Former LGBT+ chair Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett becomes Britain’s first openly HIV positive candidate

Adrian Hyyrylainen-TrettI am feeling incredibly emotional this evening. What I’m feeling ranges from intense pride in a friend whose courage in telling his story will help others, to equally intense, ice-cold rage at what he has had to endure over the years. Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett is the Liberal Democrat candidate for Vauxhall. He is a former chair of LGBT+ Lib Dems. Tonight, he has spoken to Buzzfeed about the bullying he suffered at school, how this led him to contemplate suicide at the age of just 14 and how his mental health deteriorated during his early adult life. He tells how he contracted HIV 11 years ago.

The fact that Adrian’s health has improved, he has found happiness in his personal life and professional success will be an inspiration to other young people who are suffering in the same way. I understand a little bit of what it’s like to be that teenager everyone hates who thinks the world would be so much better without her. Except when I was a teenager, nobody talked about this kind of stuff and I thought I was alone and the feelings I had were because I was a bad person.

You need to read the whole interview. It’s powerful, eloquent and very, very frank.

Adrian talks about how the bullying he experienced at school affected him:

I wasn’t seen as the big, strong lad at school so the comments came: ‘gay’, ‘poof’, ‘bender’. I would cry in the toilets or somewhere there was no one around. I would try and not let it show in front of them, even though it hurt me intensely. I never had a close friend.”

He also started to realise the hateful names were accurate. “I knew my parents and the people around me wouldn’t understand. I knew I couldn’t tell anyone. There was nowhere I could go; nowhere I could talk. I became depressed and anxious. With psychological bullying all you have is the words whirling around your head – comments thrown at you in the sports room, in the gym, walking home from school.

The bullying left him with fragile mental health which led him into using drugs and contracting HIV.

Why has he decided to talk about his experience now?

He explains that he became HIV positive “as a consequence of all these things – bullying, mental ill health, low self-esteem… All those things could have been prevented. Yet all these things are still happening and no one is talking about it. I feel I owe it to the community to talk about it.

“There are enough people on the gay scene who are aware of the problems but there hasn’t been an open discussion at any level – political, governmental or at a community level.”

The need for such a conversation is undeniable. Last year, one London HIV clinic asked its patients what worried them most. The top three concerns were not medical but social: stigma, isolation and discrimination.

What does he think needs to happen now?

There needs to be joined-up thinking across government departments to implement preventative measures,” he says. “Starting off in schools with sex – and same-sex – education from a young age, compulsory in all schools. Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying needs to be tackled properly, too.

We need much more education in schools and the workplace around HIV, to reduce stigma, but more than that: there used to be television campaigns about it, but there hasn’t been anything in recent years. Young people are often completely unaware because of a lack of education.

A few snippets here doesn’t really do such an eloquent and honest interview justice. You really need to read the whole thing for yourself, but have some tissues and a cup of tea to hand. You really will need them.

Let’s hope that his openness helps both LGBT young people and compels those who work with young people to make sure that they tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

LDV needs to be a safe space where people feel comfortable about sharing their experiences, especially on posts like this. For that reason, comments on this post will be pre-moderated.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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9 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Mar '15 - 11:49pm

    It’s great news that he is standing for parliament, party politics aside, and he is going to help people with similar experiences. It does take a lot of courage to speak out on these issues, and I commend him for it.

    The article is a difficult read. We almost want to hide away from such terribly difficult problems, but we have to confront them. It certainly fired my stomach up for change.

    Regards

  • ISHvinder Matharu 30th Mar '15 - 11:52pm

    Wish him well in Vauxhall!

  • Very commendable.

  • I too am very moved, both by Adrian’s story, and by the fact that the party is backing him. I first heard of this last night when Sal Brinton posted about it on Facebook.

    So much politics would push someone like Adrian into the margins, or press him to hide his reality. I am deeply moved to find that we are doing the opposite.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 31st Mar '15 - 5:05pm

    Best wishes Adrian,
    I remember that more than 15 years ago, in the Blair years, while I was involved in a national campaign for HIV/Aids awareness and support, I was contacted by the press asking why it was necessary to press such a campaign because all the problems had been resolved. My comment then was that journalism might stand still after an event but HIV/Aids can continue for eternity. The problem is still that an infection like Ebola [not the same intensity of infection] can find a treatment which ends a near pandemic. But few people are aware of the disaster of HIV/Aids in Africa and elsewhere for every individual. I support Adrian not only for himself but for humanity. An ongoing voice will be a wonderful voice for all diseases brought upon all people who have been afflicted. In Vauxhall there is a mountain to climb but whatever the outcome, best wishes Adrian.

  • Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett

    A distinctive name that is difficult to forget is always an advantage for a candidate.

    I cannot wait to see the poster and especially the car sticker. 🙂

  • The thing I found most shocking with that story wasn’t the issue of homophobic bullying at school – because that is an issue which is acknowledge and people are at least trying to tackle. The shocking part was the degree of exploitation in the (you’d like to think) progressive liberated gay scene in London of the 2000s. It sounds like – to all practical purposes – what we would now refer to as grooming if it involved someone slightly younger because that doesn’t seem to be something which is being talked about much. Maybe (and hopefully) such behaviour has been rooted out of the gay community but if not then it needs to be addressed.

  • Richard Duncalf 1st Apr '15 - 10:55pm

    Best wishes Adrian and to your campaign in Vauxhall.

  • After last night I am guessing that everyone in the country would like the Vauxhall LibDem to beat UKIP .

    Farage, who sweats more in a TV studio than Richard Nixon let the UKIP mask slip for a moment.

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