Creative YOUCreativity is everywhere. Opportunity is not. We are part of the solution. The secret is in our name. Every year Creative Youth Network gives thousands of young people a taste and thirst for the arts and culture and the joy, life-skills and opportunity they bring. But we want more. Creative YOU is our campaign showcasing how we, you and the engaged, emerging and amazing young creatives we support, come together. We want to reveal how, together, we are ambition, quality, cultural democracy and social mobility in action. Every young person deserves the right to access creativity and development opportunities in the creative and cultural industries. 1. Pledge Join us by adding your name to support young people everywhere to enjoy and explore: - the opportunity to express themselves creatively - their talent, regardless of background or circumstance, including pathways into creative and cultural industries PLEDGE 2. Sign up Join us by signing up to our newsletter where we share best practice of how to support young people. sign up 3. Find out more Join us by reading and sharing our CreativeYOU report which shows how our work brings opportunities for creative expression and enables young people to explore their talent, regardless of background or circumstance. Download our Creative YOU report About us Blog My Love Knows No Gender: Pansexuality For someone who’s never written a blog post before, this is pretty deep. But if youth work has taught me anything it’s that living your truth is the most powerful thing you can do, so here it goes… Pansexuality: What is it? As much as I’ve grown to love getting a flashy new bit of kitchenware kit (I got a 2 in 1 salt and pepper grinder for xmas – it’s amazing!), pansexuality doesn’t actually mean I’m attracted to pans - although that question has come up a lot (Especially when talking to awkward relatives, strangers on the internet and sometimes, young people). ‘Pansexuality’, originating from the Greek word ‘pan’ meaning ‘all’ or ‘every’, meaning you're attracted to people of all genders; including people who don't identify with any gender (agender). For me, pansexuality means that whether you identify as woman, man, non-binary or gender fluid; who you are as a person is most important, not your gender. Coming Out Before I was pan, I came out as bisexual. It wasn’t all fireworks & Diana Ross playing in the background. It was a bit awkward, confusing & at times lonely. I came out in my early twenties, and to a small group of people at that. I was in university & what some might call ‘straight passing’ so my coming out was filled with questions like: whether it mattered I’d only dated cis-men until that point (it didn’t!) and If I was really queer, wouldn’t I have told someone sooner? (nope, not if I didn’t feel safe or comfortable to do so!). My queer imposter syndrome kicked in pretty quickly, and at times I didn’t really know who I was. But I did my best to immerse myself in queer spaces; online, at university & amongst London’s colorful nightlife. I met people who challenged EVERYTHING I thought I knew about identity; from learning about pronouns and understanding actually, the many privileges I’ve had as a white, cis woman to meeting openly trans and non-binary people for the first time. I was beginning to see past the gender binary (the idea that there are only two genders: male and female) & I was starting to feel free of the image I’d not only had of other people, but also myself. “I'm Sorry but the Football Coach Course is for Boys Only” Growing up, I was a tomboy and proud. I LOVED football (still do), wore trackies most days & loved nothing more than playing in the woods. I also liked experimenting with make-up and blasting out Sugababes at sleepovers too. I guess in reality, I wasn’t doing ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ things, I was just being me. Yet the constant battle between doing what I wanted to do & doing what others expected me to do because of my gender, only grew as I reached puberty. At 14, Captain of the women’s football team & an eager eye on a semi-professional career in football; I signed myself up for the football coach course in the P.E office. Before I could even put my name down a teacher stopped me and said “I’m sorry, but the football coach course is for boys only”. “What?” I blurted back, “Why?”. I was perplexed about it. I petitioned, cried & got pleaded with my teachers but I never did get to do the course. The feelings of confusion and frustration stuck with me, arising again a year later in a different way when I was threatened with exclusion for wearing knee-high socks, and then again each time I learnt more about what being a ‘woman’ meant: pay-gaps, cat-calling, the list goes on. The fact I was hiding my sexuality on top of it all was even more isolating. However, once it clicked for me that the misogyny I was experiencing was continuously perpetuated by the gender binary (thanks to new friends I made after coming out) I couldn’t unclick it. That niggling uncertainty I felt after coming out as bi was starting to make sense. It wasn’t because I wasn’t ‘queer’ enough, it was because I’d been too hung up on the ‘men’ & ‘women’ aspect of it all. I knew I liked people for who they were, rather than what gender they presented themselves as, and ‘bisexual’ didn’t encapsulate that fully for me. I can’t remember how I first heard about pansexuality, but it was the jigsaw piece to how I was feeling. After some late-night researching & chatting to trusted friends, I came out as pansexual last year. I felt so happy, there might’ve even been fireworks & Diana Ross playing this time around too! But looking back on my queer experience, the youth worker in me can’t help thinking… What Would my Life have looked like if I had LGBTQ+ inclusive SRE? I often wonder how different my teenage years could have been if I’d had LGBTQ+ inclusive sex and relationships education (SRE), and learnt about pansexuality sooner. Would I have come out sooner? Would I have felt less alone? All I know is that finding the language & information to articulate how I feel was so important for me, and I see it all the time through my work as a youth worker. Every queer, trans, non-binary young person I encounter deserves a space to feel heard, seen & supported, and more often than not they say their schooling experience does not facilitate this. LGBTQ+ inclusive SRE would equip young people with the tools and language they need to explore & own their identity, & avoid the isolation and alienation perpetuated by an outdated, heteronormative, curriculum – with the resources to match. (I mean, surely SRE needs to be more than putting a condom on a banana?) It’s not about rushing to a decision, because the best thing about identity is that it’s yours and there’s always room to re-think and re-visit it. Today, over half of LGBTQ+ students experience bullying at school, and whilst I’ll never forget the “some people are gay, get over it” posters on the back of classroom doors, more needs to be done at local & national levels to ensure safe & inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ young people, & also young people from LGBTQ+ families. 4 in 5 trans youth turn to self-harm, and around 59% of young people within the LGBTQ+ community have considered suicide. It’s clear that LGBTQ+ inclusive SRE isn’t just about young people getting the right education, it’s about saving lives too. The Sex Education Forum states that comprehensive SRE: Improves mental health & wellbeing Increases consensual sex Reduces unwanted pregnancy & STIs But without being LGBTQ+ inclusive, SRE can’t be any of those things. Research has shown that pronoun inclusive settings alone can decrease risks of self-harm & suicide in trans pupils by up to 20%. That’s staggering. Looking Forward In September 2020, England introduced a long overdue policy change. For the first time, secondary & primary schools now have to make their SRE curriculum LGBTQ+ inclusive. This is a great start, but without the appropriate tools & teachers with lived experience as part of the LGBTQ+ community, I worry these policy changes may be more ambition than reality. It’s hard to overstate the impact an LGBTQ+ inclusive SRE would have meant to me. I would have found the language to navigate how I felt & who I was much sooner. I would have been happier. I would have felt seen. And every young person deserves to feel seen & happy. Wouldn’t you agree? You can learn more about how to support & create LGBT+ inclusive spaces through Diversity Role Models,Hope in a Box , The Proud Trust & LGBT History Month 2021 | Stonewall In partnership with The Diversity Trust, we offer mental health support for 11-19 year olds in South Gloucestershire. Refer a young person now How can we help?