We’re delighted to welcome Oscar to our ISVA team, we all hope you enjoy being part of the RSVP team.
Identity has always been important to me. But the question of ‘who am I?’ has not always been one I’ve found easy to answer. This question consumed me when I was growing up. Sleepless nights and endless days staring into space and asking myself the question over and over. Labels were forced upon me before I started to speak for myself. ‘Tomboy’, ‘gifted’, ‘naughty’, ‘different’, ‘girl’. These labels always felt wrong to me. I wasn’t naughty, I just couldn’t focus like everyone else. I wasn’t ‘different’, but I was unique. I didn’t think I was a girl, so who was I? Who will I be when I grow up? Will I be comfortable in my own skin? Will I find a community of people who understand me? Will I be proud?
Throughout my teenage years, I tried on a lot of identities. My styles and interests constantly evolved and changed. I played semi-professional football, toured around playing in jazz bands and worked in the House of Commons. I tried a Goth phase for a couple of weeks, but I had blonde hair and smiled too much, so that style didn’t last too long. I experienced homelessness, I formed strong friendships and threw myself into schoolwork; a source of stability in my life.
The question of who I am continued to weigh on my mind, crushing me. All my friends began forming relationships, but questions about my sexuality made me feel isolated, alone. I started talking to people I could trust about how I was feeling and learnt that a big part of my identity was openness. My chosen family became a significant part of who I was, and who I still am. University was a very important and exciting time for me. It allowed me space to grow, meet a diverse range of people and try new experiences. I studied History and Politics and got heavily involved in student politics and social groups. In 2014, I was elected as LGBT+ Liberation Officer of my university and had the chance to support others in a way I was supported when I needed it the most. I also became involved in activism and advocacy support, particularly surrounding LGBT+ Liberation, Sex Worker Rights, and preventing homelessness.
For a long time, I became consumed with the label ‘victim’. I was a victim of sexual assaults, a victim of hate crimes, a victim of abuse. This became my identity and dictated how I acted. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, alone. I felt like no-one understood me or saw my struggles. It took time, patience and support for me to decide that I wanted to reject this identity of ‘victim’. A big part of my identity now is that I am a survivor, and what I have been through has made me stronger, more compassionate and surer of who I am and who I am not.
After I completed my Undergraduate Degree, I began a PhD in Political Science, looking at the overlap of disability and trans studies, entitled: The Other Body: A Trans and Disability Studies Critique of Privacy, Privilege and Power. I’ve worked as a Lecturer and as a Programme Facilitator at a charity which saw me travelling around the country and spending many nights in hotel rooms, eating takeaways. I would go into schools and help young people discover what social issues they were passionate about (such as climate change or supporting elderly communities) and helped them form plans of how they would make a difference in the world. These experiences helped shape my identity and learn more about who I am. I became a strong public speaker and I learnt about coping mechanisms for my anxiety and depression. I learnt about my disabilities and ways I could speak out about them and ask for support and I learnt how to better support people. I also learnt that you can get sick of takeaways and delicious greasy food if you eat too much of it (who knew??).
I love learning and reading. As I began forming a picture of my identity, I wanted to find stories like mine. I wanted to see an existence like mine, to feel validated and affirmed. But I struggled to find any. I couldn’t find stories about disabled young people or films about LGBT+ people (especially not stories of people who are proud and happy). No TV shows of survivors thriving. No diversity or celebration of difference. I realised I had to become the representation I wanted to see. I didn’t know entirely what story I wanted to tell, but I knew that I wanted to speak. I wanted to support people and make them feel seen; to help people understand that their stories, their experiences, their feelings are always important. This is why I continue to speak out. To fight for the rights of myself and others. To continue understanding, unlearning, remembering, forgetting, processing, thinking, feeling and listening. To be someone people can talk to. And I want to continue listening to myself. I speak out about my experiences in solidarity. To process. In the hope others can relate and feel less alone. These are some of the core values I want my identity to be about, and what I have strived to do in the past, and what I hope I continue to do in the future at RSVP.
I joined RSVP in October 2020 as an Adult Independent Sexual Violence Advocate. My role involves assisting anyone who has experienced sexual abuse or violence, helping them to understand their options, ensuring they can access the services and support they need, including reporting if this is something they wish to do, and offering emotional and practical support. Since joining RSVP, I feel like my chosen family has grown. Everyone is so supportive, welcoming and accepting, and it has felt powerful and affirming to openly be my authentic self and stay true to my identity.
So, who am I? The answer to this question is forever evolving and growing. I am my experiences, my journey and my story. I am Oscar. I am a trans, non-binary man. I am disabled, queer, and flamboyant. I love otters and bird-watching. My most listened to music genre on Spotify is ‘Show Tunes’. I tell terrible jokes. I am serious when I need to be, but don’t take life too seriously. I’m positive and energetic. I am flawed. I am kind. I am privileged. I am accepting of everyone. I’m passionate about my beliefs, my hobbies and about helping people. I’m also passionate about dogs. Dogs are great. I’m an activist. I am a survivor and I am strong. I am who I was in my past and who I will be in my future. Most of all, I am proud.