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Introduction by our Editor.

Last Thursday, our Chief Correspondent Steven Smith – who works closely with autism charities – contacted me about OJ, a young person who he’s met through Autism’s Got Talent.

OJ is non-binary, gay, and has ADHD, Asperger’s, sensory pd and anxiety. Sensory pd, by the way, is when someone is adversely affected by bright light, loud noises, crowds and so on. Because of these conditions, OJ missed two years of school until starting in a special unit in January 2020, only to have their eduction disrupted further by the pandemic.

As part of their English GCSE, OJ delivered a speech which earned them a distinction and which their mum, Teresa, was kind enough to send to me. The speech details OJ’s struggles with day to day life, bullying and coming to terms with their identity.

I was so moved with what I read that I asked Teresa and OJ if I could reproduce the speech as a written article in OutNewsGlobal. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their kind permission and I urge you to read on.

Imagine how it feels to be an outcast, alone or even lost in such a way that you cannot comprehend the world around you. You just want to shut it out. Nobody wants to give you validation so why let them in your life? You feel like you can’t be you anywhere you go and have to always watch your back. Who can cope with living such a life?

Gender and sexuality identities need more validation because at the end of the day, there is an extremely minimal amount of validation because if people like myself for example felt safe on their own streets then they would feel valid enough so that they could be their most authentic self whether they are out or not. I speak on behalf of my community when I say that as queer identities we still feel threatened. We live in fear: in fact, one in seven LGBTQ+ people have avoided seeking treatment for fear of discrimination because of who they are. 

Mental health and wellbeing play a massive part in all of this as being judged doesn’t go away, does it? It stays with you and is almost like a hidden scar that only the people you tell will know about. All you ever do is wake up everyday, do whatever you have to do that day, and go back home and it just goes in a cycle…but throughout that cycle there are those stressful moments or annoying issues that cause little bumps in your routine. So just imagine that, but the bumps don’t go away, they never leave your memories, they just haunt you forever and yet the outside world still thinks we should just get on with it.

Do you think there is enough awareness about LGBTQ+ in education and educational environments? It is most likely that there isn’t enough because half of LGBTQ+ pupils are frequently subjected to homophobic slurs at school!

Now to focus in a little more depth. In my opinion, I believe that transgender people are less respected compared to people with gay, bi and lesbian identities. Now I am not saying we should just focus on trans people as everyone is valid and equal however you cannot get away from the fact that between 2008 and 2014 there were 1,612 transgender people murdered across 62 countries. That’s roughly equivalent to a killing every two days. 

We need to remember to love or at least respect each other. Whether we are family, friends or complete strangers to each other, you should care for others even if it is just by respecting them for who they are. You do not control others, we should be free yet we still feel trapped. Trapped within a tiny cage filled with vile comments and negative judgement and people wonder why we don’t speak up! From personal experience, I know that when these things occur or you remember a previous incident, you don’t feel like you can function and you even feel alone even in a crowded room. Some people could not even imagine the struggle.

Hear me, see us, accept everyone.

About the author

OJ Bridges

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