No one should ever feel ashamed for who they are growing up. Yet for many members of the LGBTQ+ community, growing up in Cornwall, let alone a small town, this sense of alienation from their difference can be compounded by a genuine sense of geographic isolation.
“I felt terrible growing up in Bude,” said Sammy James Dodds over a cup of coffee. “I couldn’t wait to get rid of Bude when I was young. The people at school were the only people my age I could have contacted. I didn’t have a horrible coming-out experience. My parents were cool about it and my friends just said they knew. But I was still bullied for being different, ironically by some people who later came out as gay. May Maybe they were trying to overcome the sense of shame they felt by lashing out at other people.
Sammy left Bude at 16 to take a dance and drama course at Cornwall College in St Austell and then a degree in London where eventually no one would bat an eyelid or care who he was – something he felt miss in his hometown of Cornwall. .
Read more: The powerful reason why Bude is becoming a hub for young people
Sammy and his co-manager Alex Gibbon – the driving duo of Bude Pride – both felt the need to leave the seaside town as soon as they could for the feeling of acceptance in what is one of the most remote areas of an already remote and isolated county, was not conducive to their well-being. How could they be themselves when the people around them didn’t welcome and respect them?
“When I was a teenager growing up in Bude,” added Sammy, a 32-year-old assistant at a local primary school, “people would roll down their car windows and shout anti-gay abuse at me even if I didn’t even look gay I was an EMO kid like every other kid in town and didn’t look “stereotypically gay” but that was enough for some people.
For Alex, who identifies as non-binary, the bullying took on meaner tones simply because of who he was. “I used to be bullied here in my youth by the so-called straight people who would grope me and try to kick my door or even dirty it with shit. It was really bad It’s gotten better, but we still have an incredibly long way to go.
Not too long ago, a young trans teenager was beaten up in town and Alex and Sammy were verbally abused just for shaking arms.
The 25-year-old who returned to Bude three years ago is also very fond of the sense of isolation that growing up in the city of North Cornwall can bring. It’s a feeling that many of the city’s young people, regardless of gender and sexuality, also feel strongly. Unsurprisingly, Cornwall has one of the highest suicide rates among young people in the UK and among young gay men as well.
“A few months ago the nearest gay club was in Plymouth or Exeter. There used to be one called Eclipse in Truro, but it closed years ago,” Sammy said. “Who is going to drive an hour and a half to go clubbing? A new club called Masquerade has just opened in Barnstaple but it’s not quite there yet, is it? »
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Although home to around 9,000 people, Bude can seem far from anywhere. Yes, it gives the city its own sense of identity and dynamism to get things done and a strong sense of independence, but with remoteness also comes insularity, something very much about the city, of Bude Pride to the new breed of councilors or the young people behind the Pearl Exchange project are trying to tackle.
“There are of course other LGBTQ+ people in Bude,” Sammy said. “But there is no queer community. It is the opposite of a community. Bude is so far from everywhere that even the Cornwall Pride tour bus didn’t get on here. So in the end we launched our own Pride.
Sammy and Alex are full of praise for the support they have since received from its larger LGBTQ+ sister organisation, and this year the Cornwall Pride tourist bus will be coming to Bude – one of 11 stops around the Duchy.
The city council and its new generation of councillors, who arrived after the last election, also supported the event and the work carried out throughout the year by Sammy and Alex. City stores are also sponsoring the event while Pride data from last year and the report compiled by a therapist manning the information booth which was overwhelmed with adults and young people wanting to know more about trans rights, or how best to support their LGBTQ+ children, has since been used by Cornwall Pride as an example when applying for funding to create a future safe space/information hub ‘Queer Hub in Truro.
“I was reading this book about growing up in a straight man’s world and how it can affect your psychology,” Sammy explained. “It’s like you carry so much shame about who you are that it can grow before you even realize you’re gay. I had a great childhood and my parents loved and supported me a lot, but when I was a kid I didn’t love myself.
“When you’re three, you’re neither gay nor straight, but you can still feel that you’re different. If your brain senses that you’re different, it goes into self-preservation mode. It’s like s “He smelled danger, so you’re doing your best to blend in and conform and be safe. I’m trying to sort this all out as an adult now.”
“That’s what Bude Pride means to us. It’s not just a one-day event for people who want to be flamboyant, it’s about education and prevention. It’s about information and inclusiveness. It’s for everyone. Queer spaces are amazing, but I want everywhere in Bude to be accepting.
Sammy and Alex admit growing up LGBTQ+ in Bude is better now than when they were young in the city, so much so that the Budehaven Community School they both attended had its own ‘pride’ before the city has its own. However, the road to acceptance is long.
“It’s all about exposure,” Sammy explained. “There is more exposure to differences in schools now. I even hear the kids in Budehaven respect each other’s pronouns, which is amazing. But we are not there yet. »
He added: “People think Pride is for the queer community. But it’s not the people who come to Pride. Many members of the LGBTQ+ community think the extravagance of some guys dancing half-naked on a float is not for them. Lots of hidden gays wouldn’t want to be seen there either.
“So it’s everyone who comes out to support equal rights and fight prejudice. There were so many teenagers who were there last year. They’re on board. For them, it’s a another label to try to express themselves with, which is great to see, they were the ones who came up with the rainbow flags, we expected more resistance.
“We were told that if we had tried to organize Pride six months before the election, before the change of guard at the town hall, it probably would not have happened because some of them would have done everything to make it fail. But that’s what Pride is all about: uniting against all forms of prejudice.
Alex added: “It’s about normalizing, not symbolizing the queer community. We have found that it is the symbolism of the sexualized queer culture that you see on television that is what people in rural communities are up against. Flamboyance perhaps. But we also found that many of the comments came from heterosexual cisgender people who really appreciated the cohesion offered by Pride. It gives queer people the opportunity to develop empathy and gives them the freedom to be cohesive within the society around them.
Unlike a transgender, a cisgender is someone whose sense of personal identity and gender matches their sex at birth. orientation.
For Alex, who like Sammy was eager to leave Bude, coming back was more difficult. A neurological condition affected his speech and led to mutism. This means he cannot apply for most jobs and even opening a bank account for Bude Pride proved problematic as high street banks asked him to call their dedicated helpline. business services, which he cannot physically do.
Alex, who uses text-to-speech software on his smartphone to communicate, said: “Before meeting Sammy, no one ever saw me as capable of contributing and having normal expectations of me. Too often, people talk to me instead of me.
Sammy pulls out a metal plaque with the Bude Pride logo and interlocking Cornish flags and a lithographed QR code on one side. This is a prototype of what will be given to all corporate sponsors in the city to put in their windows when Bude Pride takes place on June 25th.
The QR code leads scanners to a wealth of information on where to find support and help for mental health issues, suicide prevention and of course gender and sexuality. Even though there might be a ‘rainbow’, what matters is that the more support and information that gets out into the city, the better, because it will benefit the whole of Bude and its inhabitants.
“We invite people into our world and encourage people to ask questions,” Alex said. “It’s all about education. This is what we want Bude Pride to be. Substance over style.
Samy accepted. “No one should be ashamed of who they are. When that happens, the word ‘gay’ will no longer be an insult.