Saski: “Together we will create more LGBT+ visibility.”
The singer, host and LGBT+ activist talks L Fest, Educate and Celebrate and her very first Pride.
LGBT+ activism is a huge part of Jo Thompson's life, whether she's working as Pride Youth Network Manager for educational anti-bullying charity Educate and Celebrate or performing onstage as her alter-ego Saski. We caught up with her to find out more.
DIVA: You’re hosting L Fest this weekend. For those of us who’ve never been, how would you describe the festival?
JO: First and foremost music, comedy and arts is ultimately what makes it a festival. If you are single I would describe it as lesbian heaven. If you are in a relationship it’s a great opportunity to be relaxed, open and tactile with your partner without worrying about who is watching. For a family, it’s got lots of entertainment for parents and kids plus being outdoors and camping there’s so much fun all round.
Sounds great. What do you love most about it?
Apart from the fact that it is a sea of lesbians in such close proximity at one time… I love that it’s a celebration of women from all walks of life. We are a very talented bunch of people and that’s something that isn’t represented enough in society. This year our headline act Sian Evans of Kosheen will be there and I will be hosting her on stage - I’m so excited.
You’ve performed at a lot of Pride events. Can you remember the first Pride you ever went to?
I remember feeling a mixture of being very nervous and excited as well as desperately hoping to pull! I loved that it felt like one big party with like-minded people and I felt a sense of belonging thinking OMG I wish I had come out much earlier. Whilst watching the parade, we somehow ended up marching with a group of protesters who were campaigning against Section 28. I didn’t have a clue about what that was at the time, so it’s quite ironic that I am an LGBT+ activist campaigning to promote LGBT+ awareness in schools now.
How do you use your gigs as a platform to promote equality and social justice?
At Pride events I always remind the audience that Pride is not just a party. It is still political and although we have come a long way with LGBT+ rights we still have a long way to go.
I ask them, “Do you want to live in the land of social justice?” and “Do you want to be treated equally and fairly in society?” I am planting seeds because I want them to really think about it. I encourage them to always be themselves, not to be afraid to come out or hold their partner’s hand in public with pride. That’s how they will help make step by step changes to be confident with who they are and together we will create more LGBT+ visibility.
I am an out and proud lesbian and say that on stage (and anywhere) as I want to give people confidence to be out and proud too. As a same-sex parent, I bring my 7-year-old son onstage to say Happy Pride (he loves it!). It’s another way of reminding the LGBT+ community not to be held back in society and that we can be whoever we want to be! Education and awareness are key and by always positively talking about it, we will start moving towards social justice.
Tell me about your role as Pride Youth Network Manager at Educate And Celebrate.
The Pride Youth Network (PYN) supports LGBT+ young people, friends and allies to tackle discrimination as a whole including homophobic, biphobic, transphobic Bullying (HBT).
It allows all students to work together and create LGBT+ visibility around school through campaigns, noticeboards, panel debates and events to create social justice both in school and the community.
PYN groups act as positive role models. They’re doing amazing things in their schools including campaigning for an LGBT+ inclusive curriculum, gender neutral uniforms and toilets. They hold fund raisers such as rainbow cake sales, LGBT+ movie nights, school plays, concerts and, my ultimate favourite, a School Pride where students wear a coloured T-shirt taken from the rainbow flag and all come together to do a Pride march on their school grounds.
PYN students are not just campaigning towards social justice for themselves, they are laying down the foundations and paving the way for equality for all so that eventually HBT Bullying and discrimination is a thing of the past and everyone is treated equally and fairly.
Why does this charity mean so much to you?
With 83% of young LGBT+ students hearing discriminatory language at school on a daily basis and 1 in 3 attempting suicide, this is something that urgently needs to change. Working in line with the Equality Act 2010, all students should have the right to be treated with respect and be in a safe environment especially whilst at school.
In this work I often see what we call #momentsofchange whilst supporting young LGBT+ students and the difference can be life-changing. Students go from experiencing HBT bullying to saying they now feel safe and empowered to be themselves in school. Overall a PYN is positive for teachers and students, it raises awareness, breaks down the barriers to open up conversations around LGBT+ issues providing a more informed understanding for all about sexual orientation, gender identity and discrimination as a whole. I know the work we are doing is making positive change because I am seeing it on a weekly basis and that’s why I believe in it so much.
You can see Saski host at L Fest this weekend.
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