What’s ‘the system’ to me?
That morning, I went to pee.
Everything stilled. There were two doors.
A person with a skirt and one without.
I breathed out, and walked forward.
Washing my hands next to a woman doing her lipstick, I stared at myself in the mirror. “You shouldn’t be here.”
The thought kept running in my mind. It brought up a flood of others, questions haunting me. What does it mean? What does it mean for me to not feel like a woman? Does that mean I feel like a man? What if I don’t feel like either? What do I want to look like? Who am I?
That evening, I went to ALLSORTS. I talked to a youth worker about my morning, my confusion, my fear. I hung out with young people, playing foosball, making bracelets. I learned about an art workshop in town. Someone put glitter on my face and we took pictures. Everyone on it was beautiful.
Allsorts Youth Project is a non-profit that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and unsure youth in Brighton.
It runs groups for younger children, teens, over 16s, and parents. It also offers one to one support. This is essential for youth who are going through huge things: questioning their identity, navigating family relationships, being bullied, feeling isolated.
Allsorts has 3 full time equivalent staff and 4 part time staff. Yet it has a huge impact, with 239 young people currently inducted. Community volunteers make this possible, both behind the scenes and during groups, where adults will prepare a meal, run workshops and just hang out and play guitar.
One of Allsorts’ projects last year was to create a booklet on LGBT youth and mental health. Those who wanted to participate reflected on how they do each of the “five ways to wellbeing”: take notice, give, stay active, keep learning, and connect. We shared our struggles, techniques and tips. We went around the city and took photographs of what makes us feel good. Mine showed my bike and my notebook.
The vision of Allsorts is a world where LGBTU youth are free to thrive. A world with no discrimination, a world where there is no need for such youth projects.
Allsorts creates safe spaces, but also uses education to foster change.
It runs trainings for school staff and youth workers. It delivers workshops in classrooms over the city. I am a youth volunteer in this “peer education” scheme, and I have spoken to 11 and 13 year olds about my experiences growing up LGBT.
Hate arises out of ignorance. In these workshops we get to explain who we are, and to be human. We break the silence that thrives in schools. We speak our truth, and when we leave, the students have understood something big.
Allsorts is safe space. It’s a sanctuary. It’s a place to recharge, to be yourself in all your complexity, without even thinking about it. It’s a place that gives me strength when I go back to my hometown. It’s a place I call upon when I feel sad reading hateful comments on youtube. It’s a place I call upon when I feel alone in crowds of women with long hair and men with shaved heads.
Allsorts gives me the space to explore my identity. It listens. There is no pressure: I am allowed to be unsure, to change my mind, to change over time.
Young people have a voice in the organisation. We can participate in administrative decisions, run projects,and represent the charity in the outside world. I believe that is why is not just a young people’s space; it is a space with the potential to heal, and transform.
Allsorts is an intergenerational inclusive community. It is so powerful to be with younger and especially older LGBT people: to see that you can be successful and bi, fabulous and trans, happy and gay. It is belonging.
– Sol Howard
Co-lead gender and sexuality team, Recrear