Trans college student Robin, 16, tells how he came out as pansexual to his mum - and how Portsmouth Pride has helped him
Born a girl, Robin Atrill-Gold had felt trapped as though in the wrong body.
Scared and confused, and battling feelings hard to get to grips with at the age of 14, Robin told family that friends needed support at Portsmouth Pride.
But attending the event unlocked Robin’s first step to living life as a boy.
Supported by a youth worker Robin met at the event, he came out to his mum as pansexual – meaning being attracted to anyone regardless of biological sex or gender identity.
Telling my family
Opening up to family and surrounded by a growing support network, Robin was months later able to come out as transgender – and start living life as a teenage boy.
The Portsmouth College student said: ‘It was tough. I didn't know where to turn to talk about it or if it was normal.
‘There is quite a lot of prejudice against people who are different around the world and I wasn’t sure how people would react to me not feeling right in my body.'
In 2017, at the age of 14, Robin had gone along to his first Portsmouth Pride march and support from a youth worker named Dawn gave him the confidence to speak to mum Selena.
He said: ‘I called mum when I was at Pride and said “I am pansexual”.
‘Mum I'm pansexual’
‘I had originally told her I was going along to support friends but I wanted to find out more about the LGBTQ+ community and learn more about I was feeling.
‘I realised there were so many people like me and everyone was so welcoming and open that it gave me the confidence to say how I was feeling to mum. I was crying but I felt relieved that I told her.’
Mother-of-two Selena, who works at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, said: ‘I remember him crying and me having no idea what pansexual even meant.
‘But what I remember most is how utterly grateful I was that somehow he had found the courage to tell me, because for months I had noticed that he had lost his spark but he had continued to insist that nothing was wrong.’
After coming out as pansexual, Robin also came out as being transgender – and started the process of transition.
Making a happy change
He said: ‘I felt so much happier that I could just be myself and my friends and family have been so supportive with everything including changing my name and using different pronouns.
‘It showed me that the people who love me will love me no matter what and the support I got from Portsmouth Pride and youth groups like Y Services was amazing. They were so friendly.’
Robin now joins in with every Portsmouth Pride event, attends weekly youth groups and last year took part in a campaign for national charity Mermaids which aims to battle isolation and loneliness in trans children and their families. The group has been criticised for its work in the past.
The whole family get support
But Robin wasn't the only one to receive help. His mum Selena has found a support network of her own.
The 39-year-old said: ‘The people at Portsmouth Pride are fantastic and they give you the chance to speak to other parents so we all feel supported as well.
‘It can be hard for youngsters in this day and age to express themselves and it can cause mental health issues because there can be lots of prejudice.
‘But having the parent group where we can talk about everything helps us all to make sure our children are healthy and happy.
‘Knowing that Robin has so much support and people he can speak to about whatever means so much to me.
‘It is amazing how many groups and organisations in the city and further afield that can help and give you that support network no matter who you are.’
Robin added: ‘I have made so many new friends and done things like entering a beauty pageant that would be scary if I didn’t have the support of my family, my amazing friends and the pride group.’
City of Sanctuary
Both are supporting Portsmouth Pride signing up to the City of Sanctuary initiative which aims to connect important projects and services across the city to offer support to vulnerable groups in the city including veterans, the homeless, refugees and those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Selena said: ‘When we first started our journey it was difficult to find youth groups and there was lots of support out there but we didn’t know about it.
‘It was only talking to people at Pride that we found out about them and I think the City of Sanctuary scheme will go such a long way in helping people find the support they need more easily for whoever it is and whatever they need help with.
‘It just shows that the support is out there but it just needs to be highlighted and signposted better to ensure everyone feels welcome and supported.’
Robin echoed his mother’s positivity for the initiative which involves more than 80 organisations including the University of Portsmouth, the British Red Cross and Portsmouth Football Club.
He added: ‘I love that idea and to have somewhere for people to go to get the help they need is such an amazing thing.’
If you need help or support
LGBT Foundation: 0345 3 30 30 30MindOut: 01273 234 839
Mindline Trans+ (Monday to Friday, 8pm-midnight): 0300 330 5468
National LGBT Switchboard (10am-11pm): 0300 330 0630
The Samaritans: 116 123
How Portsmouth Pride started
Back in 2015 a group of LGBTQ+ people in the city came together to create a pride event to celebrate and raise awareness.
Portsmouth Pride has held events every year since and allows support groups and organisations to connect with the Portsmouth people.
Trustee Aaren-James Martin joined the committee in 2018.
He said: ‘I think it is phenomenal the impact that Portsmouth Pride has and I wanted to join the charity to help continue that work and
Selena and Robin’s story is just one of many where Portsmouth Pride has helped.
Aaren-James said: ‘Getting feedback from Selena and from others just shows the importance of the work that we do. We have recently created a Portsmouth Pride Youth Society to give young people a safe space to explore their identity and enjoy free events and activities.’
The organisation is one of more than 80 that has signed up to be a part of the City of Sanctuary initiative.
Aaren-James added: ‘I think if we are working collaboratively then we can reach more people in the community who are marginalised or face prejudice.
‘It also means we can provide support to each other and that can only benefit everyone in our city.’