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Just Like Us

INTERVIEW | TIM RAMSEY: GOING BACK TO SCHOOL TO SAY ‘I’M GAY’ WAS TERRIFYING

After spending his years at an all-boys grammar school firmly in the closet, Tim Ramsey went back to his old assembly hall last year to say the words he never could during his own time as a pupil: ‘I am gay’.

Speaking to pupils and teachers that day inspired Tim to start up Just Like Us, a charity dedicated to sending recent LGBT school-leavers back to the classroom to help improve the lot of LGBT kids who may be struggling with their sexuality.

Attitude’s Fabio Crispim caught up with Tim to find out how saying those three words to his former teachers felt, his plans for the charity, and what his former classmates and even his own parents have made of it all…

So you recently went back to your secondary school and came out in front of a packed assembly of pupils and teachers. What was that like? Were you nervous?

I’ve probably never felt more terrified in my life to be honest! I’m not going to lie, as soon as I agreed to it and as the date got closer, I was thinking, ‘What have I just put myself into?’ I only just came out last summer as well, so it was a terrifying thing. While I was waiting to get up I was dreading it and I felt that I would have a heart attack, like my heart has never been beating faster and I was thinking, ‘At this rate I’m going to keel over before I’ve even managed to say a word.’

But then when I finished saying those words in an environment where I hadn’t been able to say them before, it was probably the most amazing feeling. Just feeling that I’ve conquered that fear and was able to be myself in somewhere I’ve spent so long and so much energy trying to be someone other than myself.

I really did it because if I had just heard from somebody when I was younger, or even one lone voice to say, ‘It’s OK to be gay and actually, life is going to be fine,’ it would have been so transformative. I really wanted to do that and to test if my idea for a charity was going to work.

Did you suffer from bullying during your original time there?

There were occasional things about being a gay boy, but largely because I played a gay instrument, the flute. So, a lot of the stuff was just general negativity about it because being gay was the ultimate insult.

Have you stayed in contact with anyone from you time secondary school?

I stayed in contact with one or two. But another thing that was quite moving was the number of messages I got after the [Guardian] article came out – people I haven’t actually spoken to for ten years in some cases.

How did that make you feel?

It was quite moving, because I was worried about what kind of reception it was going to get. I thought ‘Are people just going to tell me I’m barking up the wrong tree?’ And there were a few comments that described me as a self-obsessed individual with a victim complex. What was quite moving was people telling me that they felt guilty for not being more supportive or for using ‘gay’ as a negative, and they wrote quite substantial messages and sent them through. That was very unexpected and really nice.

If you could go back to your time in secondary school, would you do anything differently having seen their reactions now?

It’s difficult to know. I wish I had more confidence but I think that being a teenager without having an issue of your sexuality is hard enough, you know, you’re struggling to find any kind of identity. I think more about what needs to be done, about creating environments where people who might be struggling with their sexuality can at least be confident to know who they can go and talk to and to eventually be themselves. I feel that after coming out I’m a much more emotionally-aware individual than I was before.

Read the full interview here

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Find out how Just Like Us can work with your school to champion LGBT+ equality

Our ambassadors are getting ready to champion LGBT+ equality in schools around our Bristol, Cardiff, Manchester, London and Oxford hubs.

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Just Like Us is a new charity which sends recent LGBTQ+ school-leavers into schools to give talks and run workshops to combat homophobia and make schools better places for young LGBTQ+ pupils.

Pupils get to hear personal accounts from people of a similar age about what it can be like growing up LGBTQ+.

We aim to empower and support young LGBTQ+ people to become active agents of change in making schools LGBTQ+ friendly places.

We are building a sustainable network of volunteers from across British universities to ensure the continuity and diversity of volunteers speaking in schools to develop strong, long-standing relationships with the schools visited.

www.justlikeus.org

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Just Like Us was founded for a simple reason: growing up LGBT+ is still one of the most challenging experiences young people can face.

We believe the best way to support LGBT+ young people is to make sure they hear powerful positive messages about being LGBT+ from other LGBT+ young people, just a little older and little wiser.

That's why we're building a national network of university student volunteers, giving them the skills they need to communicate with impact, and sending them into secondary schools to share their stories, bust stereotypes, and explain why LGBT+ equality is everyone's issue.

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Just Like Us CEO / Tim Ramsay

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