With Pride Month being celebrated every June, this month has been no different in creating awareness and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. However, many young people still suffer from anxieties about their sexuality. ’Off the Record’ provides a safe and inclusive space to speak freely about any issues, focusing on young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Harriet Rose from Off the Record, LGBTQ+, one of OTR’s youth groups, explains that the LGBTQ+ service works all year round to provide a service for young people aged 13-25 who identify as LGBTQ+ or are questioning their sexual identity. The service creates a safe space, celebrating and promoting individuality. Harriet explains that it aims to make young people “feel happier about who they are”, which is a fundamental to maintaining a healthy mindset.
Although the current pandemic has made large-scale Pride events impossible, OTR have internal events to support young people. Responsibility is given to the young people and they plan and create fun, inclusive events such as face painting and glitter tattooing. In the future, Harriet is excited to develop youth-lead events as they “build skills for the future”, as well as having experienced LGBTQ+ people offering advice to the less experienced younger people. This emotional support builds close relationships, and is integral to nurturing young LGBTQ+ people’s confidence.
The importance of Pride Month and self-expression is voiced by Harriet as “there are certain groups experiencing marginalisation and there are still things to be fought.” She states that wherever you’re at on your journey is “okay” and you don’t need to be sure. At OTR, ultimately, it’s about whatever the individual is comfortable with. Having someone that young people feel safe with, whether that’s at school, college. university or home is the first step to overcoming difficulties. OTR seeks to provide this service to young people across BANES.
When it comes to what to expect when reaching out to OTR, there’s “a whole range of things”, according to Harriet. There’s a mixture of online and in-person contact for young people aged 13-21 (or up to 25 if they have any special educational needs or disabilities). One-to-one support is also available. There’s an informal space to come together each week and hang out with other young people. OTR also runs a variety of services for professionals to give people the confidence, knowledge and skills to fully support the LGBTQ+ community.
Where to get in touch:
– Instagram: otr_lgbt
– Facebook/Instagram: otrbanes
– Website: https://www.offtherecord-banes.co.uk/
Words by Maya Lane