Laura: Full Interview
Interview by Ross Horsley
30th March 2019
RH: This is Ross Horsley recording for West Yorkshire Queer Stories on the 30th of March 2019. I’m here at Leeds City Museum with Laura – would you like to introduce yourself?
L: Hi, I’m Laura, I use they/she. I’m 16 years old and… I kind of identify as a lesbian, but I don’t really know, and so I’d use words like sapphic or, yeah sapphic or lesbian mainly, and I usually say trans-femme, so it’s somewhere in between agender/genderqueer and trans woman. Yeah, that’s my identity in a nutshell.
RH: Thanks, Laura. Can I ask you about the stuff that you sort of read and study; you’re obviously quite informed.
L: In regards to normal – ‘normal’ in quotation marks – school subjects, I quite like STEM, so physics and maths are what I’m going to study at A-level, but also quite interested in politics, especially some of the more radical left side, so I’m studying that at A-level as well. And, regards to the kind of LGBT queer history I listen to Queer as Fact and History’s Gay, two podcasts that talk about queer history. As regards to books, I haven’t really – I’ve read Towards the Queerest Insurrection on the Anarchist Library, but apart from that, nothing well known.
RH: Are you from Leeds?
L: Yes, I was – yeah, I’ve lived my whole life in Batley, very near Leeds, so in and out quite often.
RH: And you’ve also done some youth work for Yorkshire and Humber, would you like to tell us a little bit about that?
L: Yeah. I’m involved in the steering group for the youth work unit for Yorkshire and Humber, and they organise events for LGBT people, children in care, and British Youth Council, so I go to meetings every – I think it’s supposed to be every quarter, so it works out as every three months, if my maths is correct [laughs].
RH: Should be.
L: And we plan events there. So, we just did one in, over the February half term. So that was the 23rd February, on Saturday, 2019, as well, and there we had speakers who talked about their life stories and their work. So we had one of the teachers at the University of Huddersfield where it was based, a student – a non-binary student, other trans people doing great work around the country; and then we’ve planned for, we had a little planning session for a youth pride event we’re planning on putting on in the summer, which is going to be just kind of a day of celebration, so it’ll be the LGBT youth groups across Yorkshire and Humber, so I think there’s Huddersfield, Selby, York, I think there might be one in Hull – it’s quite far reaching. And then other people can come along as well if they, a friend of a friend kind of thing. And that’ll be a day of games; there was a strong advocacy for rounders, so that, if we get the space for that, that’ll be done, and then it’s gonna be like a picnic. I think we had an idea for the name for a ‘Pre-Pride Party’, because it’s probably gonna happen July, August time, so before August when everybody goes away on holiday, and after GCSE and A-level exams. But apart from that, we haven’t really done much more planning. I’ve only got involved in that recently and that’s… I think the majority of the work that’s done is in kind of the more Youth Council area, but they’re trying to branch out, so, into more LGBT stuff, which is good.
RH: Do they offer any support as well as events?
L: They – they’re kind of the group, they’re above everything, so they organise the regional events and then, so like I go to a group in Huddersfield, which is LGBT Out, or Out Youth. So that’s based in Huddersfield; there’s a weekly LGBTQ+ group for people 11/12ish to 24, so there’s quite a wide range, and then they also, there’s also a monthly trans group for anyone who identifies as trans, it’s a parent and young person group, so then we’ve had speakers in there, so a youth worker from Manchester, a trans woman that’s come over to speak, people from the Child Clinic in Leeds – Tavistock – and then we’re going to have Adult Clinic Leeds come over as well and other trans people come to talk about their experiences.
RH: Brilliant. Can I ask you what it was like growing up in Batley as an LGBT person?
L: I didn’t really realise [laughs] until – I just didn’t really care. I think I was quite lucky, in my primary school no one really cared about boyfriends, girlfriends, at that time it was, and I think it would’ve gone over my head, even if they had. I think the first time I even said it I think it was in Year 6 and I called myself someone’s gay best friend, but I didn’t really know what that meant. I think the primary school I went to – Batley Parish – would’ve been okay with it, but I don’t know, cos I didn’t, it was never talked about, but I think if it did come up, it would’ve been okay.
But then at high school I would – Woodcliffe Academy in Tingley – they’re really good with, or relatively good, compared to other schools, in regards to LGBT people. So, there’s, I’m out now, as a trans girl, and before that I did come out as, in Year 8ish, no, Year 9, I came out as a cis gay boy, and everyone was fine with that then. There was, I’m sure people did speak out behind my back, but I didn’t really care. And I think even now when I’ve come out, there’s been a couple of things, like I’ve been called ‘faggot’, like just walking through the corridors and people, people act like I’m going to infect them with something, but they haven’t got the guts to come and say something to my face cos they know if they do, they’ll get put on to the police and it’ll go on their record for life. So, they’re very good with the hate incident, sort of hate crime side of it. But yeah, there’s quite a few LGBTQ+ people and that feel comfortable to express themselves with their friends, and when people ask, like in our year I have a few friends and people ask and they’re like, oh yeah, yeah, that’s, I identify as bi or pan or whatever, that’s – they don’t really care. So, that’s a good sign.
RH: What sort of things do the teachers do to sort of support people?
L: There’s a pastoral – we have like a pastoral care room, which has some – which kind of, you can go into for like support, so you, I think you can get like a sticker in your planner that says, ‘let me out of lesson if I’m crying’, and it means you can go and sit in there and, kind of calm down again and be not with other people. There’s also like another, so there’s that stuff, but we do have a small LGBTQ+ group in school that we have not yet named, so that’s waiting to be named. But that’s kind of mixed, more Years 9, 10 and 11, there’s no one younger, yet, and we meet in the pastoral care room in like one of the back rooms every Tuesday during, for like a 20-minute thing when everyone else has form. But – there’s assemblies occasionally that kind of cover the basics, but it’s kind of more of a ‘don’t do this’, ‘these people exist’ – that’s it for a year. So, I think there does need to be more work done, but I think it has progressed a lot.
RH: The sort of stuff you were telling me there, that they talk about in assemblies, do they – do those sorts of issues come up in any of the lessons as well?
L: They run PS – we have, so it, they used to run in Year 7 – when I first started in Years 7 and 8 we had a lesson called PDS, which is basically, I think it’s Personal Development Sessions, or some Personal Development Social – so it’s like life skills lessons, so everyone gets pulled off timetable, you get a new teacher and your form goes to a different classroom and you cover like life skills like finance and things like that. I can’t remember if sexuality or anything like that came up, but now that’s turned into PSHRE, so for Years 7, 8, 9 they have like – they combine the core RE curriculum with like the life skills stuff, and they did – we do, you cover sexuality then, but it’s more in regards to sexuality rather than gender, so it’s kind of addressed as lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, and it’s never, it’s never kind of said, ‘oh everything’s kind of a spectrum, really’, like gender or like sex, or like intersex people haven’t ever been mentioned. You just think biology GCSE could get a bit more complicated than XX and XY chromosomes, but – the exam boards, it’s a bit beyond them. So, that’s not really touched on, but… the sexuality stuff is, so that’s probably some room for improvement.
RH: How do the parents of people at the school sort of react to these subjects being discussed?
L: I know my parents are fine with it, but they’ve always kind of said, ‘whatever you are, that’s cool’. So, I’ve been fortunate in that regard. A lot of my friends’ parents have been really okay with me coming out and people have been – of the parents that I know of – have been overall positive, like when I go to parents’ evenings or like the meetings, the information things where you go with a parent there’s no, I’ve never spotted any funny looks off people. So whether they’re just too smart for that or they’re not doing it, I’m not too sure, but as far as I know no one really cares.
RH: What are your plans for the future?
L: I want to – so I want to go on and study physics at university, so kind of my dream is to do, to become a physics researcher and then, so carry on in that STEM route, but I also want to get more involved in kind of activism, especially kind of a bit of – I’m involved in Earth Strike, which are an environmental group, but because of the times that the strikes come I’m probably not gonna be able to do it, if I work, if I don’t work things around – some, I read up on activism stuff and I want to kind of try and get involved more in that in the future, so like Trans Leeds and the Proud Trust over in Manchester, and that’s yeah.
RH: Can you tell me a little bit more about Earth Strike?
L: They are, so it’s kind of, it’s similar to like Extinction Rebellion, so it’s direct action against the climate inaction of the government. So, it’s kind of saying, there’s no policy, we’ve got 12 years – according to the IPCC – the, we’ve got 12 years and then everything kinda goes tits up [laughs] So, the kind of, they’re running – there’s a general strike on the September time, late September, but there’s been lead-up demos throughout leading up, so there’s one planned for April, potentially, I’m not too sure. So, yeah it’s quite, it’s very new. It’s from quite a leftist perspective, so it’s based on I think it’s the Saint Paul’s activism rules, guidelines, I can’t remember the exact name, but I think it’s like 10 rules that are set out – do this in your activism and it should be good, or like, follow these practices. That’s all I really know, I haven’t read the – got as involved as I’d like to really with GCSEs.
RH: Can I ask – do you, and any other young people you know, have any trans role models that you look up to?
L: [laughs] I know, definitely Laura Jane Grace, who’s the lead singer for an American punk rock band called Against Me! I’m dying for her to come and do a Europe tour again so I can go and see her live. And Laverne Cox, who played… a character I now can’t remember the name of in Orange is the New Black. And an artist that mainly has a big platform on Instagram called – the Instagram name’s called ‘Hellomynameiswednesday’ and they talk about like intersectional feminist things mainly, so about kind of racism and transphobia in kind of public and how people can help address that and how to be, how a cis person can help these people and be like a good ally, in that way.
RH: Is it important for cis people to be allies?
L: Yeah, I think so, especially like just being out in public, I know when I came here today I kind of spotted groups of like lads in like the train station and I thought, ‘oh I’ll walk this way so I can avoid them’ – not because I know they’ll say something but just because of that potential, that I kind of know about, that I know about from experience of school, of the people, the kind of groups of ‘lads’ they’re the kind of people that’ve given me the most flak for things, and they’re thankfully in younger years, so I just ignore them. So I do kind of plot, I do kind of think about where I’m gonna walk in public a little bit.
RH: And is that any better or worse in Leeds, say, than it is in Batley?
L: Erm, I don’t really go out of the house too much! I live in quite, it’s kind of like suburby, but if I’m going – I think, I don’t know, I think just because Leeds is just a bigger place, there’s more people there, so like plan – there’s more viable routes and options to walk along, then I’ll choose which I’m gonna walk, but in Batley there’s kind of – I know where I’m going, like I know the way down to the school bus, I know the way down to the library. So, I kind of have a definite idea of where I’m going whilst I don’t really think about it as much.
RH: How did you find out about today’s event that’s happening here, Trans Pride?
L: The Facebook events, I think, I can’t remember when I spotted them, but just coming up on like suggested events things I think after, because it was, I think it was Leeds Trans Pride and all the trans groups, they kind of fronted Leeds Pride, the main, the big one last year, so I saw the – I was marching as well, but with the Huddersfield groups, we were a bit further back. So, I saw the videos from that and I think that’s when I found the Leeds Trans Pride page and then I’ve kinda been checking in on it, because, and then I think Leeds Queer Film Festival as well I found out, I think I might have found the links, or the links for this year’s stuff, at roughly the same time, just because they’re quite linked and very close together.
RH: Are you gonna take part again in the march tomorrow?
L: Yes, yeah, hopefully.
RH: Are you gonna carry a banner or anything?
L: I have my trans flag that I sewed the word ‘resist’ onto in the white patch in the middle, so that’ll be ordained as a, I’ll be wearing it as a cape. I might go and make a banner or a placard or something after this.
RH: Brilliant. Well, thank you very much for taking part, thank you.