Rainbow Peer Supporters: the unsung heroes of Oxford

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There are a range of avenues to go down for lgbtq+ specific welfare in Oxford such as locally based charities and college reps, but a massively underused resource is the Rainbow Peer Supporters programme. The programme is made up of already trained Peer Supporters who identify as lgbtq+, who can meet up and support other lgbtq+ students in an anonymous and confidential manner.

The benefits of this is that people who are questioning their sexuality of gender identity for example can speak to a person whose experiences align more closely with their own. It is also more likely that they will have more empathy and understanding than someone who is straight or cis. There is also that extra comfort of being able to approach a welfare-trained individual who you know is in the community, and therefore less likely to discriminate or judge. Similarities mean that connections can be more easily forged.

Rainbow Supporters are easily accessible, either through meeting up face to face or communicating through social media. They offer a relatively informal means to talk through problems which are affecting you, however trivial or serious they may seem.

The Supporters are not there to give advice, but to listen. Listening is an active and empowering process, and it can be reassuring just to know that there is someone willing to listen to you get things off of your chest. Rainbow Supporters offer a reassuring, understanding and safe space which is welcome to all.

This is a discrete and useful resource in Oxford, and it is a shame how under-utilised it is

Rainbow Peer Supporters meet up several times during term to explore themes and issues the community are currently facing with the aim of being better able to support and assist students experiencing the problems discussed. Said issues can include anything from sexuality and sexual identity, to discrimination and inclusion.

If you are interested in sourcing a Rainbow Peer Supporter, you can look for a small rainbow flag next to qualified individuals’ names on Peer Support Posters. If there are none in your college however, or you would like to speak to someone not in your college, then you can contact Timothy Knowlson at [email protected] and he’ll check to see who is free and available.

You can also contact Timothy if you are interested in becoming a Rainbow Peer Supporter yourself, he will give you the relevant information needed to start the programme.

This is a discrete and useful resource in Oxford, and it is a shame how under-utilised it is. It’s scary asking for help but making contact can offer a means of support and solidarity that may have otherwise been inaccessible.

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