11 Oct James’ story: I learn every day and take nothing for granted
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You’ve loaded a blog article that’s part of a mini-series about gender and sexual identity*. The mini-series shares 11 wonderful and inspiring stories from young people who identify as LGBTQ+. Feel free to read on but you may want to pause and have a quick scan of the opening article to give a bit of context around the collection of stories and resources available. Please click here to read the first article.
“Throughout school I felt I was not the same as other kids” – James
Whatever your identity and whoever you are, life has a tendency to throw up challenging experiences or situations – especially when we’re young. Whatever you’re struggling with, finding a community where you feel safe and included can help. So, too, can having access to resources that you can learn from and role models to look up to.
In this week’s blog post from the Back on Track Teens gender and sexual identity mini-series, we hear from James, a gay man, who is involved with a local charity SAGE (Staffordshire).
James talks about the changes that have occurred recently in sex education in schools and provides invaluable insights into what parents might be concerned with, alongside their children. He also discusses the questions and anxieties that he has encountered when working with young people.
Age: Early 40s
Sexual identity: Gay
Occupation: Charity worker
SAGE, which stands for “Sexuality and Gender Empowerment” supports people who identify as LGBTQ+, which includes identities such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, asexual, intersex and many others relating both gender and/or sexual identity. The organisation also support the families and friends of people who are LGBTQ+ identifying or who may be questioning.
“Most work has been done over the telephone or through Teams online [but] hopefully, we’ll have some face-to-face work now. It’s important to create a safe space and we like to know what young people want from the service. A lot of LGBTQ+ activities are nightclub-oriented and we want to move towards creating a safe space where alcohol or self-medication are not involved.”
SAGE’s work in the community
James is encouraging people to share with the charity and let Back on Track Teens know what they want. This could be anything from having somewhere safe to hang out and be themselves to regular organised trips, such as going bowling once a month.
SAGE has plenty of its own ideas and is open to your suggestions. The charity isn’t exclusive in supporting young people and SAGE wants to encourage adults and older people to get involved too.
The charity provides 1-2-1 support and group support by listening to what the person wants for themselves.
“One person I speak to over the phone twice a week. [Support is] tailored to what they need.”
What are the most common things people struggle with?
James explains how older parents sometimes don’t accept diverse sexual identities. While many parents are more open today, there is still a long way to go in terms of supporting young people who identify as LGBTQ+
Much like the young people he supports, James is very aware that there’s generally a lot of societal pressure to get married and have kids. Even though that is still possible for anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+, some parents may experience misplaced disappointment when they believe they may not have grandchildren. Some may feel that they can’t tell grandparents or older siblings about their child’s identity for fear of them not understanding. This is because, as James points out, we live in a heteronormative society.
“The main issues faced, especially for teenagers, is that puberty can be difficult at the best of times. But when you’ve got an extra couple of layers of your body doing things you really do not want it to, or just making you feel so uncomfortable, there can be issues of self-harm or complete confusion of where your head is at with all that’s going on. It’s important to support people, especially when they feel subject to bullying.”
James highlights a recent hate crime storyline on the popular TV soap Coronation Street. Even though it wasn’t LGBTQ+ specific he hopes the series has raised awareness and encouraged more conversations to take place. James believes that most change will only come about through the willingness to have conversations that educate and encourage acceptance. And these don’t need to be big or intimidating; it could look like a young cisgender man explaining to his father over text what the word “trans” means, so his dad has the chance to learn about something he didn’t understand before. Even the smallest exchange can be absolutely invaluable because unfortunately, we do still live in a society plagued by prejudices such as homophobia and transphobia.
As the rights for and representation of LGBTQ+ identities continue to improve, James believes that more young people will feel comfortable and safe with living openly and authentically. While a heterosexual person may not have the same experiences as a peer who is LGBTQ+, James feels that there is a lot of hope for the younger generation and those still to come to be more and more accepting. James is looking forward to the day when conversations like the one described above don’t need to occur because everyone already understands.
The day can’t come soon enough, as James points out. Today, he feels strongly that there’s still an ‘us and them’ dynamic in society, which isn’t surprising when you consider that being homosexual was literally illegal before 1967, for example.
SAGE provide a specialist integrated service where everyone is included and young people and adults can be themselves.
What common questions do you get asked?
“Am I normal? Why am I thinking and feeling like this? Why is my body doing one thing when I want it to be doing something else?
At SAGE, supporting people to be comfortable in their own skin and helping them through their personal journey is the focus because it’s not one size fits all.
Choose the life you want to lead
Everyone has a different timeline when exploring their identity and it is an individual journey. If you have enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to read more stories from incredible young people and share the series with your friends and family.
Everyone has a journey to experience and a story to share. Learn more, increase your knowledge and find your community to live a more fulfilling and happier life. Everyone is unique and deserves to feel comfortable and accepted in how they identify.
“The only queer people are those who don’t love anybody.” Rita Mae Brown
Thanks for reading…
Creating the gender and sexual identity mini-series has been an incredible experience for the Back on Track Teens team.
- I encourage you to go ahead and download our free eBook, which brings the interviews together with a huge collection of information, resources and inspiration.
- Subscribe to the Spark to Your Success podcast here.
- Access insightful stories, helpful exercises and more resources on our blog.
- Refer to the Back on Track Teens LGBTQ+ glossary here.
- Order ‘The Spark to Your Success – Helping Teens Build Resilience’ here.
- Order ‘The Spark to Your Success – Mindset Magic for Teens’ here.
Are you a parent or caregiver of a young person who may be experiencing challenges around gender and/or sexual identity? Book a session with TeeJay Dowe
Work at a school or organisation and want to know more? Book an awareness training session
*The blog articles capture real stories and the topic of conversation is frank. Its purpose is to elevate the voices of people within the LGBTQ+ community, answer questions, provide resources, and offer support.