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A foreword from our founder:

To celebrate Pride month, the most brightest + boldest month ever, I wanted my gorgeous best friend Gary to share his story on how he finds life in London being part of the LGBTQ community. Gary is one of my closest friends and my dad knows him as my beautiful best friend whose make up always looks nicer than I do mine!

As some of you may know, this month is Pride month. A celebration of the LGBTQ+ community where we celebrate ourselves, fight for our rights and raise awareness of the community. I am honoured to have been given this platform to write a piece for SBA. I could write several essays on the topic but I feel like the best place for me to start would be to give a little background on my experience. Growing up I was always on the feminine side. I loved singing, dancing and idolised the powerful females I saw on the big screen. When I got to high school I experienced name-calling from my classmates. Comments on my voice and the way I was as a person. At this point in my life I didn't even think about sexuality, it was just who I was as a person. In fact, my sexuality was commented on way before I even really thought about sex. My mum always taught me 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt'. I believe words do hurt but you can overcome them and they wont hurt you forever. I want it to be understood that I always had friends that stood by my side and supported who I was but there are many LGBTQ+ youths that experience neglect, physical harm and homelessness. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 with gay and lesbian youth five times as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth. Upon realisation of my sexuality, I came out when I was just about to turn 17. I slowly let it out to people around me and my loved ones stood by my side. Many of the hurtful comments stopped as they had lost the battle. Once you learn to love yourself and own who you are, people have no choice but to accept who you are. Our sexuality does not define who we are, our actions and how we treat people do. I personally have always seen sexuality as a spectrum from 100% straight to 100% gay and we all fall somewhere on that spectrum - wherever you fall, everyone should be treated equally. You do not need to conform to any labels that someone else has set for you. Labels are for swimwear! This year it's more important than ever that we stand tall and proud as one. I don't want this post to be too political but on June 12th Trump's administration reversed health protection for Trans people in the U.S. Instead of taking away one minorities health protection, he should have been implementing ways to help the Black Lives Matter movement. The LGBTQ+ community still faces inequality, which can be really damaging to our mental health and we must stand with our brothers and sisters from all other minorities for a future of equality. For charities supporting the LGBTQ+ community

Love, Gary Joe Fountain x

Client Account Manager for Swim by Alba

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