By Tom Dent-Spargo, Comms Worker and Helpline Support Worker.
I feel like I’ve come into my authentic self at last.
Being authentic to yourself to me seems to beat at the heart of the person-centred approach. Working here as a support worker on Connect as well as in the comms role has made me a much more reflective person and I am always thinking back on my calls in a reflective manner, to improve my skills but also to analyse what it is that is so deeply satisfying about the work and why the person-centred approach is so vital and different. Working with people to listen to them, to hear what they feel, to give them that space to say what they want to, what they need to. It can often be things they don’t feel comfortable sharing elsewhere in their life, or they’ve not been heard by others.
Sometimes callers don’t feel comfortable sharing specific details with me either – they might not be ready to, or they might not feel I’m the right person to talk to about that topic, which I can understand and completely respect. It’s the caller who gets to call the shots, not me. However the support goes, I feel that I get a glimpse into people’s authentic selves, which is a real privilege to be entrusted with, and forges a strong connection. Even if a caller and I never speak with each other again, we had that moment together; hopefully it was helpful for them, and at the very least it was authentic.
February is LGBT+ History Month and I’ve been thinking about this idea of authenticity with regards to my sexual and gender identity. I came out in adulthood – first as pansexual, then as non-binary almost three years later – and I feel like I’ve come into my authentic self at last. Predictably no one was particularly surprised by the revelations; it was almost more just a formality at the point I came out. Recently though, I have noticed that a weight that I didn’t know that I was carrying has been lifted, and I feel like I am able to be the authentic me now in a way that I never used to be.
I feel lighter, but I don’t forget.
It’s interesting to look back at my personal past and pick out moments that are so obvious in retrospect but for various reasons didn’t chime with me back then. And these are moments stretching back to before I was a teenager, it has long been a part of life. I have carried the weight of that denial or ignorance all these years and have now shed it at last, leaving me free and light, in this regard at least. I don’t look back and want to forget anything, or to see any of that as mistakes, for that is not how we learn. Everything I’ve been through has shaped who I am today. I want to move into the future a better, more authentic me, and I can learn lessons from my past. I can see some of the factors that affected my thoughts and my struggles and my journey; I hope to unveil more and more of those factors to achieve better clarity and truly know myself. I feel lighter, but I don’t forget.
The weight of history is massive, all the struggles and the pain in the fight for equality. While we can shed the weight with a progressive piece of legislation here, a prominent and visible coming out there, we cannot forget the pain, so that we can create a better future. When people fight tooth and nail in the courts, when people protest in the streets, when people hold monsters to account, they are being authentic, and we would do them a disservice by forgetting them.
Stonewall have compiled a timeline of events of the development of LGBT+ rights and the fight for justice and equality. We will keep adding to this list and not forget what happened before.