Growing up as an LGBTQ+ person, sometimes it’s hard to find the sense of community that you need. I never expected roller skating to be the answer.
It can be hard sometimes to find people like yourself at school or at work, and people who share the same interests as you. When I started roller-skating in high school, I could never have imagined that this hobby would allow me to meet so many LGBTQ+ people along the way, and to be a part of such an accepting, open and wonderful community.
I started roller skating at a roller disco every Friday night when I was in high school, during that awkward time where I was unsure of myself or where I could ‘fit in’ and what I wanted to do with my life.
At this point, I hadn’t even begun questioning my sexuality or gender. I had never really thought about it – or maybe I didn’t allow myself to think about it.
I had been going roller-skating for about a year when I began questioning my sexuality. During this time, I got to meet a lot of different young people from all over the North West of England, and some who would openly speak about being LGBTQ+. I met quite a few people who identified as gay, bisexual and lesbian who showed me that there were other young people like me, even though I was too nervous to come out to anyone just yet!
One night, I met a lesbian couple for the first time, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow, they’re really cool!’ It was the first time I had seen a relationship that reflected something that I wanted in life – something that wasn’t ‘boy and girl’.
At my high school, there weren’t many openly LGBTQ+ people as it was a very unaccepting environment, so having the opportunity to meet young LGBTQ+ people and learn from them made my journey of self-acceptance a lot easier.
Finding people like yourself at such a pivotal time in your life is paramount, which is why I started volunteering with Just Like Us. As volunteer ambassadors, we have the opportunity to show LGBTQ+ young people in schools that there are people out there like them, who lead happy and fulfilling lives – even if they don’t see this represented in their everyday lives yet.
I eventually stopped going to the roller disco – we all started growing up, starting college, finding different hobbies and different friends. Flash forward to the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020 and I end up impulsively buying some cheap roller-skates to stop me from melting into the sofa and getting square eyes from bingeing Netflix 24/7.
It was a very rocky start, but with practise and more practise I managed to feel confident on wheels once again. I moved back to Manchester for University, and my skates came with me. I was out skating a lot, once the weather improved (which was fairly recently – Manchester is not known for its great weather).
I managed to meet other roller-skaters who added me to a big online skating group chat for skaters in Manchester. Everyone started adding their pronouns in their names after a few weeks, and I saw so many people using ‘she/they’ or ‘he/they’ pronouns for the first time – which made me feel comfortable enough to openly start using ‘she/they’ outside of my small friendship group.
I started going to meet-ups, and learning how to skate in skate parks, and it is such an uplifting and friendly community. Someone is always cheering you on, regardless of your gender or sexual orientation – whether or not you manage to skate without falling over!
I have met so many gender-non-conforming, nonbinary, and other LGBTQ+ people of all ages, and had some great discussions about gender with them. I have been able to share my experiences as an LGBTQ+ person and hear other people’s experiences.
There are so many outspoken allies to the LGBTQ+ community in the roller-skate scene, which is so important to feel safe and confident within a non-LGBTQ+ space.
I am so grateful to have found a hobby that has allowed me to make friends, find community and meet so many people like myself after never thinking I would feel fully accepted as an LGBTQ+ person, especially in sports. It makes the bruised shins and muscle aches from falling so much more worth it.
Are you LGBTQ+ and age 18–25? Volunteer with Just Like Us! The charity needs volunteers to speak in schools about being LGBTQ+ to help combat anti-LGBTQ+ bullying. You’ll receive training, career mentoring and make lots of LGBTQ+ friends along the way. Sign up now to volunteer as a Just Like Us ambassador.