Cameron's Story Although I’ve always had support and never felt judged for being gay, I know that’s not the case for all young LGBTQ+ people, especially in Merthyr. Growing up I never felt good enough to be my Father’s son. He always wanted the perfect son. He’s a Jehovah’s Witness and unfortunately an alcoholic. I’ve been told he was physically abusive towards me as a child but I don’t remember a lot of it. Being a Jehovah’s Witness meant my Father never wanted to celebrate Easter or Christmas but my Mother always allowed it, which caused problems for her and us. When I was 10, me and my sister had to move in with our Nan. My sister’s Father was very abusive towards my mother so we had to leave the family home whilst that was being sorted out. My Dad had shared custody of me at the time and although he still didn’t treat me like his son, I became his carer. He had Epilepsy but never had fits when he was drunk, only when he was sober, so he drank all the time. He kept trying to overdose as well, which was really hard on me. I had to try and stop him overdosing so many times. I always made sure he took his meds and then hide them. When all this was going on I felt so rubbish and sad. It’s given me trust issues and I still struggle with those issues to this day but not as bad now. After my mum divorced my sister’s Dad, we all moved to Wales together. She’s remarried now and I have a really good relationship with her. My trust issues mean I don’t always get on with her husband but we’re okay. I see him more as a friend than my Dad. If I’d had a better start it might have been different but never mind. We’ve been living in Wales for about five years now and I’m happier than I’ve ever been but living where I do in Merthyr can be tough. It’s easy to fall in with the wrong crowd of friends and it’s not as easy to get work up here. I was lucky though and found a job as a Youth Worker for the Willows Centre. My manager, Dan, contacted Llamau’s Employment Liaison Officer, Ashley, to arrange my employment through the Symud Ymlaen Moving Forward Programme. The support Ashley offered me was really helpful. He helped me gain full time employment with the Willows. Although I try to be as independent as possible and don’t always accept help, I honestly don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for Ashley’s help. I decided to approach Dan around the idea of developing a peer support group at the Willows, offering help, support and advice to the local LGBTQ+ community in Merthyr. Although I’ve always had support and never felt judged for being gay, I know that’s not the case for all young LGBTQ+ people, especially in Merthyr. Together, Dan and I launched the support group around June or July 2019. We consistently have around ten people attending. Some of them come in with issues like being bullied for their sexuality or identity and others aren’t sure how to come out to their friends and family, so my role is to listen and offer advice where I can. I do a lot of research around LGBTQ+ issues and try to share what I can. Dan and I have also spent time talking to people around Merthyr about the LGBTQ+ community, challenging people’s perceptions and views to make them think about their sometimes negative opinions. Our biggest success as a group so far was attending Youth Pride and marching with Stonewall. A message from Llamau... It can be so difficult for young people to be honest about their sexuality or gender identity and the fact that young LGBTQ+ people are four times more likely than their peers to become homeless tells you just how far we still have to go in creating a society that accepts people for who they are. Youth groups and peer groups are so important for young people to have safe spaces where they can talk about their sexuality and gender identity, and get advice about accessing specialist support if they need it. Sadly, too often youth groups are running on such small or absolutely no budget. We'd really like to see more money being put into them. Without Llamau being able to fund Cameron's role through Symud Ymlaen/Moving Forward the young people that he's been supporting in Merthyr wouldn’t have had the support that they really need.