LGBTQ+ young people’s charity Just Like Us has launched an incredible new campaign raising awareness of the issues faced by LGBTQ+ teens in winter.

Stars and influencers such as Divina De Campo, Char Bailey, Cairo Leon, Dom&Ink, Benjy Kusi, Maxine Heron and Ian “H” Watkins have backed the campaign, calling for donations to make sure LGBTQ+ youth have safer school environments to return to next year.

Matthew, a 14-year-old student from Coventry, told the charity: “I’ve had panic attacks. If you don’t have a home life where people are accepting of being LGBT+, you need it to be accepted at school so you know it’s OK.”

“The bullying at home affects me a lot,” said a year 10 pupil from the North West, while another year 9 pupil is afraid to come out as school or at home: “I haven’t told anyone because I’m scared to.”

According to Just Like Us, LGBTQ+ teens are twice as likely to face bullying as their straight peers. 42% have been bullied in the past year, while 91% have heard harmful and negative language about being their sexuality and/or gender identity.

“I shunned away my sexuality and hid it from most I knew, but by having a Pride Group at school, I became much more open about it and less alone,” said Grace, a teenager from Essex.

“I constantly hear negative things about being LGBT+, slurs and saying it’s stupid. It could, quite easily, save someone’s life if a Pride Group were available in every school. I think all schools should take an approach of teaching about LGBTQ+ community.”

Mia, from Liverpool, added: “It’s important for teachers to be supportive because it makes a big difference to students’ mental health and stops us feeling alone.”

Just Like Us helps secondary schools across the UK set up lunchtime and after school Pride Groups where LGBTQ+ people and their allies can receive support and acceptance from their peers.

Divina De Campo, Drag Race UK star, said: “Straight kids are given all the validation right from the start, every film, every cartoon, programme centres heteronormative relationships.

“LGBT+ kids aren’t given that validation often, it’s hard to see yourself reflected on screen sometimes. Organisations like Just Like Us help to counter that and create supportive environments for young people to see themselves.”

Char Bailey, influencer, highlighted how this winter will be a “tricky one, regardless of who you are,” and that LGBTQ+ youth should not have to be “worried about being themselves”.

“Being a lesbian growing up, it was really hard to find people who understood me at school and I was too scared to come out at home. So I spent a lot of time feeling isolated and anxious,” she explained.

“Just Like Us is making sure that kids in school feel safe, supported, and they’re tackling bullying. If you can, please donate and help to make sure LGBT+ young people feel safe to be themselves while they’re in school.”

Trans woman and influencer Maxine Heron said: “As a trans person, school was an incredibly challenging time. This was mainly down to a lack of awareness around trans issues and also bullying.

“By donating to Just Like Us, you can help improve the lives of young LGBT+ people across the UK. I personally would have really benefited from their support, had it been around when I was at school 12 years ago.

“This winter is going to be an extremely challenging one for people all across the UK, and the last thing that young people need to be worrying about is their safety with being the most authentic version of themselves.”

Trans bodybuilder and influencer Cairo Leon is also backing the campaign.

“It’s a known fact that LGBT+ students are more likely to experience bullying, and we can’t let the bullies win,” he stated. “So, we need to make sure that these young people feel safe and supported, so they are nurtured in an environment where they can thrive and be their best selves and their authentic selves.

“Make sure you support these young people, they need you now more than ever. So, if you can spare any change, make sure you donate to Just Like Us, that would be greatly appreciated.”

“Many LGBT+ young people will unfortunately find themselves in vulnerable, unsafe circumstances, and the least we can do is try our best to make sure they have a positive nurturing environment when at school,” said LGBTQ+ influencer Benjy.

“Just Like Us is the LGBT+ young people’s charity, and they’re making sure that LGBT+ kids in school feel safe, supported and don’t face bullying. Please give generously this winter to make sure that LGBT+ young people can feel safe to be themselves in school.”

Illustrator Dom&Ink added: “I can safely say I hated every minute of school. Me being me, during the times of Section 28 too, meant I felt very alone a lot of the time. Please give generously this winter to make sure the LGBT+ young people can feel themselves and feel safe in school.”

Steps star Ian “H” Watkins said: “This winter is going to be really tough, and the last thing young people need to be worrying about is whether or not it’s safe to be LGBT+.

“With 1 in 4 LGBT+ young people facing daily tension at home, not everyone looks forward to spending time with family at this time of year. Because of that, we need to create more inclusive classrooms where LGBT+ young people can thrive.

“Being gay at school was really difficult and research shows LGBT+ young people are still twice as likely to be bullied. Just Like Us is the LGBT+ young people’s charity, and they work with schools across the UK to ensure LGBT+ young people feel safe, supported and accepted.

“Please donate and give what you can to help LGBT+ young people have a brighter 2023 – every £ helps.”

The Chief Executive of Just Like Us, Dominic Arnall, stressed the importance of ensuring that LGBTQ+ youth “don’t dread going home or returning to school” in January.

“This is a tough time and the last thing young people should be worrying about is whether it’s safe to be themselves,” he said.

“School is far too often a place of dread and anguish for LGBT+ teenagers but with your help we can change that. We want to help set up Pride Groups in every secondary school across the UK so that LGBT+ young people and allies can have a safe place to go, where they don’t feel afraid to be themselves and they don’t have to hear vile slurs about lesbians or trans people.

“It’s a common myth that things have got better – in reality LGBT+ young people are facing horrific rates of bullying, tension at home and hearing that who they are is something to be ashamed of. This winter, please help us change that by donating to Just Like Us.”

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