For more than two decades, I have actively immersed myself in LGBTQ+ activism and support, dedicating my time and energy to uplifting communities. It all started with my involvement in supporting one of the very first LGBTQ+ youth groups in Cornwall called Legacy. From there, my journey took me to performing at the inaugural Cornwall Pride and even participating in a couple of Cardiff Prides. Along the way, I had the honour of serving as a trustee for the UK Pride Network and for the past eight years, I've been an integral part of Cornwall Pride.
But before I delve into the reasons behind my unwavering commitment, there's a little more you should know about me.
As the first-born child of economic migrants, my parents hailed from a time when the regions they came from – a poorly developed Madeira Island and a similarly underprivileged corner of north-western Spain – were worlds apart from being categorized as just "European." In the 1960s, when my mother arrived with limited English proficiency, she was met with the same scepticism and disdain that contemporary migrants seeking refuge face today.
When I was about three years old, our family moved from the London area to the breath-taking landscapes of Cornwall, our loved home – a "slice of paradise in an ever-changing world," as my heart describes it. In this idyllic setting, my mother and I found ourselves standing out, marked by our distinctive appearances and voices. In school, I often changed my last name to evade the relentless bullying that came my way simply because I looked different. Additionally, I faced prejudice for my ability to tan easily, an attribute that made me feel like an outsider.
To make matters worse, people would hurl racial slurs my way, masking their ignorance and intolerance under the guise of superiority. The constant onslaught of bullying instilled in me an understandable fear that transcended linguistic barriers. By the age of seven, I had silenced myself, renouncing the two languages that once flowed effortlessly. English became my primary means of communication.
Growing up in a remote hamlet, miles away from friends, I sought solace and comfort in music, academic pursuits, and cycling. However, as I transitioned into secondary school, a new form of bullying emerged – one that targeted intelligence. Society seemed determined to push me down and suppress my unique voice, as if my mere existence challenged its conventional norms.
Yet, beneath the cruel weight of adversity and prejudice, my identity began to emerge. From a young age, I knew I was different – not just due to my ethnic background or insatiable thirst for knowledge and exploration, but because I felt an undeniable attraction towards males. While I maintained secret "boyfriends" from the age of nine, publicly, I presented myself as having "girlfriends." It wasn't until I was 14 that I mustered the courage to come out to my closest friends and my mother. But it would take another year for her to fully comprehend the significance of my revelation.
To my surprise, news of my sexual orientation spread throughout the school within days. It was as if the entire student body had become privy to my secret. However, this unexpected exposure became the catalyst for my journey towards self-acceptance, resilience, and authenticity.
As I reflect on my journey, I am amazed at how far I have come. From enduring intense bullying and feeling like an outsider in school to finding solace in a gay night club at the age of 15, I discovered a sense of belonging that had previously eluded me. It was within those walls that I felt safe, surrounded by a community that accepted me for who I was.
However, it wasn't all rainbows and sunshine. As I delved deeper into the realm of different fringes of society and I encountered the darker side. I found myself attracted to different groups and ideologies, but soon realized that not all paths were safe or healthy for me. Determined to create a better future for myself and others, I worked tirelessly, juggling multiple jobs and hours of commitment to afford the lifestyle I desired.
At just 17 years old, I help start the Legacy Youth Group with the support of a friend and an incredible youth worker. It became the first actively open LGBTQ+ youth group, offering a safe space for young people to explore their identities without succumbing to the pitfalls I had encountered. Although I wasn't old enough to actively support Legacy, I later became a volunteer youth worker for SHOUT, another youth group aimed at empowering and supporting LGBTQ+ individuals.
While dedicating myself to work and study, I also pursued my passion for astrophysics. As I embarked on my journey to Cardiff University for a master's degree, I continued working as a sales manager for a mobile phone company. The demands were high, but my determination and drive pushed me forward.
Just as I set foot in Cardiff, the first-ever Cornwall Pride was being planned. I eagerly participated in the conversations surrounding this monumental event, but I also had the privilege of being a performer. Competing in a talent competition, I proudly took the stage at the very first Cornwall Pride and continued to do so for the second year. And even after moving to Cardiff, I had the opportunity to perform at Cardiff Pride and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community.
As my journey continues, I am inspired by the progress I have personally made and the impact I have had on creating safe spaces for others. I am grateful for the many people who have apologized for their role in my past experiences, showing that growth and understanding are possible. My personal and professional ventures have shaped me into the resilient individual I am today, and I am eager to contribute even more to the LGBTQ+ community and the world at large.
Pride is not just a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community; it is a powerful movement that fights against discrimination and inequality in all its forms. It serves as a reminder that we still have a long way to go in creating a society where everyone feels safe, accepted, and valued for who they are.
Growing up, I experienced first-hand the pain of being different and the impact it had on my self-esteem. It was this personal journey that fuelled my passion for supporting others in their quest for self-acceptance and empowerment.
When I moved to London and then back to Cornwall, I encountered challenges in working remotely and had to transition from my HR role back to a new sales manager role. However, this transition became a catalyst for me to remember the pain I had faced growing up and inspired me to make a difference.
Eight years ago, I joined the Cornwall Pride committee and started working on promoting and organizing Pride in Truro. Little did I know that this initial involvement would lead me to become the co-chair of the committee and take on the task of transforming Cornwall Pride into a community interest company (CIC). We also decided to introduce a traveling Pride concept and moved the location to Newquay.
The journey with Cornwall Pride allowed me to connect with other passionate individuals who shared similar experiences. Together, we worked towards making a positive impact not just locally, but nationally as well. In 2020, Cornwall Pride attained charity status and, I became a member of the UK Pride network committee who I supported in achieving charity status in 2021. I also supported Black Voice Cornwall in achieving charity status in 2022.
The new sales manager role that had caused me so much pain served as a reminder of why organizations like Cornwall Pride are necessary. No child or adult should face bullying or discrimination for simply being themselves. Through Cornwall Pride, we aim to challenge the status quo, support marginalized communities, and redefine what inclusivity truly means.
Our messaging and actions aim to inspire hope and encourage conversations around discrimination and prejudice. We strive for a Hate Free Cornwall, where all people can thrive without fear of being judged or mistreated.
In this photo, you can see me doing what I love most – shining a light on the talents and energy of others, giving them a platform to be heard. It is through uplifting marginalized voices that we can bring about lasting change and create a society that celebrates diversity in all its forms.
Why do we need Pride? Because the experiences I went through, and worse, are still being endured by others today, not just in Cornwall or the UK, but around the world. We need Pride to remind us of the work that still needs to be done in achieving true inclusion and justice for all. Together, let us continue to fight for a world where everyone can live authentically and feel proud of who they are.
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Cornwall Pride is a registered charity. 1191003
Official Cornwall Pride Partners