Have you ever wondered what a Trustee does? They make up a massive part of SAYiT – and without them we wouldn’t be so successful in the important work that we do.

We’re looking back over 20 years of SAYiT in preparation for our 20th Anniversary Celebration on 24/10/19 at the Sheffield Town Hall. We wanted to put the spotlight on our Trustees and their incredible support and involvement in SAYiT over the years.

James Laley has kindly agreed to talk to us about his time at SAYiT. James is a relatively recent addition to our Board of Trustees and yet he’s fantastically involved in many facets of the charity. Despite only being a Trustee since January 2019, James has been associated with the charity for 2 years.

James came to Sheffield 14 years ago from Pickering, North Yorkshire to study at Sheffield Hallam University. He’s an avid Sheffield United fan and a campaigner for Rainbow Laces and LGBT+ equality & inclusion. He has 3 amazing Godchildren.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me James. Your role at SAYiT is ‘Trustee’, what does that involve?

As a Trustee I help make sure that the charity is run in accordance with its constitution, charity law and all other laws and regulations that affect its activities. I along with other Trustees am accountable for the charity. I am also part of the finance group where I am accountable for ensuring the accounts are kept up to date and are accurate, supporting the treasurer on updating of any financial policy, reporting to the board and taking a role in fundraising for the charity. Another very important part of this role is the interactions I get with the young people who use the service. It’s great to be able to talk to them and understand what they want from the charity.  

You’re clearly committed to the support that SAYiT gives to young LGBT+ people. What does the 20th Anniversary mean to you?

I have been associated with SAYiT for around two years now, so a relatively short time in comparison to its existence. What I have seen and felt over that time is real love and commitment to ensure all young LGBT+ people can be their authentic selves without any fear of discrimination or persecution. The team put everything into achieving this goal and the young people are at the heart of all actions that the charity takes. I’m an openly Gay man in his thirties and coming from a small town never had a service or safe space like this. It also makes me realise that many younger LGBT+ people around the country won’t have access to services like this. This anniversary represents multiple things to me; a celebration of what the charity has achieved, a beacon of light for young LGBT+ in the region which hasn’t dimmed for 20 years, a showcase of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion for the city of Sheffield and the recognition of all the young LGBT+ people that have interacted with the charity helping them be who they are, build confidence and shaping their futures contributing to a greater society.              

A beacon of light sounds lovely! I’m sure it would be a glittery rainbow light too. 
What is your favourite memory from your time with SAYiT?

I have two which will amuse most people at SAYiT as they all well know I struggle to say just one thing.

For the past two years I have been lucky enough to help organise and co-host IDAHoBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia) with SAYiT CEO Steve Slack. This is always a very special event as we hold it in Sheffield Peace Gardens meaning the event is open and accessible for the whole of Sheffield’s wonderful communities. The event opens by the joyful noise of the SAYiT LGBT+ young people who march to the Peace Gardens. I couldn’t think of a better way to open an event where we say ‘No’ to discrimination. The young people then get the chance to speak or perform to the crowds.

To co-host this event, I get the wonderful opportunity to look out to all the people that are in attendance and see a large range of different communities come together in solidarity for LGBT+ persecution around the world.        

My second favourite memory is the Sheffield Rainbow Laces tournament SAYiT & I organised back in February 2019. With quite a moderate expectation we smashed it with 32 teams competing of different sexualities and genders, over 300 spectators, raising awareness around LGBT+ phobia in sport and money for SAYiT. The event was in celebration of the life of Noah Lomax and it was an honour to have his family support and be part of the event. SAYiT and I can’t wait to continue to grow Sheffield Rainbow Laces.  

You’ve been involved in some really incredible and important SAYiT events; I don’t blame you for struggling to choose!

Memories aside, can you tell us what your hopes are for the future of SAYiT?

I want to see SAYiT continue to grow which I truly believe it will. It has a great structure and model in place for a charity that can accommodate further expansion. I want SAYiT to continue to have, but also improve even further the facilities for more young LGBT+ people to use. They are why we are here.   

We’re celebrating our 20th Anniversary this year, what do you anticipate for 2020?

With the current funding 2020 looks to be a very busy and productive year off the back of a very successful 2019. The domestic abuse project has been a highlight of 2019 and it is vital this project continues through 2020. I also feel with the introduction of RSE (Relationship & Sex Education) SAYiT will and must play a role with the local communities and schools to ensure LGBT+ inclusive support and guidance is in place.      

And in 20 years’ time? Do you think there’ll be a SAYiT 2039?

The ideal answer would be SAYiT doesn’t exist. Now bear with me on that answer. If LGBT+ discrimination & persecution is no longer a thing, then surely a charity fighting this and providing a safe space for young LGBT+ people is surplus to requirement. Letting that soak in and returning to reality I honestly can’t see that being the case. I feel massive strides will have been made, but to hand on heart say ‘no LGBT+ discrimination will exist’ is not realistic. In 20 years’, time I see SAYiT as not just the leading young persons’ LGBT+ charity in Sheffield but in South Yorkshire. Continuing to make a real difference in communities and to the lives of young LGBT+ people.    

A pertinent and timely point to end on. The presence of charities like SAYiT serves as a reminder that although we can make great and important changes to the lives of young LGBT+ people every day – discrimination and persecution still exist. We must, and we will, continue to fight for the rights of the LGBT+ community and our LGBT+ young people in our 20th year and beyond, just as we did in our first year.

SAYiT would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our Trustees, past and present, for their hard work and dedication to SAYiT.

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