The young people of Leighton Buzzard and surrounding areas in Bedfordshire who identify as being part of the LGBTQ community have benefitted from a support group, run from the Leighton Buzzard youth club.
There was previously no provision on offer for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and those young people questioning their sexuality or gender within Bedfordshire. So with support from the Terence Higgins Trust, and
local schools and colleges, Groundwork now offers young people from the LGBTQ+ community a safe place to make friends, and access support on a weekly basis, as well as take part in fun activities with their peers.
Alex* is 18 and attends the LGBTQ+ youth group ‘Happy as I am’ in Leighton Buzzard to access support and spend time with others from the LGBTQ+ community.
“I found out about the LGBTQ+ sessions from a poster displayed in my school. My boyfriend and I contacted the youth worker who runs it and met up with him to discuss what the group was about, and why we felt it was important to have a safe place in town for LGBTQ+ young people.
“I started going to the sessions because at the time I saw the poster I was just starting to come out to the people around me as transgender. Finding the poster was amazing, as I had been looking for somewhere I could go
where I wouldn’t have to worry about whether I was safe, or encounter problems because of who I am.
“For me meeting new people who are experiencing similar things and being able to make friends is very important. The group is a safe environment where I am able to relax and just be myself, talking with
friends and learning about LGBTQ+ matters that we don’t necessarily cover at school – including how to stay safe.
“I enjoy the relaxed nature of the group and the freedom that we all have to be ourselves, as there is no pressure to be one way or another. I like that we have the option to be quiet and sit in small groups or to join the table for bigger conversations. Overall the supportive and caring atmosphere of the group makes me feel like I belong.
“I have found that the sessions help me to deal with challenges and problems. During my time attending the group, I have been able to talk to people about coming out at school, what to expect and how to handle it. Being able to do this gave me the confidence to talk to the staff at my sixth form, very quickly after this my teachers had been informed and my name badge changed to the name I use. Without talking to others at youth group I feel it would have taken me much longer to build up the courage to do this. I’m very grateful for the advice I was given because now I go to school and wear my badge with pride rather than shame.
“I think that other LGBTQ+ young people would benefit from having the supportive and accepting environment the group provides, as well as the freedom to be themselves, learn about things specific to the LGBTQ+ community and meet others who have similar experiences and views.”
*name has been changed to protect identity