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Author: Vic Leon-Cutler | Date: 17th August 2017
I'm Nathanael, most people call me Nat, some Nate, but I also respond to 'oi' regularly.
I am transgender and bisexual.
So why did I join FLAGS?
I joined FLAGS the moment I turned 18 and it wasn't just because some of my best friends were part of the Unit. Everything the Unit exists for, the values they hold and the aims they have was what I felt Scouting should be or at least aim to be, and so why wouldn't I put my name down for it?!
I have been in Scouting for nearly 10 years now and in that time I, with the help and support of my peers and leaders, began to discover my own sexuality and later, my gender identity. The differing experience I had between adult leaders was shocking, some would be so affirming and supportive, but as a young person I experienced both homophobia and transphobia within Scouting. This experience was damaging but it has motivated me to do something about it. I know just how valuable adult training is and through the support of FLAGS I gained the confidence to apply for and be appointed as ACC Inclusion and Diversity in my local area. In this role I plan to manage a county ASU dedicated to supporting and advising on matters of I&D as well as looking to improve adult training in this area.
Outside of Scouting I am training for Church Ministry and studying theology, this is a very different ball game! FLAGS have embraced my Christian faith and I regularly have conversations with other members about how my gender identity and faith interact and how I can be both trans and Christian. If you're interested in how this works for me you can check out my blog at https://transformingtheologynate.wordpress.com/ or follow me on twitter at @trans_anglican.
FLAGS have helped me navigate my way through the Scouting world and given me the confidence required to use my own experiences to improve the organisation on both a local and national level. But also, outside of Scouting, FLAGS have supported me to pursue the passion I have for theology and the Church - something I didn't expect when I signed up.
Author: Vic Leon-Cutler | Date: 11th July 2017
I have just had the most amazing weekend with a bunch of beautiful people.
I was attending Gilwell 24 with my ESU, but in the end it was only my daughter who could go and then last week she discovered that she could attend Pride which left me at Gilwell all alone. I wondered if FLAGS were going to be a bit short handed in the Rainbow Café so I offered to help out. My offer was accepted so at 08.30 Saturday morning I joined in with the prep for the day and that is where I stayed pretty much all day until about 00.30 on Sunday morning. Bearing in mind I hadn't actually met any of these folks before Saturday I really was made so very welcome and felt at ease straight away so thank you all for being so lovely. The cafe was busy all day; it was great to meet so many Explorers buying mocktails as well as some of the Leaders but the best part of it was spending the day with the FLAGS folks, you all made it so much fun and I am really looking forward to doing it again at the next G24.
Author: Vic Leon-Cutler | Date: 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 !
Author: Rob Sharratt | Date: 7th July 2017
Pride in London 2017 - Less that 24 Hours to Go!
So here we go, with less than 24 hours, the project team are counting the minutes until we meet everyone for the Morning Meeting at The University of Westminster.
We are really pleased to announce that we have 10 Young People joining us and over 100 Adult members from across the country.
Don't forget to bring your sun lotion and lots of water as it's predicted to be a hot one!
See you at the event,
FLAGS and Pride in London Project Team
Author: Rob Sharratt | Date: 7th July 2017
Gilwell 24 is Here!
The FLAGS Team are now checked into Gilwell Park and are setting up ready for Gilwell 24 2017!
The cafe is starting to come together nicely and we'll be ready for a start at 9am on Saturday morning.
We hope to see as many of you as possible at our Rainbow Mocktail bar where you can have a Berry Bliss or a Dark Invader, or buy some FLAGS merchandise.
Author: Mike Preston | Date: 2nd August 2015
By Ian from 3rd Hove
“On Saturday 1st August, if you were in Brighton, you couldn't help notice something was afoot. Thousands of people had gathered to take part in, watch and support the 25th LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) Pride parade and festival.
19 adult members of the Scout Association from the Southeast and further afield, including District and County Commissioners, beaver, cub, scout and explorer leaders, and members of FLAGS (Fellowship of Lesbian and Gay Scouts) gathered at an ungodly hour of the morning to prepare for the festivities ahead.
The diversity message we carried was scouts are a diverse bunch and welcome LGBT members and leaders. This was given added poignancy by the announcement, with provisos, by the Boy Scouts of America, that adult leaders who identify as LGBT will be allowed to carry on their work or join the organisation (led by Eagle Scouts - their equivalent of Queen Scouts - who found that they couldn't continue as adult members and gain leadership roles if they identified as LGBT - and were effectively "fired" at 18 years-old).
25 years after Brighton's first Pride march, the political message may have waned somewhat, but the re-routing of the march away from a perceived bomb threat, and seeing the Royal Ordnance Corps Bomb Disposal Unit going in the opposite direction to the parade at the start to explode a suspect package, reminds me that there are people who are so violently opposed to the various messages of LGBT Pride, that they might consider it a target, along with the public thronging the streets.
Along with help from a very friendly drag queen, whose unexpected help in rabble-rousing was unparalleled, the 19-strong contingent had a strong reception from the crowds along the 2 mile route. Present and former scouts were in evidence, and many said hello. We were upstaged by a troupe of acrobats in monkey costumes that we had the good or bad fortune to be next to - but I suppose that is par for the course.
Why take part in a parade like Pride as scouts? What does this achieve? Well, it shows the world that we are here and we support the values of acceptance and tolerance that Pride stands for. It shows that there are LGBT or LGBT-friendly (I must say I didn't enquire of everyone!) members of the organisation who don't mind showing their faces at an event like Pride. I suppose for people like me and some others present, it is because I was a gay youth member, and found great comfort from newspaper and TV reports of positive role models growing up (I think the Independent and Channel 4 were particularly good when I grew up). I would like to think that all 19 marchers/paraders were good role models that day.
More "Oggy oggy oggies" than I can remember, with audience participation, slight sunburn, a hoarse voice and one of those frozen grins that you get when you pose for too many wedding photographs, were my abiding memories of a very interesting and enjoyable day.”
Author: Mike Preston | Date: 12th July 2015
By Scott Ideson
It’s currently past one in the morning, and I’m sat in a bustling marquee in a field within walking distance of the M25 listening to the dulcet tones of L.M.F.A.O playing in the distance. I’ve been awake about 18 hours, and have at least seven hours until activities end. I’m at Gilwell24, of course!
There are over 4000 Explorers on site at Gilwell Park today taking part in the yearly action-packed fun-filled 24 hour extravaganza that is Gilwell24. Today activities included DJing sessions on a red double decker bus courtesy of Volvo, kiteboarding, firefighting, laser quest, scuba diving, amongst many, many others. Of course, tonight the activities continue – the disco being the favourite!
This weekend, FLAGS are attending Gilwell24 again - this time running our own activities within the Global Zone. Old favourites returned. Diversity Jenga and rainbow paracord woggles were as popular as ever. Although the woggles ended up being fluorescent pink – but shhhh, we won’t mention that!
New to our repertoire of activities was the Diversitree. Diversity. Tree. Get it? Please say you get it...? The Diversitree allowed us to consult youth members and find out their views and opinions on diversity and inclusion in Scouting. Explorers got the chance to write their ideas on post-it notes which were then stuck to our Diversitree. Questions asked included:
What makes you unique in Scouting?
What could your unit do to improve your Scouting experience?
Who is your Scouting hero?
Do you think Scouting is inclusive? And why?
We also set out some statements for the young people to ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ (agree/disagree), surrounding how welcome they feel in Scouting for example. Some, of course, were less serious than others! Beyoncé or Bieber?
As a member of FLAGS, it was terrific to see young people in our movement’s passion for equality and inclusion and how much they embrace diversity in Scouting and in their lives more widely. Scouting is more diverse in its membership than ever before and it’s humbling to see we’re as equally as accepting. The mostly positive comments from the weekend demonstrate that we have a movement to be proud of, but there is still some way to go to ensure that our youth members feel equally as welcome in their groups, districts and counties as the friends they’ve made from across the country at Gilwell24 this weekend.
P.S. FLAGS is also now on Instagram! Be sure to follow us on @flagscouts where you can find some fantastic photos from our activities from throughout the weekend at Gilwell24!
Author: Mike Preston | Date: 27th June 2015
Wow, What an Incredible Day !!!
I wanted to start with a huge thank you, before telling you about this incredible event. Our celebrations wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for the hard work for the project team in the run up to the event. I'd like to take time to say thank you to Laura and the rest of the team for their dedication and commitment. I'd also like to thank all our speakers, wheel stewards, Stilt Walkers and those who supported the breakfast.
The day started off with an amazing welcome from all the project team, and some great talks by some of volunteers. This included a welcome from Dean Jeffreys, Regional Commissioner for London, as well as a great talk from our Jagz Barth, our Deputy Youth Commissioner, telling us why inclusion is so important to The Scout Association.
The morning continued with a chance to get to know other volunteer, and take part in some great activities which helped to demonstrate the diversity of The Scout Association. Volunteers were able to share their experiences with others, as well as tell us more about their experience of The Scout Association as an LGBT Adult. We were also pleased to be joined by Scout Radio, you can here some of their interview here.
As we moved on to the parade, we were joined by more volunteers, and young people and ended with over 120 people taking part in the latest celebration of diversity in the UK. This year, we were pleased to be positioned at number ten in the parade, being one of the first groups with a float in the parade. Once again this year we were pleased to be supported by National Express with their Scout branded Coach. This year, we were also joined by the fabulous stilt walkers, which helped us look amazing !!!
During the parade we were also pleased to be joined by a number of the senior volunteer team, including Tim Kidd, Debbie Bainbridge, Kester Sharpe, Alex Peace-Gadsby and Dan Wood. This is the first year a number of these had attended and they were impressed not only buy the turn out, but also by the excellent reception by the by-standers.
As the parade came to an end, I haven't felt so proud to stand with a group of volunteers and celebrate the diversity of The Scout Association. We have come so far in the last five years, and I want to thank all those who have helped us get there. Its been a long journey, but now i feel we can truly say we are one of the best groups at Pride in London, and continue to show everyone that Scouting is for everyone !!!
Author: Mike Preston | Date: 13th June 2015
So, over the last few weeks, I've spent a lot of time ensuring we are ready for pride events across the UK. It was great to see so many members of FLAGS at Birmingham Pride, it was most certainly our best attendance to date. Id like to say a massive thanks to Russell for his hard work in ensuring the event was a success. We will be adding some pictures from the parade to our website shortly. We are now in the final countdown to Edinburgh and London. Don't forget there is still time to sign up to be involved in London. You can find out about all our pride events for this year on our website.
We also started off this month celebrating National Volunteers Week, we have over 100 volunteers who support FLAGS and help us to demonstrate to people across the UK. Id like to take another opportunity to say THANK YOU to all the amazing volunteers who support help make FLAGS possible.
Last weekend, I was pleased to attend a LGBT Round Table with representatives across Europe. The purpose of the round table was to develop training for other Associations around Europe. It was a great opportunity for me to share our experience of support LGBT members, as well as sharing some of the actions we have taken over the last few year to promote inclusion in Scouting. I was able to make some great contacts from across Europe, as well as take some great ideas about how we can engage more LGBT people in Scouting. The outcomes of the round table will be seen in November at a training event, where we hope to be able to share more of our experiences.
Coming up this month we have our first team meeting of year, where we will be discussing our progress against our service agreement, as well as checking in on finances and membership.
Just a quick reminder for members to pay their membership fees by the end of this month.