In the second in our story series we spoke to Ahmed* about his connection with our ‘Paris’ group and what it means to him. Here’s what he had to say:
“The Paris group helps people accept themselves, and in times when they’re not necessarily at their best, like when I came I was in the mind-set that it’s so wrong to be gay but I just couldn’t change it. Two years on I’m now saying it’s okay to be gay, it’s great.
When I first found out about Paris I was surprised that Newham even had an LGBT group, as I felt like Newham was a very hostile area. I was a bit nervous, not knowing what to expect but just went from there, and I’m now one of the members who’s been here the longest. I even get my straight friends to come along, one of my friends is a bit scared because he’s not out yet and he’s nervous of coming to an LGBT group. But I’ve been trying to helping to persuade him to come along and he does want to now, there are just difficulties with his family. With some of the newer people, you can definitely see that transition to when they stop being nervous and feeling accepted as who they are.
I’m also a Stonewall volunteer; I run campaigns looking at homophobic language and bullying in schools and colleges around Newham. I’ve done workshops, stalls, and arranged for speakers to come in and talk to schools about tackling homophobic bullying. Paris has helped me with ideas for this, and Dawn has been like a mentor for me, with the organisation, delivering workshops and sourcing contacts.
Paris is just like a home for LGBT people in this area, and straight allies too. If we didn’t have Paris, a lot of us could be worse off, like having negative attitudes ourselves, because of religious backgrounds or family situations. I didn’t really know how to deal with my internal battle, the Paris staff definitely help and they’ve changed a lot of our lives by enabling us to be who we are and making us realise that it’s okay. No other service can offer that, no college counsellor or teacher; it’s the only place for us to go. That’s why it’s so important for Newham, a place which doesnt have a good reputation for being accepting of LGBT people – Paris could even help to change Newham”
Ahmed is 18 and lives in Barking and Dagenham. He hopes to go to university at the end of this year, but will also come back to visit the Paris group and continue to champion LGBT support in Newham.
Please support our campaign to continue the vital work that the ‘Paris’ group provides.