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‘How LGBT role models are still so important, despite a perceived improvement in equality’ | OPINION

By James Hawkridge

Tom Dingley started the #Outcome Project in 2014, creating role models within the LGBT community by asking people to pose with a photo of their childhood selves, proving that you can live a happy and successful life in as an out-member, and showing that it does get better.


Now, in 2016, the project’s next chapter is bigger than ever; a publication. Coinciding with National Coming Out Day, the book features more portraits than ever before with names such as Apprentice’s Sanjay Sood-Smith, Lord Chris Smith and Elly Barnes MBE, and is set to become a testament to LGBT culture showcasing that despite the difficulties faced in dealing with your sexuality, no amount of bullying, homophobia or uncertainty can stop young members of the community from achieving their dreams and being confident with themselves.

In our exclusive piece, Tom discusses the #Outcome project in more depth while analysing 50 years of LGBT History:


“Next summer will mark an anniversary of great importance. It will be 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales in July.

A lot has improved over the last 50 years, more so in recent times with the introduction of civil-partnerships and gay marriage for almost all of the United Kingdom.

On paper, it would appear that equality is moving into the positive for all concerned. However, opinion polls and attitudes do not always reflect that.  A YouGov poll in 2013 regarding same-sex marriage found that 46% of people opposed the change or didn’t know either way.  Therefore, knowing just under half of people did not support your right to marry, could perpetuate any shame LGBT people have growing up.  It is not easy going through adolescence, feeling isolated and fearful about coming out; young people may not even want to approach the subject.  It is also true that the lack of equality in previous years would mean there are many older people who have still not come out and found that hiding their sexuality was an easier – or safer way to live.  Speaking from experience, I tried to hide this part of me and concentrate on my studies; thinking I would move away and not have to deal with telling my friends and family about being gay.

This is why such resources like ‘Stonewall,’ ‘RUComingOut’ and my own portrait project, ‘#Outcome,’ are important. Supplying young people with LGBT role models, coming out stories, support and guidance.  I remember having such a sense of fear regarding coming out, or being outed. It was not until a few days before my 24th birthday that I had the courage and right circumstances, to come out to my parents.  With hindsight, I wish I had done so sooner. I am sure that I could have come out earlier if I’d the same resources available today; which is why, as a photographer, I wanted to start a project, to show others, young and old, just how good it is being out and proud.  I think, as a community we need to look out for each other and be the person we needed when we were 13-18; or even 24 years old and older.

Working on #Outcome, a project where I photograph LGBT+ people as they are now, holding their own childhood photograph has shown that there are a wide variety of people who identify as LGBT.  Exhibiting the project at a variety of events, I have had some really positive feedback, that a simple idea is an effective one.  I have had people tell me how they felt alone in their teenage gay angst; if only they had known they were not alone, sooner.  Reaching out with examples of role models, from all walks of life are vital for others growing up.  There was a time when there were no LGBT role models, other than caricatures; now seen as offensive – which would help to explain why there must be many older people who have not felt comfortable coming out.  Now though, it is good to see that there are out celebrities, politicians, sportspeople and equality campaigners to help remind us it’s ok to be gay, lesbian, bi, trans or other.  Furthermore, it is good to see a variety of LGBT people in all areas of entertainment; in front of, and behind the camera.  #Outcome also helps to breakdown stereotypes of what an LGBT person looks like and can achieve despite some narrow perceptions; because there is no absolute definition. Included in the project is a Lord, Bake Off winner, actors, writers, dancers, politicians, business professionals, chefs, emergency services, to name but a few.  Role models are a reminder that you get past the awkward teen years, move on from that dreaded coming out conversation and lead a successful happy life whichever career you go into.  Role models are there to be a good example that you do not have to fit into certain stereotypes or social norms. Role models are there to remind us, it’s OK to be your true self.”



The Outcome book published by Arachne Press is 168 pages, containing 80 full-page portraits along with accompanying text from each of the subjects. The book will retail for £25.

Outcome Book – available from

Twitter / Instagram: @OutcomeLGBT  –  @TomDingleyPhoto

Website for exhibition week & events:

Tom Dingley Photography: