When I first heard about Queer Up at a Walker Books preview event, I knew I wanted to get a copy for our bookshelves. The author Alexis Caught, was so passionate about why he wrote the book and how he knew it was needed, I could tell how important it would be for teenagers to have this guide as a resource. So when Walker Books gave us a chance to join the Queer Up book tour and get an advanced copy of the book, I said yes straight away!
I’m thrilled that we also have an extract of the book for you today.
About the book
Queer Up is for queer, questioning and curious teenagers and their allies, who have questions around relationships, allyship and identity.
“A positive and uplifting book for young people who are queer or questioning – and their allies looking to support them.
In this empowering and uplifting book, award-winning podcaster Alexis Caught sets out to help queer and questioning teenagers explore their LGBTQ+ identity and understanding. Alongside the author’s personal experiences are first-hand stories from notable LGBTQ+ figures, providing an inclusive account of what it means to grow up queer. With chapters on questioning, coming out, friends and family, love and relationships, sex, shame, pride, being transgender and/or non-binary and allyship, this helpful, honest and heart-warming book is essential reading for any queer or questioning teen and their allies looking to support them.”
One of the things that struck me with Queer Up is the commitment to offering mental health support to help teenagers love and value themselves in a world that doesn’t always make it easy. The book is full of helpful resources, advice and activities that support mental health. Walker Books will also be donating 20p for every copy sold to Shout 85258, a free, confidential, 24/7 text support service for anyone in the UK who is struggling to cope. 45% of young people who text Shout 85258 identify as LGBTQ+.
Alexis is an ambassador for Shout and a trained mental health volunteer and this experience shines through the book as he writes with an informative, friendly and non-judgmental tone that young people will respond to.
As a parent, I want my children to know that I love them wholly and fully as they are. I hope that by having a book that they can reference if and when they have questions will help them navigate the teen years whether that’s as a part of the lbtq+ community or as an ally to their friends.
It’s so important to give our children unconditional support with the space and tools they need to feel safe and loved as they begin to discover who they are. Even in a supportive family environment it can still be difficult for teenagers to talk to their parents about sex, relationships, sexuality and mental health. Books are a great way to bridge that gap and lay the groundwork for future conversations.
I believe copies of Queer Up should be in every school and made accessible to teenagers. Parents and teachers should also read the book to be able to better support the young people in their lives if they come to them with any questions.
Queer Up is available to buy now.
Please find the extract below or download the PDF here.
Pride in people power
1954 — The Homosexual Law Reform Society (HLRS) was formed by a coalition of academics to push for the decriminalization of homosexuality. Importantly, many of these people were allies and supported our cause long before it was “safe” to do so.
1957 — The Wolfenden Report. A government enquiry into homosexuality argued in favour of the decriminalization of homosexuality. Three brave men gave public evidence as to how the law had impacted their lives. Their names were Peter Wildeblood, Carl Winter and Patrick Trevor-Roper. Despite the risk to their personal safety and careers, they refused their right to anonymity (as offered by the government) stating that they had “nothing to be ashamed of” — that sounds a lot like the beginnings of Pride to me. Some years later, the son of the committee’s chair (John Wolfenden) would come out as homosexual, raising the question, perhaps the love one father had for his own son was behind the legal change in our rights.
1966 — The Beaumont Society was founded. It was the UK’s first transgender support group and it is still thriving today.
1969 — The Campaign for Homosexual Equality was founded, a grassroots organization pushing for societal change and equality for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals throughout the UK. This then morphed into the GLF which became the UK’s first radical street activism group who were loud and unapologetic in their demands. It focused on emancipating queer people from repression and called on all queers to come out and stand proud.
1972 — 1 July 1972, the first UK Gay Pride March took place (organized by the GLF) and 1,000 people marched from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park. It was a true protest, with the brave members of that march receiving heckles and jeers from the crowd — and still they marched on.
1982 — The Gay Black Group (GBG) was founded and pushed for greater racial equality and the end of racism within the gay and lesbian community. In 1985, they opened the Black Lesbian and Gay Centre, providing advice, counselling, community groups, a support line and a community library. Today, their legacy is upheld with the brilliant UK Black Pride.
1982 — The Terrence Higgins Trust is founded as the UK’s first AIDS charity. Named after Terry Higgins, one of the first people in Britain to die from AIDS, his partner and friends set up the campaigning and support organization. It still runs today and has saved and changed countless lives through its advocacy, support and fundraising for HIV and AIDS.
In 1988, Section 28 was a piece of legislation enacted by the then Conservative government (under Margaret Thatcher) to ban “the promotion of homosexuality”. This meant that for many years — even as late as 2010 in some parts of the country despite its partial repeal in 2003 — anybody paid out of the public purse was banned from discussing LGBTQ+ issues and support. For example, this meant libraries couldn’t carry any helpful information (this book would’ve been banned) and teachers weren’t able to teach equal rights, LGBTQ+ equality or even have antihomophobic or transphobic bullying policies.
1989 — In response to Section 28, UK queer politics steps up a gear. As legendary human rights activist Peter Tatchell says, “Section 28 was the bomb under gay rights”. At tendance at Pride jumped from 15,000 people, pre – Section 28, to 30,000 the year the law came in, 100,000 the next and even as high 300,000 LGBTQ+ people and allies taking to the streets. Europe’s largest LGBTQ+ campaign group and charity, Stonewall UK, was set up by a group of activists, including Sir Ian McKellen (aka Gandalf!), in direct opposition and response to Section 28. Brilliant grassroots activism and protest work was undertaken by thousands of members of the community — including the awesomely named Lesbian Avengers who parasailed into the Houses of Parliament down a washing line to disrupt MPs from voting and even interrupted a live BBC News broadcast screaming, “STOP SECTION 28! ”
1995 — Mermaids is founded to support young trans children and their families, lobbying for their rights and providing education and support for families. It’s still the only UK charity for trans youth today.
So you can see, change has been made over a long period of time, by countless people, many of whom go unnamed and unrecognized. The fight still goes on to this day, newer organizations like Opening Doors, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, ExistLoudly, Not A Phase and UK Black Pride have been born and carry on the cause. There are many more groups, organizations and people that aren’t referenced here (just simply because that would be an entire book in itself!) but every one is something to be proud of. A good question to ask yourself is: how will I get involved?
Take up space, scream the loudest. Don’t take up space, be quiet. Be an activist, don’t be an activist. Take up space on your own terms, you do not have to be the voice or representation for people that look like you. This may not be your calling; this is totally OK. Your Blackness and queerness are you, not a performance of you. You are valid just as you are, even if that’s being quiet and getting on with your life with nobody else knowing what you do. Don’t feel responsible for educating your white/non-Black friends or colleagues, if they want a consultant, there are fees for that. Don’t become that “one Black friend”, you make them pay a consultancy rate, sis.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has spent his life working to support and protect the rights of marginalized individuals and communities in the UK and around the world. A champion of LGBTQ+ rights, I’m proud to be able to share his story here with you to inspire you to stand up and speak out for what you believe in.
Pay attention to how normal and human Peter’s story is, having started small and worked his way up. Remember, activism can start anywhere at anytime. Activism is active in the real world, not just online, and you can share your message with other people through different platforms, from social media to protest marches. No matter how small, you can make a big difference to the lives of others by sharing your voice.
Copyright © 2022 Alexis Caught
Cover design and Illustrations © 2022 Walker Books Ltd.
From QUEER UP: AN UPLIFTING GUIDE TO LGBTQ+ LOVE, LIFE AND MENTAL HEALTH by Alexis Caught
Reproduced by permission of Walker Books Ltd, London, SE11 5HJ
Alexis Caught is the creator and co-host of the British Podcast Award-winning LGBTQ+ podcast Qmmunity, exploring queer culture, history and identity. He is also a mental health advocate, qualified psychotherapist, writer, speaker, model and rugby player. His writing has been featured in Attitude magazine and The Mirror along with the best-selling anthology It’s Not Okay to Feel Blue. His areas of passion and expertise are mental health, wellness and the queer community. On talking about the book, Alexis said this is the book that he “so desperately needed when [he] was 14.”