Blog | Pride in Scouting
UK Chief Commissioner, Tim Kidd opens up about his personal experiences after attending this year's Birmingham Pride at the weekend.
This weekend, I had an exhilarating day as part of the Scout representatives at Birmingham Pride. We had a fantastic reception from thousands of onlookers as around 50 of us, including Scout stilt walkers in excellent costumes, walked the parade route.
We showed that Scouting is open to everyone with a particular focus on LGBT+ people who are welcome as adult volunteers and young people. As I walked the route, I felt great pride in Scouting, and real sense of support and comfort.
Everyone’s experience is a bit different, but most LGBT+ people go through the experience of coming out, just as I did. I had to decide to tell people that I was gay and risk losing their friendship – there is always a nagging doubt that people might not accept you. The stakes are even higher when you tell your family. Whilst you can find new friends, you can’t find a new family and it feels huge. What I did, in common with many other people, is focus on the possible bad outcomes and created all sorts of awful stories in my head and these stopped me from telling people. I was scared, very scared. I came out in my mid-forties. I have done many things in my life but nothing has ever scared me as much as coming out did. Once it’s said, it’s out there, and you can’t take it back.
I first chose to tell a Scout colleague as this seemed the safest. It was the first time that I had ever said out loud ‘I am gay’. It took me three attempts to get the words out. But once I had managed to do so, the sense of acceptance was great and my relief was enormous. This gave me the courage to tell my close friends and family. I was bad at it at first. I was clearly so worried that people thought I was going to tell them something awful and were visibly relieved that it was only that I am gay! While it sounds like a cliché, it’s true that I felt a huge weight had been lifted and that I was free to be truly myself. It might be hard to understand if you’ve not been through this experience yourself, but take my word for it, it can be very difficult.
Imagine how all that worry and risk might feel to a young person. The possible bad consequences are huge. Imagine if you think that your parents won’t accept it, want you to change or even throw you out of your home (and this does happen). Imagine if all your friends at school turn their backs on you or you got bullied simply for being who you are.
This is why I think it’s so important that in Scouting we provide a safe and welcoming environment for young people and adults. We must truly allow people to be themselves. We can really change people’s lives by simply accepting people for who they are.
I attend Pride events as a Scout to ensure that as many people as possible know that Scouting is for all. Pride events are open to everyone, you don’t have to be LGBT+ to attend. Each year FLAGS (our national Scout Active Support Unit) and various Counties organise attendance at Pride parades. This year I am attending Birmingham, Brighton and London and would be pleased to see you there too. Details are on the FLAGS website at www.flagscouts.org.uk.
If you are interested in support material for LGBT+ people in Scouting then visit ‘Scouting for all’ and the excellent educational resources at www.stonewall.org.uk.
And finally, on a personal note, I thank my friends, family and Scout colleagues for accepting me for who I am with all my failings and complexity – it really makes a difference.