Hi! I disappeared last week because I decided to try something different and vlog the Colours Youth Festival, but it was my first time doing something like that and I severely underestimated the amount of time and effort that it takes (especially when you don’t have a clue what you’re doing and you’re learning on the go) so I didn’t manage to finish editing the video until today. I decided to write a blog post to go along with the video since there’s a lot of things that aren’t on the video and I didn’t really get to express any thoughts or feelings so here it is! I’ll write the blog post including all the information so that people can choose to either watch the video or read the post (or both) without missing out on hearing about some things.
The Colours Youth Festival was an event in Birmingham for young LGBT people of clour. There were several youth groups involved, I went with Gendered Intelligence which is the organisation that hosts the trans support groups that I attend (including one for trans people of colour). I woke up at 5am (I always know I’m up way too early when I have to chase a fully awake hedgehog around instead of just picking up a very sleepy and grumpy hedgehog) to take a train from Woking to London (Waterloo station) and I then took the underground from there to Marylebone which is where I met everyone from GI. We then took a train to Birmingham which was a bit over 2 hours. I don’t know what I was expecting Birmingham to be like, but since everyone I’ve heard talking about it has been really negative I was quite surprised about how nice looking everything was, I quite liked it (not that I got much of a chance to see what it was like). The event was hosted at the University of Birmingham, the building was really cool and there were lots of nice seating spaces that I wish Surrey had! We got a bunch of free goodies including posters and shirts saying “some people are trans, get over it” and “some people of colour are LGBT get over it” from stonewall that I’m very happy about.
There were lots of different session choices, some where more focused on queer POC history and others were more on the creative side, I wish I could have done both but I ended up picking a storytelling and poetry workshop, activism through makeup and songwriting. I didn’t enjoy the poetry one much, we had to write stuff based on figures we rolled on dice and I felt like I was the only one who didn’t already know how to write poetry and seeing everyone else’s poems was just discouraging. After that we did a thing where we passed a sheet of paper around and you could only see the previous line and you then had to write another line for the poem with the theme being the last word of the line you could see which I always find very anxiety inducing. The makeup session was interesting, there was some practical stuff about how to make charcoal eyeshadow and blending colours, using correctors to get rid of visible signs of facial hair and the person running the workshop also showed me how to contour my face to make it look more masculine which I look forward to trying some day. Then the last session was pretty nice, there was a lot of stuff that didn’t go anywhere but I was surprised about how quickly people started putting lyrics and music together, all in all it was probably about 10-15 min of work and it sounded pretty decent. Some people decided to work on their own and write their own songs which were really impressive, I included clips of all in the vlog.
After the workshops we had a short break followed by a talk by Dr. Ronx which I thought was amazing. (Note – everything I’m about to write is my memory of the talk a week ago, I might be misremembering things) She’s a doctor and she’s also on a children’s TV show. She was put into the foster care system when she was born, she was raised by white parents until she turned 6, then social services sent her to live with her birth parents. She was abused by her parents, especially once she started embracing her queerness to the point that her mental health suffered severely and she ran away from home at 15, no one around her did anything despite the visible signs of abuse that they probably would have acted upon had she been a white child. She watched ER a lot and because of it she decided she wanted to be a doctor so she studied really hard, applied to med school, didn’t get the grades she needed, she called King’s College and told them about her life and they ended up giving her a place. She struggled through university as she wasn’t accepted by POC due to being queer, she was working part time and under a lot of stress, spent a lot of time at soho which lead to using drugs but she eventually graduated. She was sent to work in White Haven which was a very white area, she was even asked by children if she went on holiday for a really long time because they thought she had a tan. She decided she wanted to work on A&E and started working in Hackney which is where she works right now. She makes a point to be an advocate for POC as well as visibly queer people. A few years ago she gave a talk where there was a CBBC person in the audience (the children’s BBC) and that lead to her being on a children’s TV show. She raised money so that a lot of black young people could go see Black Panther and her slacks are also purple as a Black Panther reference. Her motto is you can’t be what you do not see so she puts a lot of work into outreach and being visibly and unapologetically queer. I really loved her motto because I think it sums up so much into a single sentence, the impact of representation (and the lack of it), institutionalized racism, the effect we can have in other people’s lives just by being ourselves, it reminds me of how when I was younger hearing about Laura Deming and meeting her was what lead me to believe I could do a lot of the things I’ve done and I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for the fact that I heard that she did those things and that helped me fight the beliefs I was taught both explicitly and by just living in the society I lived in. I feel like the way I’ve described her talk is very dry and more biographical than anything but she was amazing and her talk made me feel lots of things, I even cried in public which I’ve only done a countable amount of times, I’d never felt like my experience was reflected as strongly as I did listening to her (despite my personal circumstances being quite different from hers) and her talk gave me hope and cheered me up when I was going through a rough time and feeling a bit hopeless about the future and my aspirations.
Overall the day was a lot of fun and I learned a lot but more than anything I felt like I belonged, it made me be proud of who I am in a way that not even going to non-POC specific trans/LGBT events had ever done, and it gave me hope and a feeling of community and that people cared when I was struggling. We left the event around 7pm and I ended up getting home at 11pm and eating and collapsing in bed as soon as I arrived (and then woke up at noon the next day), it was absolutely exhausting physically and emotionally but it was very very very worth it.