Lu’s story | Stonewall
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Lu’s story

Read Lu’s story about changing jobs and embracing their LGBTQ+ identity

Key themes: Career change, volunteering, The Prince's Trust

1. Hi, can you introduce yourself?

Hi, I am Lu, I use he/they/them pronouns.

I am also known by some as Lyly Kanda, my artist name.

2. Tell us a bit about your journey through education and into work, and if you faced any challenges along the way? 

My education was one or two lives ago and I was a completely different person back then. I came from the countryside in France and for all my education years I was in an environment which assumed being heterosexual and cisgender was the only way to be.

I studied Microbiology and I have a master’s degree in Cellular Biology and Microbiology. It is a pretty rigid world in terms of gender roles and models. Even the LGBT people I met at the time followed cis-heteronormative relationships and dynamics.

I think at the time, I tried to fit in a box that wasn’t made for me. Being the perfect daughter, having a great education and if possible, not being excluded because something was "wrong" with me. It didn't work at all. I had been overlooked and excluded since the beginning. My gender and sexual identities were not the only reason for it, but they definitely played a part.

I still have stigmas and the repercussion of it all. The lack of representation or access to great networks definitely made it a bigger challenge to be accepted for who I was. I never really “fit in”. It still results now in a feeling of being estranged from people like me and I don’t really fit in any of the communities.

3. How did you overcome these challenges? 

I don’t really know if I overcame these challenges. One thing is for sure, hiding and repressing myself, in a lot of ways, led me to hit a wall in my career and personal development. I’m not only talking about my queer identity, but all the other aspects of who I was and am.

The first step I took was to reconnect with myself and learn to know the real me. I had been estranged from myself for so long that I did not really know me. It was the first step, knowing myself and my worth.

At one point in my life, I thought I would be better alone, as I always have been. Learning about myself and how to love myself led me to understand that there are some people out there who are here to help.

I also completely changed job. I did two years of full-time volunteering, towards helping young people who were isolated. I had been openly queer to them, and I realized the power of representation for them. They helped me heal and grow as much as I helped them tackling social isolation. It hasn’t been without challenges, but it helped me to connect with people and to overcome my biggest challenge: exclusion.

4. Tell us a bit about what you do now

I work two jobs, because why should I choose? The first job is a Youth Development Lead, in the Achieve program at the Prince's Trust. I am involved with young people and delivery partners to help struggling young people to go back to employment and/or education.

My main role is to support schools delivering a program for young people in year 11 and 12 who are unlikely to have 5 GCSEs. It is an amazing program based on alternative modes of learning, to teach young people essential skills and to help them gain qualifications.

I also support my colleagues who are in direct delivery, working with young people in various programs. I am openly out as non-binary and trans at work because representation matters, and I’m done with hiding myself. The Prince's Trust gave me the opportunity to bring my true self to work.

I am also an artist, doing a variety of things, from illustrations to tattoo designs. I put my emotions and experience in a very stylized art. I’m out as well in this aspect of my life, and I think it is the way I connect with people like me the most. I could not be happier with the balance those two jobs bring me.

5. What advice would you give to a LGBTQ+ young person thinking about taking the next step into the world of training or work? 

If I had to give advice, I would give the advice I would have loved to hear when I was younger:

Learn to know who you are. It is a journey, that could be difficult to start and sometimes tough, but it is a beautiful one. And by learning who you are, you learn also what you are ready to accept, to tolerate or what could be intolerable.

You don't owe anyone your identity, but yourself. Know your worth. You are more than one identity, and you have more strengths and skills than people would suspect.

But don’t put yourself in danger. Staying safe should be a priority, even if it is not that evident.

Another piece of advice I could give is know the workplace or university policy about LGBTQ-phobia. Do they have one? Is it implied? Are they supportive? Doing a background check on social media or the website when applying for something could help to understand the organisation you’re applying for.

If you're interested, find out more about working at The Prince’s Trust.

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