the confidence it has also allowed me to make extremely close connections with other LGBT+ people, in fact, I even met my current best friend there. The experiences I have had with the youth club are absolutely priceless, even just the simple discussions we have are so helpful, it’s just incredibly nice to be surrounded by people who accept you no matter what. Not only that, we’ve had trips too, and watched plays (The Importance of Being Earnest) and gone out to eat as a group, those memories I am certain I will cherish far into my later life.
Beth: In 2021, we hope that participants of the LGBT+ Youth Club will have the opportunity to plan and deliver a Bolton Youth Pride event. Do you have any ideas for this already? What should we expect?
J: As for my ideas, I am not the most creative of the bunch haha, but I think we should do a fun activities stall, hook a duck, darts, hit the target, carnival kind of games, just to give the young people and families a fun place to go to whilst enjoying the rest of the events! As for what to expect, expect the unexpected, the team behind Bolton Pride always outdo themselves! I’ve heard from many people that even just stumbled upon the event had vast amounts of fun, and especially enjoyed the entertainment they put on! Expect fun!
Beth: You’ve become an ambassador and volunteer for the LGBT+ Youth Club and you’re always keen to offer help and support to other LGBT+ young people across Bolton. Why do you think supporting those who may be struggling with their sexuality or identity is so important?
J: As an ambassador and volunteer of the LGBT+ youth club I feel it’s extremely important to support young people who are struggling with their sexuality or identity, simply due to the fact that we are all humans, everyone deserves support and someone to speak to when they’re struggling. Before the Youth Club, I didn’t have this, I kept everything to myself and it was extremely harmful to my mental health, and I would not want anyone else to go through that if I can help it! The LGBT+ youth club has helped and supported me to become my authentic self, I wish to do the same for others too!
Beth: Would you recommend our LGBT+ Youth Club to other young LGBT+ people? If so, why?
J: Of course I would recommend it, the youth workers are extremely accepting and really easy to talk to, the young people that are attending the club (including myself) are always keen to help and discuss any issues one of the members may have. The community that has been created is extremely open, accepting and supportive- to any young person who is LGBT+ come say hi!
Beth: You won an award at the Bolton Pride Diversity Awards in 2019 for being a Youth Diversity Champion for supporting young LGBT+ people across Bolton. Can you tell us about this?
J: 2019 was a wild year from start to finish! Honestly, I did not even expect to get an award for such things, getting an award for showing human decency just shows how much more we as a society need to improve! I’m extremely grateful to have received said award, don’t get me wrong, but it strives me to do a whole lot better when it comes to helping LGBT+ youth, after all I have an award to live up to aha. Prior to receiving the award, the members at the Youth Club did a project relating to raising awareness about Hate Crime across Greater Manchester, with this we created packs for schools to use when discussing the issue of hate crime, and how prevalent it actually is. I feel like with the resources we have we should do all we can to support LGBT+ people in Bolton and across Greater Manchester, and I hope to be able to contribute to another project similar to the one we did on Hate Crime In the future.
Beth: We’re leading up to Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces Day (9th December) and BWFC’s Rainbow Laces Fixture (5th December). What are your thoughts on sport and the LGBT+ community?
J: My thoughts on sports and the LGBT+ community is well, not entirely positive. The amount of discrimination that LGBT+ people face in sports is not acceptable at all. Especially the issues trans people face when it comes to sport, being excluded, and hated for simply wanting to participate in activities like everybody else. Since the majority of the sport’s demographic is assumed to be made up of cisgender heterosexual people, LGBT+ people rarely get any representation in the sports media, and the representation we do get is usually a bad one, and this needs to change. Sport is a fun way to remain fit and healthy, shouldn’t that be accessible to everyone regardless of gender and sexuality?
Beth: Finally, I just want to say a massive THANK YOU. You’re a real inspiration to both participants and staff at the LGBT+ Youth Club and it’s always a pleasure to have you in attendance. Any final comments from you?
J: NO WORRIES!! Thank you, I’m flattered 🙂 it’s always a pleasure to be in attendance! Yes, to any LGBT+ people out there, know you’re not alone, and there is a community waiting with open arms to support you! If you’re applicable to attend the LGBT+ Youth Club please don’t be afraid to come and say hello! Seeing new faces is always nice :).