Welcome to the It Gets Better UK Blog!
In this post we speak to the lovely Hannah Haynes (she/her), one of our South West Regional Ambassadors.
Professionally Hannah is a Technical Performance Manager for a sexual and reproductive health rights fund. Hannah talks candidly about her experiences as a queer woman and her motivations for supporting It Gets Better UK.
Thank you so much for your time and support of It Gets Better UK Hannah!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Hi! My name’s Hannah and I’m a 29 year old queer woman currently living in Somerset (originally from South Wales). I’ve been working in sexual and reproductive rights for the past 4 years, focusing on comprehensive sexuality education and menstrual health programming in the Global South. Prior to that, I have always been interested in marginalised communities, focusing on female writers in a literature degree, through to menstrual health policies in a public health degree. I think that words are the most powerful tool we have, and have spent significant amounts of time in both my professional and personal life furthering my interest in the power of language.
Outside of my day job, I’m often found reading, drinking coffee, at the gym, or playing rugby. I’m fortunate enough to live in a beautiful part of Somerset, so weekends are spent outdoors exploring local walking routes with my girlfriend and our small dog, or getting muddy in a field with 29 other women.
2. How did you get involved with It Gets Better UK?
I have wanted to do some volunteering for a while and came across IGB through their video series released during COVID. I thought the stories told were so honest and reflective, and they resonated with me really well. They reinforced also, that power of words and storytelling. I thought then that it was something I would love to be a part of, and was fortunate enough to be selected (after a rigorous application process!) to be a South West Regional Ambassador in July this year.
3. Tell us a bit about your own mental health experiences and being LGBTQ+?
I often find myself feeling burnt out, and somewhat exhausted from existing in a society that still views anyone who isn’t in a heterosexual relationship as ‘other’. It’s all of the little things that add up – the extra smile you get from a stranger who wants you to know that they ‘accept’ it. It’s the unanticipated, but almost daily, ‘coming out’ to medical staff, taxi drivers, café staff – the list goes on.
I am incredibly lucky to have such a brilliant support system in place. To have wonderful parents, a brilliant girlfriend and excellent friends, who all make up this community of acceptance and love. When I spoke to my mum about my sexuality she simply said ‘okay, so what?’, and I actually think that is the most perfect reaction. I didn’t want the ‘we will love you whatever you are’ line, as even this response places you as being different. The simplicity in her response really made me so comfortable with my identity.
I’ve found myself reading lots more queer literature, engaging in much more digital advocacy around LGBTQ+ rights, and educating myself on global struggles, strategies and successes.
4. What do you think LGBTQ+ people can learn from your experiences?
I am by no means someone to teach, just someone who is happy to share their story. I think if you take nothing else away from this, I’d hope for you to take away the power behind the words we choose and use. It’s essential to educate, and update your language choices – it’s 2022, let’s be inclusive. It takes two seconds to check pronouns, to stop assuming sexual preference or orientation. The more that we continue to just accept heteronormative scripts, the longer they carry on dominating our society. Stop letting people get away with assumptions. Stop letting people think that ‘passing’ is a compliment. It may be a little scary, but education is the key to disruption. Start small, with your friends and family, and then those conversations will filter into different conversations. Change starts small. Someone needs to start it.
5. If you had one message for LGBTQ+ people what would it be?
Please, keep telling your stories, our stories. Until history isn’t solely written by cis, het people, then we will continue to be marginalised, and not prioritised. I promise, there are people out there who want to listen, and people out there who really need to listen too.