Gilwell 24 - Time of My Life by Harry Thomas
10th July 2017
I attended Gilwell 24 on the weekend for my first ever time and it’s safe to say that I’ll be there next year.
The activities offered are amazing and the atmosphere is insane but there’s another reason as to why Giwell 24 shall be seeing my face again next year, and it’s because of the people I met. I went to the FLAGS Scout Active Support Unit's Rainbow Café just to see what was going on and because it seemed like a really chilled out, fun place to be.
However, in no way did I think that over 11 hours later I would still be there, dancing non-stop to some cheesy (but great) tunes… but I was. I believe I now know all the words to the YMCA after dancing to it 5 times. The staff who were at the Rainbow Café were always up for a laugh and really made that place as special as it was. If being there 11 hours later wasn’t a big enough shock for me then the realisation that I came to definitely was. Dancing non-stop and being surrounded by people just like me gave me the opportunity to be my true self. 100% me. A chance I don’t get in normal day-to-day life. I had a chance where I could let loose and be free and it was this chance that led me to the realisation of my sexuality.
We live in a heteronormative society where it is assumed that boys will be with girls and girls will be with boys but as we all know, it isn’t like that. Yes, some people are straight but some people are gay or bisexual or pansexual… the list goes on. Being surrounded by mostly accepting people in day-to-day life I thought that I was being myself… but I wasn’t. Yes, I am able to be the guy that I know I am as everyone had accepted me as transgender but being focused on my gender identity, I had not taken any notice into who I was attracted to and the rainbow café gave me chance to focus on that. I didn’t have to constantly worry about passing as male and I didn’t have to constantly worry in case my voice was slightly too high because I was in a safe environment.
“I’m gay! Wow, wait, what?" Yes, that thought popped into my head multiple times whilst dancing non-stop but as it was such a shock I tried to push it away, I tried not to focus on it and I tried not to think about it but you cannot push away who you are. You can’t be someone else and you can’t change who you are. If you can’t change it, embrace it. Eventually I left the Rainbow Café to head to the closing ceremony for Gilwell 24 and then the event was over but Gilwell 24 2017 will always be a special memory to me because meeting everyone at the rainbow café and talking about what it’s like being an LGBTQIA+ young person in today’s society enabled me to accept myself as gay. I now can’t imagine how my life would be if I hadn’t met FLAGS at Gilwell 24. After less than 72 hours my life has been changed for the better and I am not confused at all. My identity has never seemed clearer than now and it’s all down to FLAGS and the support they’ve given me.
I released a coming out video on my Youtube channel the morning after Gilwell 24 and did not expect as big of a response as it got. I was so worried about not being understood and not being accepted but everyone has been the complete opposite and the support received has made me speechless for once in my life.
Thank you FLAGS, keep up the amazing work and I can’t wait to join you in 2 years. Until then #KeepDancing !