- How are you doing today?
“I’m pretty good yeah. I always struggle a bit after a holiday to get back into things but yes I’m very good thank you.”
- What is your favourite colour and why?
My favourite colour is a deep, dark turquoise, and I like it because it’s very gender neutral. You know when you look at a colour and it makes you feel warm and cosy? That’s how I feel when I look at the colour turquoise.
- What has been your favourite Proud2Be project so far?
I think probably our craft days. We run them every month and it’s nice because they’re really chilled out and very therapeutic. Making beads, colouring things in, making something…it’s very calming for me, so on a personal level I find it really calming and nice. I think it’s also a really nice atmosphere, especially for Totnes pride where we make banners and it feels like we’re building towards something which is exciting. I love everything we do, but that’s very special to me.
- What has been your most successful Proud2Be project so far?
Ooh well it’s something we haven’t actually done yet, but we’re campaigning to have the first permanent rainbow crossing in Totnes, which would be Europe’s first! I’d say it’s already been a success because people are talking about it more than any other project we’ve been involved in. People have different opinions on whether it should be there or not, and it creates discussion. I guess it’s weird to be proud of something that hasn’t been done yet, but I think it’s really doing its job!
- How old were you when you found out you were part of the LGBT community?
Oh gosh, how old was I? For me it wasn’t really a definite time. There wasn’t really an exact time where I was like, “I’m gay!” it was more a number of realisations. I was very young, and there was this popstar called Chesney Hawkes. I knew that I fancied him even though the words weren’t there, and the other boys in my class fancied other pop stars that I didn’t have an interest in. I also had a crush on the Incredible Hulk! Slowly but surely I found out what the term gay meant, and it was like a timeline of events. It was a process of my own experiences and accepting that part of me.
- Have you got any upcoming Proud2Be projects you can tell us about?
It’s something we’re looking at doing, but we’re really interested in bringing young people together to share stories. The thing is, what we’ve learnt over the past few years is that there are miscommunication between the lives of older LGBT people and younger LGBT people, there’s a lot of assumptions. People say it’s really easy for young LGBT people these days as opposed to the older generation. We hear that a lot and actually that’s not the reality. It’s a misconception and to have a space where older and younger LGBT people can meet and share stories will be a good growing space. It’s not all flowers and roses for young LGBT people, which is a dangerous thing to assume, ya know?
- How do you feel about LGBT portrayal in the media, such as in films and games?
I’m not sure about games as I’m not really a gamer, but I know that from my friends perspective it is apparently pretty poor. But, there are people who are now starting to create gender neutral characters, but that’s just my knowledge of gaming. In terms of television, I’d say it’s getting better, things are improving slowly. For trans people, I think we’re probably a bit behind, but there’s people working to improve that. There are some really good LGBT storylines and writing, For example recently I watched this show called Sense 8 which is really good. There’s a trans actor, and the writing is really good. I would say things are definitely improving.
- What has been your best achievement through Proud2Be so far?
This interview? Haha. I’d say I’m very proud of how inclusive Proud2Be is. It’s very friendly and welcoming, which is really important to me. We didn’t want it to be unwelcoming, we wanted to create a really friendly and loving group.
- Why did you decide to start the project Proud2Be?
Well, me and Mat we’re in San Francisco in 2010. We came back and we didn’t really have any money, so we didn’t really know where to go. We went back to our home town to stay at our mother’s. It was there we re-discovered how rural the area was and how far away from the rest of the LGBT community it was. It reminded us of what it was like growing up. We weren’t taught about these things at school, we didn’t have a lot of understanding of being LGBT growing up. We wanted to feel part of a really positive message because we were really done with hearing the negative. It was a challenge for us to sit in front of a laptop and say that we were proud to be gay. For us it was really difficult and confronting because we’d never really said it before. Things came together and we had a space to talk about it.
- What challenges does Proud2Be present?
It’s an important challenge for us to stay relevant. We don’t want to be stuck in what we felt was needed seven years ago. We have to move with how things are changing for the world and our community, we need to evolve and be open to change and new ideas, which is an exciting challenge. Keep it fresh!
- Have you ever conducted a project with a celebrity? If so how did it turn out?
The first campaign we did was called the Proud2Be campaign. We asked people to send in videos and to state who they were proud to be, like the video we did. One of the videos that was sent to us turned out be from Stephen Fry! It was amazing that we managed to reach that far. We used to wake up and see how many views on Youtube we’d got, and suddenly overnight through Stephen Fry we rocketed with recognition. It was amazing that someone could shine such a light on our project.
- I recently read that you’re going to set up a rainbow road in Totnes. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
It’s going to be rainbow? Haha. It’s looking more likely as we go along. The thing is with the rainbow crossing is that it isn’t behind closed doors. People have an issue sometimes with LGBT and prefer it when we come together behind closed doors rather than more openly. When we take our work out onto the street, such as pride, that’s where you see how people really feel about it. It’s easy to say things without being faced with it, but by putting a rainbow crossing in the middle of Totnes would be a really interesting way of seeing how people really feel about it. Totnes is known as being a very accepting and diverse place, so it would be exciting to put that to the test!
- When did you decide to start the project Proud2Be?
We decided to start the project around 6 years ago. We didn’t really know what we were going to do, we just thought it would be the Proud2Be video campaign. So we moved to Devon and it evolved into more ideas and campaigns, we didn’t know it would unfold this much. It was very exciting!
- What would you say a friend, family member or relative can do to make an LGBT person feel accepted or celebrated?
The first thing I would say is believe them. It can be really easy to say that young people don’t know how they’re feeling when they’re young or that it’s just a phase, but I think young people are actually more in touch with how they feel than they are credited for, because they haven’t had as much time to hide how they feel. So I’d say just simply trust them, and be open for those conversations. Be there, just be supportive and don’t feel like you have to handle this on your own if you struggle to. It doesn’t have to be depressing, make that person feel loved and supported! People need time and it’s important to recognise that, on both ends too.
- What have your experiences as an LGBT person taught you?
It taught me to acknowledge myself and the part of me that is LGBT. It wasn’t until I was older that I realised what it would be like if I accepted myself, instead of looking to other people for them to acknowledge and accept this part of me. A bit cheesy I know, but it’s true for me. I learnt through people accepting and not accepting me that it was more important that I accepted me, than other people accepted me. It’s still an ongoing journey and I’ve also learnt it’s important to recognise that we shouldn’t categorise people into LGBT and non LGBT. We need to happily share this bubble, it’s not a game of us and them.
- What would you say to someone struggling to be accepted to be as LGBT?
Reach out for support, whatever shape that takes…forums, groups, drop ins, social groups…anything that makes you feel accepted, and expose yourself to positive, affirming messages. Look for things that show you positiveness. If you can, if you feel safe to, be open with the people you trust the most about who you are and how you really feel. Gaining support in as many ways as you can is vital. Not everyone can do this so easily but working out and being aware of your surroundings, finding pockets of time where you can accept yourself is great. There’s nothing wrong or shameful about being part of the LGBT community.