Growing up in a rural area of Scotland as a bisexual young person created a number of challenges and barriers for me. My school was unsupportive of my suggestion of creating an LGBT-friendly safe space for pupils to meet and many teachers were either openly homophobic or dismissive of homophobic language being used throughout the school.
I did not feel comfortable sharing my sexual identity with people outside my immediate friend group and did not have the confidence to challenge the stigmatizing views and contemptuous attitudes of staff. My sexuality was something I deemed “personal” and it wasn’t until I moved to a large city and started my university career that I felt able to be my truest and most authentic self.
I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the Stonewall Talent programme (now known as the Stonewall Young Leaders programme) back in September 2014. This experience was completely life-changing for me. Being surrounded by like-minded and inspiring young people and critically reflecting on my personal journey and experience led me to develop my confidence and the belief that I could make a positive difference to the lives of other LGBT+ young people.
Since the programme I have been involved in speaking at a number of Stonewall events and conferences such as the annual Education Conference, where I co-facilitated a breakout session on biphobia and bi-erasure, and the Scottish Workplace Conference, where I was a member of the Role Models Panel speaking about my personal experiences of being a young bisexual woman growing up in Scotland.
More recently as part of my LGBT+ activism alongside a colleague from Youth Services, I was able to organise and facilitate the first ever Pride event in my hometown of West Lothian. This was a pivotal and historic moment as nothing like that had ever been attempted in a small, predominantly working-class local authority such as this. The event itself was a huge success with over 400 people attending, leading to the exciting news that we have recently received; this will now become an annual celebration!
Stonewall has given me more than I could ever credit them with. They have instilled in me increased self-confidence and the belief that my actions can directly impact and have positive outcomes for young LGBT+ people. They work tirelessly to improve the life chances of all LGBT+ people across a variety of mediums and for that, I will be eternally grateful.