‘Why I want Nottingham to become the UK’s first trans sanctuary city’

Sam Harvey

“As a young queer person, I find Nottingham to be an absolutely amazing city. Sure, we don’t have quite as many gay bars as Manchester and you’re unlikely to find any Drag Race alumni amongst the local population, but what we do have is a fiercely supportive LGBT+ community, a city with a welcoming and open-minded set of values, and more rainbow crossings than you can shake a Pride flag at.

Nottingham was the city where I first came out as gay and since I made that decision, I have not regretted it for a second. I just wish that the same could be said for the rest of the UK.

During the time I’ve spent volunteering for Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity, I have been incredibly privileged to be able to meet a range of amazing young queer people from all across the UK. Listening to their stories and hearing them describe how they grew up makes me realise how incredibly lucky I am to live in a city where I don’t feel scared to hold my partner’s hand in public or incorporate  a rainbow into my outfit. 

That isn’t to say I’ve found it an easy ride being a member of the LGBT+ community – I’ve still had taunts and jeers hurled at me through the open windows of passing vans, been followed home after nights out with slurs ringing in my ears, had to stand up to the vicious everyday the transphobia my friends face whenever they are out in public. The latter reminds me that although there has been significant progress for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in recent decades, the trans and gender non-conforming members of our community continue to suffer relentless discrimination, suspicion, denial of healthcare, hostile attitudes, ridicule and bigotry. 

There is so much more we can do as a city to make our community safer and more welcoming, not just to our local trans siblings, but to the trans community across the country. I truly believe that achieving equal rights and equal respect is not only essential, but achievable in the next few years.

‘A city where trans young people and adults are free from discrimination’

It was this determination, coupled with the confidence and knowledge I had gained through speaking in schools in my ambassador role at Just Like Us, that led to me setting up the Nottingham Pastel Project.

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We are a grassroots community activist group made up of mostly trans and gender non-conforming individuals who recognize Nottingham’s potential to become the UK’s first official Trans Sanctuary City – a city where all members of the trans community can feel safe and protected. A city that can meet the healthcare needs of trans and non-binary individuals, a city where trans young people and adults are free from discrimination and bullying. 

Sam Harvey
Sam runs the Nottingham Pastel Project. (Credit: Sam Harvey)

Our aims are simple. We want to increase trans visibility in Nottingham to combat harmful stereotypes and misinformation. We want to allow trans groups and organisations to be able to freely and easily network in Nottingham. We want to strengthen trans services in Nottingham, from improving healthcare, to encouraging local businesses to train their staff to stand up against transphobia, to supporting local schools on LGBT+ inclusion, including encouraging more schools to sign up to programmes offered by Just Like Us.

Whilst our goals are more than achievable at a community level, we also want to ensure that they are enshrined in policy – that is why we are keen to work with Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County Council to make sure our voices are heard at a political and national level. 

Nottingham has the potential to become the next big LGBT+ friendly city alongside Manchester and Brighton, but we can go one step further and become known as the city which set the standard for trans and gender non-conforming equality, implemented throughout every level of society and supported by our amazing community of allies!”

Sam volunteers as an ambassador for Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity. LGBT+ and aged 18 to 25? Sign up here!