The Queer Facebook community is a lively bunch to be sure. Among the big names are Wipe Out Homophobia (WOH), The Equality Mantra, Bisexuality is Real (It Exists), Wipe Out Transphobia (WOT), and others. Yet for all the amazing pages and groups which serve queer internet users there are remarkably little areas dedicated to youth. Or that was the case until a new initiative rose through the ranks. Entitled The Youth Pride Project (YP) its creator is “only” a teenager of 15 yet has bold plans for the future of his dream. To better illustrate and gain an idea of what this young activist has in store The Queer Project sat down with the mastermind for an exclusive interview.
The Queer Project: So, the readers will want to know who is the “man behind the scenes.” What is your real name?
The Youth Pride Project: Ben Boulter
The Queer Project: What prompted you to start up The Youth Pride Project?
Ben Boulter: I went through homophobic bullying and I no longer speak to my father because of my sexuality. I don’t want people to go through the same thing as I did. I want to make a difference.
The Queer Project: When did you first start you page (exact date)?
Ben Boulter: February 22nd [,2012] is when our fan page came into action
The Queer Project: …tell us a bit more about you: what are your hobbies, interests, and defining character traits?
Ben Boulter: I like to spend a lot of time with working on the project and going out with friends. I also like going on walks and meeting new people (my job is perfect for me :L ). I smile ALOT and I can get on with just about anyone.
The Queer Project: You sound like the exact opposite of this interviewer but it takes all kinds ….Have you read any Queer Theory? If so than what theoretical ideas do you subscribe to? If you haven’t read any such theory than what are your views on it?
Ben Boulter: Theories are basically ideas and presumptions… Facts are things we can work off and improve life for people with facts.
The Queer Project: So this means you would never consider working on any queer theory or endorsing any in the far future?
Ben Boulter: Our project isn’t about theories. We only work with facts because we work with young people and it isn’t good just to tell them theories. Facts get people places.
The Queer Project: Fair enough. Do you have any religious beliefs? If you do than how did you reconcile those homophobic aspects with your faith?
Ben Boulter: I’m an atheist.
The Queer Project: So aren’t I. Did you decide to become an atheist over the religious inconsistencies and negatives or though alternative reasoning?
Ben Boulter: never seen faiths as a big part of my life.
The Queer Project: Now time for the segment many young people have been looking forward to: do you have a partner (as in boyfriend?) or are you still solo?
Ben Boulter: I have a boyfriend … I have been dating him for nearly a year and love him with all my heart.
The Queer Project: How romantic, where did you two meet? At a gay youth support area or just as you were floating though life? Is he an activist as well?
Ben Boulter: We met through a mutual friend on Facebook. It’s crazy how you can start talking online and fall in love in real life. He supports everything I am doing but no he isn’t an activist.
The Queer Project: Do you intend to make him become an activist?
Ben Boulter: No not at all… I feel people should have the choice to do what they like with their lives. Only he can choose which path he shall take and as his boyfriend I respect his wishes.
The Queer Project: Speaking about activism do you have a political ideology you subscribe to in which you believe will help promote your site?
Ben Boulter: No … What will be will be… Someone or something out there is helping us with our project … It feels like I was destined to set up this project.
The Queer Project: Was a Facebook group the first instance of activism you undertook of were there others before?
Ben Boulter: I set up a trial run of a teen LGBT social site and then I closed it due to lack of staff… I then opened a private group for young people under 21 and then our fan page … on our private group we work with over 500 young LGBT people.
The Queer Project: What kind of bullying did you endure and for how long? Is it still happening?
Ben Boulter: verbal quite badly with a lot of torments … It’s no longer happening no because I didn’t give the bullies the satisfaction of me retaliating.
The Queer Project: Did your family try and alert the school administrators about the bullying? If so what were the results?
Ben Boulter: I kept the bullying to myself… I didn’t want to trouble others. I didn’t tell anyone except my best friend Abi.
The Queer Project: Who is Abi to you? Did they inspire you to begin efforts at activism?
Ben Boulter: Abi is my best friend … and no she was my friend and my person to talk to about my problems… bestfriend and councilor mixed in one.
The Queer Project: Would it be accurate to say that you didn’t have many friends you could trust because of your bullying situation?
Ben Boulter: I had quite a few but many were people I couldn’t share my personal life with.
The Queer Project: Why couldn’t you share your personal life with them? Simply because they weren’t close enough to you to understand you or because they possibly had heterosexist affinities?
Ben Boulter: just because they werent close enough.
The Queer Project: Many young people find that the coming out process is a hard road, and justifiably so with all the hate. What promote you to come out of the closet?
Ben Boulter: I wanted to be myself. It’s as simple as that. I didn’t want to live a lie anymore. Why should anyone live a lie?
The Queer Project: When did you first realize you were gay? Did you always know to some extent or where there exterior factors which made you realize?
Ben Boulter: Always knew I was.
The Queer Project: How did you always know? Just the way you felt about guys?
Ben Boulter: yeah … never fitted in with all the lads… I hated sports still do.
The Queer Project: Recently, in the United States, there has been a rash of teen suicides caused by bullying. Though many projects have come out in support of gay teenagers, such as the “It Gets Better Project” the rate still doesn’t seem to drop, despite teh fact that America is seen as a progressive country. What are your thoughts on this and what do you think needs to happen in order for a truly supportive space to be realized?
Ben Boulter: I think its because young people don’t feel 100% comfortable with talking to adults and are scared to speak out and there is not enough promotion on the project. Also this could be improved by peer ran projects such as The Youth Pride Project
The Queer Project: Interesting thoughts, does this mean you aim to have your own project one day be the “youth branch” of the “It Gets Better Project”?
Ben Boulter: We aim to create something new and fab but yes we want to be unique.
The Queer Project: Unique in what manner? How will your page differentiate from the crowd?
Ben Boulter: Unique in how we approach young people and make us approachable… Our project will differentiate by been a peer run project who help people their age.
The Queer Project: A peer run site is certainly different. Have you been a part of adult run sites in the past which made you rethink how you wanted your own community to be run?
Ben Boulter: Nope… my own idea.
The Queer Project: Setting up any successful site is hard work. How did you go about promoting your site when you first created the page?
Ben Boulter: I already had our private group so I got all the young people to like it and then got other pages to share us … I then won the L projects “t-shirt caption competition” on behalf of the project … The L Project shared our group when we won and helped get a few likes.
The Queer Project: Describe for us please what caption you submitted.
Ben Boulter: “At the heart of the LGBT community. The L Project” – I made this because there was a heart on the T-shirt and the L project are at the heart of the community …. they are very popular
The Queer Project: So far has your page remained an online only affair or have you branched out towards the real world with your message?
Ben Boulter: We are opening our first branch in Staffordshire in July and hoping to open one in my home town of Leeds ASAP.
The Queer Project: Great to hear. How would you describe the atmosphere of your homeland in regards to gay treatment? How would you compare it to that of the rest of the world?
Ben Boulter: England I think in some respects are relatively accepting … Leeds is very accepting with homosexuals… Some people are homophobic though … but most people don’t care.
The Queer Project: Have you gotten much local support from your community in this effort to set up a branch of your group?
Ben Boulter: We have become part of the local pride parade and we are working on getting funding to be able to get a branch going.
The Queer Project: Are pride parades all that is on the agenda right now or is there more planned?
Ben Boulter: We are planning more but this is classified.
The Queer Project: When did you know that activism was your calling?
Ben Boulter: I’ve sort of always know… I like to stick up for what I believe in and help people.
The Queer Project: What are some of your tactics when talking with bigots and close minded people about equality?
Ben Boulter: Just show them how I see it and how it’s no different to racism and sexism.
The Queer Project: What do you envision your project being when it is in a “developed” state?
Ben Boulter: Having multiple support branches across the country and a peer mentor ran site with adult councilors when needed.
The Queer Project: No international plans?
Ben Boulter: Hopefully in the future … Think big but remember things like this don’t grow overnight. Hopefully one day we can provide support to the world
The Queer Project: And now for the final question. What advice do you have for today’s gay youth?
Ben Boulter: Stay strong and do not be afraid to be who you are and speak out. There is always someone there. You are not alone.
~ ~ ~
So ended my time with Ben but it was a good moment nonetheless. I hope you have gained some valuable information and will widely share Ben’s project with all of your Facebook friends. To make sharing easier I have provided a link below to the Youth Pride Project. Enjoy!
Facebook link: http://www.facebook.com/theyouthprideproject