Matt Cain on being an ambassador for AKT Author, journalist and AKT Ambassador Matt Cain was born in Bury and brought up in Bolton. He spent ten years making arts and entertainment programmes for ITV, including documentaries about Freddie Mercury, Mamma Mia! and The Da Vinci Code, and profiles of Ian McKellen, Darcey Bussell and Will Young for The South Bank Show. In 2010, Matt stepped in front of the camera to become Channel 4 News’ first ever Culture Editor, a role in which he attracted acclaim for his coverage of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Mercury Music Prize and the Turner Prize, as well as interviews with Grayson Perry, the Spice Girls, Pedro Almodóvar and Emeli Sandé, and an exclusive look inside Lucian Freud's studio following the artist's death. In 2013, his first novel, Shot Through the Heart, was published by Pan Macmillan in 2014. The second, Nothing But Trouble, followed in 2015. His brand new novel The Madonna Of Bolton has just been published to rave reviews. Between 2016 and 2018 Matt worked as Editor-in-Chief of Attitude, the UK's biggest-selling magazine for gay men. Matt is also passionate about supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and recently became an Ambassador for The Albert Kennedy Trust. Why have you chosen to become an ambassador for AKT and why do you think their work is so important? I’m thrilled to be an ambassador for AKT as I really want to attract more attention to the vital work the charity does to combat LGBT youth homelessness. Although this is a major problem there are still many people in the UK who are unaware of just how over-represented LGBT people are within our homeless population. I really want to make sure as many people as possible hear about it and, ideally, incite them to donate or help. Does it surprise you that homelessness is still such a problem for young LGBT people in today’s much more tolerant and accepting Britain? I was surprised when I first found out, yes. Although less than 2% of the UK’s population as a whole identify as LGBT, 24% of young homeless people do and it’s believed the true figure is even higher than this as many people will be doing their best to cover up their sexuality or gender identity as it’s been the source of so much distress for them (77% of those who did positively identify as LGBT said their sexuality or gender identity was the principal cause of their homelessness). And while it would be easy to point out that many young LGBT homeless people come from faith backgrounds or immigrant families who’ve come to live in the UK from cultures that are less tolerant, a significant proportion of them are white British. And if we as a society are happy to hold up our new-found tolerance of LGBT people as something we’re proud of, and something that defines us, then if we encounter instances of this failing then it’s the duty of all of us to tackle them. "...there are still many people in the UK who are unaware of just how over-represented LGBT people are within our homeless population." AKT often supports young people when their coming out journey doesn’t go well; what was your own experience of coming out like? It’s over 25 years ago now and therefore easy to forget how stressful and even traumatic it was at the time. But my worst fear was that my family would stop loving me, which thankfully they didn’t. It never occurred to me that they might throw me out on the streets so I consider myself lucky in that regard. Yes, most LGBT people who still enjoy a happy, healthy relationship with their families will admit that they’ve been on a long journey to get to this point – as I have with my family. But I’m thankful that never once in my coming out process did I fear for my safety. Why is homelessness something that strikes such a chord with you? I remember at secondary school taking part in an improvised drama production about homelessness and starting to care about the issue then. I think if you’re LGBT and have been brought up during a time of discrimination, prejudice and inequality, as I was during the 1980s, then you can be sensitive to injustice of any kind and feel great empathy for those going through it, even if they’re very different to yourself. That’s why, when I was editor-in-chief of Attitude magazine, I really wanted to do an in-depth investigation into the issue and how it affected LGBT people – and that’s how I first came into direct contact with AKT. As someone who’s been through it, what piece of advice would you offer to a young person getting ready to come out to their family? Don’t do it on the spur of the moment; plan the best way to do it in advance. Avoid using alcohol to steady your nerves and if things become awkward, try to avoid becoming confrontational. Having said that, remember that this is about you and your feelings. By opening up and sharing your true identity with your family, you’re offering them a very special gift and allowing them into your life. So don’t allow your parents to turn the attention onto them and how difficult the news may be for them to accept; remind them that if they’re finding it hard, it will have been a lot harder for you. And the first duty of any parent is to make their child feel safe and nurtured, whoever they are and whatever their sexuality or gender identity. So when you’re hoping for aceptance, you aren’t asking for something for which you should be grateful but something you deserve. Do you think that sometimes it’s easy for those of us lucky enough to have comfortable homes and great jobs in the media or creative industries to forget how difficult life can be for young people just beginning to explore their sexuality or gender identity? Yes, absolutely, partly because it can be such a difficult stage of life to go through that as soon as you’ve come out of the other end, you just want to put it behind you and enjoy your new happy, open life. But staying connected to those feelings can only make us better human beings – and better able to show compassion to young people going through the experience now who may be having a much tougher time than we did. And better able to help them! What are you most looking forward to from your role as ambassador for AKT? Making a genuine difference and helping the charity raise awareness of the problem in the mainstream media. Also, from a selfish point of view, as a writer I love hearing people’s stories so I’m looking forward to getting to know more of the young people AKT has helped. Seeing evidence of the success of the charity’s work is inspiring and uplifting and I hope that in the future it will be more and more successful and help more and more young people – until we reach a time when no young person would ever fear being made homeless because of their sexuality or gender identity. Find out more about Matt and his work, including links to buy his novels at his official website.