Meet our role models

Leng Montgomery

Leng Montgomery works in Social Media and is a passionate blogger. He also volunteers and speaks regularly with panels and media professionals about trans issues.

He is proud to be part of Diversity Role Models for its positive initiative and approach to raising awareness of LGBT issues with young people.

Having been in school when Section 28 was in place, he believes it's important that young people are provided with positive workshops which confront and challenge the bullying of people who are LGBT.

"I was lucky to grow up knowing that I could be whoever I wanted to and that my gender or sexuality wouldn't be an issue. I like to share that message with others and regardless of gender or sexuality I like to encourage others to believe in themselves and to be positive, kind and respectful wherever possible. Being Gay, Bi or Trans doesn't mean that it will ruin your life, in fact it can be the opposite. Transitioning provided me with the space to express who I was and to find true happiness from within."

Diversity Role Models is truly groundbreaking in terms of motivating and challenging bullying in a structured but non-threatening way.

Not everyone will transition or come out but the main thing Leng supports is that everyone should learn to accept one another based love. "We might have LGBT friends, family members, partners or people we know and like. Their gender expression or sexuality shouldn't be seen as a reasonable excuse to bully or incite hatred to others.

"Diversity Role Models is truly groundbreaking in terms of motivating and challenging bullying in a structured but non-threatening way. The students are given the opportunity to challenge their own prejudices and take confront the issues in a safe space and non judgemental environment."

Cara Curren

Cara Curran is a music teacher and classical singer. She believes that fear and prejudice come from not knowing people who are perceived as ‘different’ or ‘other’.

"Diversity Role Models is such a fantastic charity because is allows young people to meet and talk to people from the LGBT community who are honest and open about themselves; debunking stereotypes, showing that people’s differences should be celebrated, not feared, and encouraging young people to be supportive and respectful of everyone, regardless of their sexuality. 

It is a real privilege [...] to see how engaged the young people are in the workshops and how open they are to questioning common stereotypes and prejudices when able to speak openly with members of the LGBT community.

"I grew up in rural Northern Ireland, with Section 28 firmly in place. Anything I saw or heard about being gay portrayed it as being negative and wrong.  As a result it took me a long time to come out and be comfortable with who I am.

"Now, it is a real privilege to go into schools as a role model to see how engaged the young people are in the workshops and how open they are to questioning common stereotypes and prejudices when able to speak openly with members of the LGBT community, asking relevant and intelligent questions. Having a workshop like those DRM offer when I was at school would have made all the difference to me and I am proud to be a part of a charity that provides positive role models for young people who are coming to terms with their own sexuality."

Nuala O'Sullivan

"I’m Nuala and I’m a teacher and writer. I’ve taught in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, the USA and Britain and I’ve written dramas for radio, theatre and film.

"Stories are central to our lives. We all have stories we’ve been told about who we are. I’m one of nine children and part of my story went like this: ‘This is Nuala and she’s the baby of the family.’ That one little sentence told me a whole lot about who I was growing up, who I should listen to and who would listen to me.

"When I came out as a lesbian some of my older siblings said I shouldn't tell our mum - ‘She’s too old, too religious,’ they said. ‘It’ll break her heart.’ And the baby of the family, who’d listened to her story and learned it well, went along with that advice.

In one short hour role models and students alike are offered the time and space to really listen to each other.

"But a little voice in my head kept prompting me to find another story - one about me being true to myself and being truthful to my mum. And I eventually plucked up the courage to have what was one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had. I can’t say my coming out to her went well. There were a lot of tears. And much worry about my soul. But I don’t regret it for a minute.

"Now I facilitate DRM workshops in schools where role models share their own stories with students. In one short hour role models and students alike are offered the time and space to really listen to each other. It’s such a privilege to be part of Diversity Role Models and the amazing work it does in schools all over the country."

Fiez Mughal

Fiez Mughal is an NHS dentist and, 'when he's grown-up one day' an Olympian. He's passionate about athletics, dare-devil antics and volunteering for human rights causes.

He is honoured to be an Ambassador and role-model for Diversity Role Models, as he believes tackling bullying and championing diversity is imperative in schools.

"You have some of your best days in school, but for many it can be your worst. Many schools like the one I attended have the correct policies, on paper at least, to deal with embracing diversity or challenging bullying, but in practice these often mean nothing. Even now with Section 28 gone (in full force when I was at school), many teachers don't address the issue.

You have some of your best days in school, but for many it can be your worst.

"The beauty of Diversity Role Models is that the workshops deal with LGBT bullying frankly and honestly, in a way that engages students as equals. We all share the notion that no-one should feel ostracised for their identity, and during the workshops the students celebrate that we all have differences, be it gender, race, religion, sexuality or anything, as well as things in common.

"It's rewarding for us to learn a lot from many bright students as well, and make clear that it's not wrong or sinful to love another human being. It's brought home in a much simpler and positive way than perhaps some schools are initially worried about."

 

Sophie Green

Sophie is a Liverpool based artist and illustrator. Her voluntary work has included 'All About Trans', liaising with media professionals, encouraging positive representation of trans people and working as a script consultant on a trans storyline on Hollyoaks. Sophie was part of the team that provided Liverpool Pride with its first trans area and last year's Liverpool TDOR (Transgender Day Of Remembrance) event. Sophie was named one to watch in the Independent on Sunday's Rainbow List in 2014.

Sophie believes that positive interactions and living visibly are key to changing attitudes and gaining wider public understanding of LGBT issues. As a trans woman she hopes to bust myths and misconceptions about what it is to be transgender,  and encourage everybody to celebrate their differences and support each other, allowing their unique lives to flourish.

With consistently positive feedback, it's affirming to know we're making a difference.

"I'm extremely proud to represent DRM. I have enormous respect for the work they do and their wonderful team of volunteers, many of whom I now count as my friends. The school workshops are incredibly positive experience to be a part of and I feel honoured to be able to share my story. It's fascinating to hear other DRMs' stories and engage with the students so openly during the Q&A sessions. With consistently positive feedback, it's affirming to know we're making a difference."

Jessica Ayuya

Jessica has always had a true passion for diversity and equality, she grew up in small town up north that only had one black family, so as a young black female understood what it meant to be perceived as “different”.

"I was lucky to grow up in a very loving and accepting community, before I knew I was gay I was adopted by a white family into a predominantly white town. Being black is a diversity that you can’t hide but fortunately I was treated no differently by my friends or community because of it. I understand that around world people are not afforded the same acceptance as I was, but I believe nobody is born racist, homophobic or sexist, therefore this is a learnt behaviour that can be unlearned.

Young people have the power to eradicate these feelings and education is key to a successfully diverse and accepting society.

"Young people have the power to eradicate these feelings and education is key to a successfully diverse and accepting society. Educating our youth is exactly what Diversity Role Models are doing, hence why I am truly proud to call myself a Diversity Role Model."

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