From a young age, Sam Martin knew they were different. Now a gender fluid or non-binary PhD Psychology student, Sam aims to discover a deeper understanding of identity in order to empower others.
Since joining ARU, Sam has launched a project that allows gay, bisexual, trans and non-binary male youths an online haven where they can learn more about themselves – and gives them the opportunity to empower and pass on that knowledge to others.
Sam, a kind and quietly confident person, has found a balance and an image – both psychologically and physically – with which they are comfortable. But it hasn’t always been this way. Bullied at school for being effeminate and from a small conservative middle class town, they didn’t fit into society’s traditional structure. No one, Sam included, knew where they did fit in.
Sam waited to leave home for university before coming out to their family and even then there was a sense of hesitation in identifying who they truly were. After Sam joined the LGB Society, as it was then named, they were asked which they identified with, to which Sam replied, 'Well, I’m not a lesbian and I don’t think I’m bisexual, so I think I must be gay.'
Sam joined the police force after graduating to work in the Victim’s Support and Witness Care where they’d work for the next seven years, while also studying a part-time Masters degree in psychotherapy and counselling. And there, a friend threw a drag party. Sam, then aged 28, went all out and dressed up in feminine clothes, shoes, make-up and wig. Something inside them awoke: “It was like the whole world had been in monochrome before and suddenly everything was in Technicolor.”
Thankfully, the police, being an advocate for diversity, were careful that Sam wasn’t discriminated against. Prejudice still existed though; work colleagues would treat them differently depending on what Sam was wearing, people would stop to stare if they walked into a room, laugh even. Sam noticed prejudice everywhere they turned, whether in person or in the media.
ARU has given me the opportunity to try lots of different things, meet lots of different people and also focus on what you can achieve through collaboration.
It occurred to Sam that gay and bisexual men and trans and non-binary youth needed support and guidance that they personally hadn’t had growing up. They took redundancy from the police after serving for seven years and were accepted by Anglia Ruskin University to study a Psychology PhD, working in gender and sexuality.
“I’ve always had a talent for listening and being non-judgemental,” says Sam. From working at the LGBT helpline as an undergrad to victims of crime during their time at the police to numerous other organisations that guide and counsel LGBT youths, Sam has always enjoyed helping others.
Since joining Anglia Ruskin, they have come on in “leaps and bounds” and become increasingly involved in organising conferences, lecturing, and working on their thesis Queer Vibe, an empowering online platform where GBT youths can take part in focus groups, and find out more about gender and masculinities.
“ARU has given me the opportunity to try lots of different things, meet lots of different people and also focus on what you can achieve through collaboration.”
Queer Vibe is an ongoing study and open to new participants. More information and video tutorials can be found at www.qvibe.org.
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