A young transgender person who visits schools to help children learn about LGBT+ communities says they have strong hope for the next generation.
‘I feel like one of the biggest changes, looking back now, is that I didn’t know when I was younger that trans people were a thing people are, and can be,’ explains Kara Allum.
‘And maybe up until a couple of years ago, I never even considered that could be me.’
Kara, who is 24, currently identifies as a non-binary transgender pansexual person – and says it took them several years to work through their identity.
They tell Metro.co.uk about how they now share their experience of being LGBT+ with young people – and the process of discovery and coming out.
‘It felt very demeaning’
‘I grew up in a small town in Oxfordshire and there was no visibility,’ they explain. ‘There were jokes [about being trans] and it felt very demeaning.
‘That was my general experience, and I don’t want others to go through that too.’
As a result Kara, who is currently working towards a PhD in mathematical biology at Oxford University, has become an ambassador for a charity for young LGBT+ people called Just Like Us.
The ambassadors take part in a wide range of activities including school and workplace talks – mostly online at the moment due to the pandemic – creating content, writing about their experiences and running campaigns.
Kara wanted to take on this role because they hope to give young people access to information they might not come across until after leaving school.
‘If I’d had a similar conversation at 13 or 14 it would have made a huge difference,’ they add.
‘[Talking] would have helped me recognise feelings I had for quite a lot time, but I had no words for them.
‘The reason we go into schools to speak is because we did not have that information growing up – we want to provide something we just didn’t get.’
Kara explains that they start talks by going through a set of definitions to ensure everyone has a basic level of understanding of what things mean.
‘Everyone is so different’
They admit to often feeling ‘nervous’ before giving a talk in a school – however, they soon find young people are often ‘just interested’ and ask ‘genuine’ questions.
‘You may think you are feeling things not everyone is feeling but once you have the information it enables you to think: maybe I am this thing,’ they explain. ‘We are all so different.’
Kara says giving talks has also helped them discover their own identity, adding: ‘It’s just giving yourself that permission to be who you need to be, and want to be.
‘It was really tricky to work out what I was feeling. That’s why I love giving talks – hearing other people’s stories can really give you confidence yourself.
‘It gives you a safe space and helps you to break down the walls you have built for yourself.’
‘It’s okay to change labels or not be sure’
They add that speaking out to schools helps demonstrate how there is not just one ‘type’ of LGBT+: ‘You are sharing your stories so you can help people make their own minds up.’
Kara also wants people to understand that there’s nothing wrong with someone changing labels over time to better reflect their feelings about their identity.
‘Gender and sexuality are on a spectrum – we are not stuck in one place,’ they explain.
‘Over four or five years I completely changed all my labels. It’s okay to not be sure.
‘When I was 13, I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. I just had to work it through and sometimes it takes a bit more time.
‘Now I’m much happier.’
Kara says in comparison to their own experience growing up, they personally feel like ‘things are getting better’ for the younger LGBT+ generation, and they are ‘positive’ about the future.
‘We don’t give young people enough credit sometimes,’ they insist. ‘I was more nervous speaking to them than I should have been – they didn’t care [about labels], they just said, “Cool.”
‘What is most powerful is when the teachers are really supportive as well, as it creates that completely inclusive environment.’
It comes after research from Just Like Us recently revealed almost all young people would support a friend if they came out as transgender – and more than half already know someone who identifies as trans.
Some three-quarters of the pupils surveyed think their teachers would be supportive of a student coming out as trans at school.
‘This is who I am’
Kara admits though there are still challenges for young LGBT+ people, and believes in an ‘ideal world’, charities like Just Like Us would not have to exist to raise awareness and fight for change.
‘One of the biggest things [going forward] is terminology – labels and the way we define things,’ they explains.
‘In particular some of the older LGBT+ people in the community are saying, “This wasn’t a thing when I was younger!”
‘We must allow younger people to say, “This is who I am.” Labels can mean different things for different people, we don’t always fit exactly.’
And Kara adds another ideal would be living in a world where ‘people don’t assume that everyone is straight and cisgender.
‘We should let people describe and define themselve.’
Future of Pride
This story is part of the Future of Pride series, which is looking at the younger generation of LGBT+ community and where it is headed in the next few years. The series features in Metro.co.uk’s Pride Week coverage.
For these stories our website is working with Just Like Us, which runs School Diversity Week at the end of June to make education more inclusive and improve the lives of LGBT+ young people across the UK.
You can read more from the series below.
READ MORE: Lesbian teacher is now out to her class – after having to hide it 15 years ago
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