Ray Lavery (he/him) is a trans rights activist, educator and filmmaker who leads London Transgender Meetup and Trans Matters Worldwide

LGBT HERO: How would you define or describe your work for the LGBTQ+ community? 

Ray: I run an ever-growing transgender social community. The London Transgender Meetup / Trans Matters Worldwide. It is a completely voluntary role that happens alongside the day job, and that is 90% self-funded. I have gathered people from all across the country and internationally, who want to be part of an open, inclusive and friendly group. I provide both in person and online events so it works for everyone. This includes bringing in experts who can show how it all this “trans” stuff works. This is done via webinars, which are recorded and put up on YouTube for all to see and some of those webinars get thousands of hits. 

What is the main purpose of the work you do?

There are several reasons why I do what I do: 

1: To provide people a place to make friends with people who are like them. This is about finding connection. To remove the loneliness that often follows trans people who feel they are pushed to the fringes of society and face a lot of adversity and discrimination. It's about creating your own family so you have a true support network around you that will be there for you through thick and thin

2: It is also a place for education. Discovering you are transgender comes with a lot of unknowns and a lot of questions as it is not well understood. This is a safe place for them to ask their questions and also see the possibilities in the real world. It's a place to share your experience and learn from others, who have trodden the path already. This is for trans people and those supporting them. The latter being the ones who have the least amount of support.

3: It’s about educating the wider population. More recently we’ve added a media side to the community. There has been a huge amount of anti-trans media and political oppression against trans people. All of this based on bad information and poor education. To answer this, we have started to create short films to show what it is really like to live the trans experience. To show that there is real joy inside our lives and that really, we are good humans who contribute hugely to society, just like everyone else. Creating our own voice is very important and to show that diversity is actually the only normal.

Why do you do what you do? 

Well, if I'm honest, I started the group as I was starting my own transition journey and I didn't know anyone else that was trans and I had a lot of questions that no-one seemed to know the answer to. I wanted to see the truth and make friends. At the time there was nothing that provided that, so I started the group. I didn't realise how big the need was. Now I stay doing it, because there are so many people who are just like I was, and now I have the answers for them (I had to learn. Being trans is largely a lived experience).

I love to see people form their own friendship groups. To see their confidence grow and most importantly to see people’s anxiety and depression disappear because they are accepted as they are and they are as valuable to society as anyone else. I love to see people's journey and see how they change over time both externally, and more importantly internally.

What is something you’ve done/been involved with that you are most proud of? 

I am most proud of the people in the group. To watch them all reclaim their own power and find inner strength that allows them to live their best life. That's priceless. I am thrilled to provide that avenue, free of discrimination and with immediate acceptance. It’s a huge thing for me.

I am also very proud of the films. Jess, who now helps me with the group, is an amazing film maker. The films we have created together (which were done with a wing and a prayer and zero budget) are truly fantastic and bring tears to my eyes when I watch them. To see so many people who have claimed their confidence and are living their best live is amazing. The film will be released on February 22nd 2024.

Can you tell me a little bit about what activism and advocacy means to you? 

I didn't mean to be an activist. It sort of just happened. I am an educator by nature. Everything I have ever done is really about teaching. It just takes many forms. This is no different.  We all have the right to live our own truth. I don't believe in causing battles and fighting anyone. I don't need to love everyone on the planet, but I can still respect each and every person. I believe that we are all quite reasonable at heart and if we are approached via understand and listening first, that is is far easier to be heard. When you lift the veils of mis-information and show people the reality and that really there is zero threat to how they choose to live their lives, then they are generally open to acceptance and learning. We are all part of one big society. With over 8 billion people on the planet currently and all of us completely different, no matter how “normal” one might appear.

What do you think is a key issue that the LGBTQ+ community is facing currently?  

My experience is that it is the idea that we are a threat to other people's way of life. This comes from that lack of understanding and education.  This idea of “us against them”, regardless of where you are viewing this from; this fighting, I think serves to separate us more. No one likes an opinion shoved down their throat. So mutual respect and not trying to control each other. We all know right from wrong. It doesn't need to be taught.

What can each of us do to make society safer and better for LGBTQ+ people? 

Simple. Treat other as you wish to be treated. All of us without fail are doing our very best to find happiness and live a life that is meaningful and is our best truth. To understand that everything we all do is to move away from pain, towards that happiness. The choices each of us make, might not be the one that you chose, but that's because you're a different person, with different wishes. What you chose is only right for you. Understand that and get on with your own life. It's not your right to control anyone else, regardless how justified you feel you are.

Who is your LGBTQ+ hero? 

You know, it's everyone I meet. I love to see how people grow and change. They find their own strength and they are brave. It takes the toughest person to give themselves permission to be themselves. So anyone who goes down this path is amazing. Most people seem to think they are not worthy, that they are less than others. To see them realise that actually they are more than they think. That really changes the outlook and choices people make. I am particularly impressed with the supporters of LGBTQ+ people. They get very little support and have to “come out” in their own right. It's  amazing to see their journeys. They need extra strength and love. It's a big change for them, and often one that's a surprise. Mums and Dads particularly stand out. The love, strength and selflessness that they display is beyond inspiring.

What else would you love to achieve in the LGBTQ+ community? 

Well, for me it's about continued education. I can only reach a limited number of people face to face. So I have written a book to help people understand transgender people. It's a bible of questions that people ask, coming from all angles. It's in its final stages of completion. We also have a trans community platform in progress. This is pathway for each person (including supporters and healthcare professionals). This is to help people worldwide as many countries have zero access to information and support. We also want to continue with season two of the films. The more we show how “normal” we all are and show people that actually there is so much joy and positivity, then hopefully this will inspire people to live their best life and go at least part way to stopping the oppression and discrimination.

Find out more about Ray's work with  London Transgender Meetup and Trans Matters Worldwide.

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