All Together UK founder Ben Smith has been honoured with an Attitude Pride Award for his quest to end loneliness within the LGBT community.
Growing up gay in the tiny market town of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, Ben found himself searching in the wrong places for people going through what he was experiencing. Lonely and isolated, a teenage Ben turned to online sex websites.
“I was on Gaydar when I was 15 years old,” he says, squirming slightly in his seat, “I used it as a way of connecting with people.” He went on to lose his virginity at the same age - to someone he met on the site.
Leaping ahead a few years, Ben, is on a mission to eradicate loneliness in the LGBT+ community with his online platform All Together UK.
The Twitter initiative, created seven months ago, shines a spotlight on a different follower each day, sharing their stories, and Ben also arranges regular “meet-ups” across the country, with a focus on rural, provincial areas.
“People spend for ever and a day chit-chatting online, but if you ask them, ‘Have you ever met? They say no, but I’d like to’," Ben says.
"So, I thought: ‘Well, I’ll arrange a time and a place, and they can just turn up’."
The idea was anchored by a concern for mental health and well-being among LGBT+ people.
“In our community, there are a lot of different things that people are doing that will isolate others,” Ben explains.
“Internal homophobia is a massive problem, or if you’re big and muscly, great, if you’re slim and toned, lovely, but what if you’re just an ‘everyman’?"
He adds: “I’ve built a group where people can feel part of something, where everyone feels welcome, and it’s not based on having to look a certain way, or being a certain type.”
Hear more about Ben and the amazing work of All Together UK below:
Read more about this year's Attitude Pride Award winners in our August issue, out July 19.