It's not everyday Given To Live gets to take an international sportsman to a show but in December that's what Given To Live will be doing when we take Tom to see Stone Sour in Munich.
Tom is 17 and represents Team England bowling in his age group and has a high score of 300 out of competition. For someone who has hyper mobility and simply going to bed can leave him waking with a dislocated shoulder or hip, not to mention fingers, this is a damn fine achievement.
Tom is a trans male and his courageous journey in coming out first as gay, then as trans hasn't always been easy. Tom is very understanding that people will be curious and want to ask questions, curiosity about something different is a natural response. It's when difference is met with prejudice, abuse and hostility that our being different becomes difficult to manage and over lunch with Tom and his mum Amanda we learned how prejudice, coupled with a deep confusion that is starting to become more clear with support of loving friends and his mum, has led Tom into depression, anxiety, OCD and attempts to leave this world because he simply wanted a rest from everything he has had to face in his short life. In time Tom wants surgery of his choosing. Now he needs our acceptance and gentle curiosity. And to see Stone Sour!
Tom loves both Slipknot and Stone Sour, Stone Sour his definite favourite band of all. Corey Taylor's lyrics mean a lot to Tom, they give hope that struggle can be faced, met and overcome. Corey's lyrics speak of the dark places so many fear, that so many go to alone. Music, especially Stone Sour, allows Tom to feel less alone. Music and bowling are the places no one can get to him, places he feels safe.
When Given To Live received the application for Tom to see Stone Sour, and knowing that they were touring, it was easy to say yes. Then we realised there was no one available to take him to a show while they are in the UK so we figured that Tom, who has never been abroad, should get on a plane to see them rather than say no. But where to?
Munich was the answer and we're flying Tom and his mum out the day before the show coming home the day after which gives time to see some sights...well, in reality we're looking for somewhere to go bowling as that's far more important than sights. And besides, what better sight is there than all ten pins falling to a kick ass strike knowing you're going to see your absolute favourite band? The two things in life that make life make sense.
Tom has been through a lot and his challenges aren't over. We know that. Like the Dude says...
'Strikes and gutters, ups and downs.
This trip is for you Tom.
Prejudice hurts. It's cruel, it can kill.
We all have prejudices of some sort. Often born of fear or ignorance, sometimes both. It's what we do with our prejudices that matters. Do we try to learn, walk in another's shoes? Or do we chase our thoughts with words and actions that hurt, belittle and shame?
Meeting Tom was both a privilege and an opportunity to learn, to be curious. He's brave and I can't thank or honour him enough for being so open about his journey and internal world.
Thank you, Tom.
Wherever you are in the world there are people who will listen without prejudice. Will listen when we're at our lowest. Maybe it's a trusted friend, a therapist, a helpline.
Reaching out can also be one of the scariest things to do because when we're in the darkness it can crowd our thoughts telling us such cruel things we just can't reach out. It can be hard to do, so very hard.
If you need to and you can look for the right organisation. If it's simply too difficult to do right now be gentle with yourself and that decision, you're going through enough already.
For the last year the Foo Fam, a Facebook group with members from all four corners of the globe, has been supporting Given To Live.