“Actively challenge stigma and empower people” – a personal piece for LGBT+ History Month
Alec started his journey to transition at 18 and, having completed our graduate programme in 2018, now works with young people as a mental health social worker. Here he reflects on the unique perspective his life experiences bring to his work.
We’re not often told anything positive about trans people in our day to day lives, but living life as a transgender man has completely transformed the way I see the world. It has taught me the importance of never assuming anything about someone, about making time to listen to people – I mean properly listen – and it’s shown me how everyone has an incredible capacity for growth and change.
As a trans person you get so used to being put into a box and underestimated because of who you are. But that’s helped me appreciate all the other boxes that people find themselves pushed into, particularly the overflowing stigma-filled ones a mental illness can bring. And now, as a mental health social worker, I’m able to help unpack these boxes with people, so that they don’t have to feel held back, or like their voice isn’t being heard.
As a trans person you get so used to being put into a box and underestimated because of who you are.
I’ve also had the privilege to support a number of LGBTQ+ young people recently who are struggling with their mental health. It’s been great to be able to show them that, as a trans person, I can make a bit of a difference and help them through a challenging time. And, better than that: that there’s nothing stopping them from being able to do the same one day, because they have so much to offer.
Despite the mental health difficulties they might be facing, most have shared this unique perspective of the world. They can empathise and connect with those that might be struggling in similar ways. Both of these things are so important in social work, as well as a passion for equality and social justice, which as LGBTQ+ people we’re still fighting for both here in the UK and in many parts of the world – it’s part of our daily lives!
When I think about the LGBTQ+ people in our history that have been part of this fight, I also remember that they didn’t have the opportunity that I’ve had to become a social worker, or be their true selves as social workers. Despite having the same passion and beliefs that I do today, many were (and continue to be) limited and defined by ignorance and prejudice. It makes me more determined to use the profession as a means for achieving this justice for those I support now, and continue to make inclusive changes.
I am passionate about my work, and would encourage those who identify as LGBTQ+ to think about mental health social work. It enables you to use your life experiences and the resilience you’ve developed to have a positive impact in someone else’s life; to actively challenge stigma and discrimination; and to empower people to see their true potential and this kind of resilience within themselves – because we all have it.