I’ve known I was gay since I was young, and the one thing that was truly missing from my childhood was a role model who was like me. There were not any openly gay black women in the media when I was growing up and if there were I didn’t know them.
I’ve always been an extremely strong person so I just got on with things but I know not all young people would do the same. Sometimes I can’t help but think that a lot of the negative things that happened, especially in my adolescent years could have been avoided if there were more LGBT figures in public that I could relate to – a lot of what was seen as me “acting out” was actually a cry for help. Fast forward to the present and I am in my final year of a Fashion Communication degree at Liverpool John Moores University with the hopes of having a career in styling.
The statistics speak for themselves; LGBT youth are six times more likely to commit suicide. I want to be a positive role model for both my communities. Being a minority within a minority is not easy – sometimes I feel too black for the LGBT community and too gay for the black community. It’s easy to feel like I don’t fit in anywhere but if speaking out means that I will help one person from making a decision they might regret then it is worth it. My university is on Stonewall’s list of Diversity Champions which is something we should be so incredibly proud of, not everyone has the opportunity to go to a university which is recognised as being inclusive of its LGBT members.
In September 2015 I was, much to my surprise, selected to go on the Stonewall Young Leaders programme. Although little about the programme is revealed, it is described as ‘empowering the next generation of LGBT role models’. Even applying was such a big deal to me, so you can imagine the shock I was given when I read the email saying I had been one of the 36 successful applicants.
Due to the sheer lack of information received about what I’d actually be doing on the programme, I had mixed emotions – on one hand I was petrified and the other I was excited. Those feelings of fear quickly dissolved, as over the course of the two and a half day programme I laughed, cried and shared personal stories with complete strangers.
The idea of the programme is to learn what it is to be an authentic LGBT role model and how you can use this to make your workplace more inclusive of its LGBT staff members. This journey of self-discovery was extremely vital for me as in about five months I’m going to embark on the next stage of my career which is going to be scary. Nobody ‘comes out’ once – I have to do it every time somebody assumes I have a boyfriend or asks me about my love life.
The Stonewall Young Leaders programme has given me fundamental skills, which I will use not only in the workplace but also in everyday life and I have made amazing friends for life.