Blog by Charley Oliver-Holland, Welsh Youth Parliament Member
Being 13 years old and unsure about the world around me was hard. On national coming out day 2016, I decided to come out. In my head, it was a big deal. I felt like I was different to everyone around me and that no one would accept me for loving those the same gender as myself. You hear growing up, the endless male and female stereotypical fairy tales, which makes the choice of coming out massively harder. But for me personally, coming out let me be myself, and I now live being 100% authentically me, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
National coming out day can be a great opportunity for those who aren’t out, to express who they are. But don’t let that force you into telling people information that may make you feel unsafe. Coming out is a personal choice, which should be done in your own time. Don’t feel like a specific day of the year is an obligation for you to tell everyone something that you’re not ready to disclose. There are many counselling services available for those who struggle with these issues, and don’t be afraid to access them, however big or small your problem. Coming out is hard, facing discrimination is hard, being LBGT+ in a world that doesn’t always accept you, is hard. I’m here to tell my personal story, but don’t ever let another person's story define yours. We are all unique, and our stories are valid.
Falling in love is a strange thing. As a teenager, you start to explore yourself and find your individual path in life. I knew from a young age I liked girls, but living in a small conservative village, I also knew this wasn't okay. As a child bullying came my way, as it often does to those who are stereotypically deemed abnormal. I was shy, overweight and a lesbian. I first came out to a small group of friends, who were absolutely fine with my sexuality. Then came my parents. I wrote an extremely heartfelt letter scurried down the stairs and hid it in my Mams handbag. The reply I received was a short but sweet ‘I know, I love you’, which was a huge weight off my shoulders. I am massively lucky and grateful to have supportive friends and family who let me be me.
School was a different story, I faced hardships for my sexuality, but was lucky to have people there for me. Despite this, there was no specific support network within my school. This often made me feel lonely and isolated. But those feelings didn’t have a negative effect on me, they instead pushed me to make change. I decided to create an LGBT+ support club in my school, so the next generation of young people in my area would feel better about themselves. Seeing the joy this brought to just a small group of people, I was pushed to do more.
Since, I have chaired my youth council, spoken in both welsh and UK parliament, represented Wales on a UK wide level fighting for knife crime laws to be changed, won awards for volunteering and recently have been shortlisted for the National diversity awards as an LGBT+ role model. Creating change for other people, makes me feel like maybe there will be less hardships faced by the next generation of young people.
I hope that one day, no one will feel like I did as a lost and lonely 13-year-old. I hope that together we can create support, spread love, and give education. Discrimination will always be an issue, but I hope that my work will inspire you to send your time creating positive change. I am no longer shy and afraid. I am confident and spend every day spreading love and positivity to others. Sometimes mean comments will haunt me, but I always remember that there is nothing wrong with who I am and that my sexuality doesn’t define me, it is just a part of me.
The main message I would like to send to you all is that it's okay to be different. It's also great if you feel like you can come out, but if you can’t it doesn't make you any less amazing! If you face discrimination for being yourself, this doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. You can realise that maybe that person is feeling insecure about themselves and that you are not the problem. Instead of being angry at them, try and fight for what you believe in and help make a difference. Whether it be on a school level, or an international level, you can create change. You are valid, you are worthy, and don’t let anyone ever tell you that your sexuality or gender identity makes you anything less than brilliant!