Romford man who fled abuse in Forest Gate after coming out nominated for national award

Prashanta Ray (left). Picture: YMCA

Prashanta Ray (left). Picture: YMCA - Credit: Archant

A man who endured seven months of abuse and violence after coming out as gay has been nominated for a national award.

Prashanta Ray was forced to flee his home in Forest Gate and eventually found refuge at the YMCA in Romford.

The 24-year-old law and American studies student knew he was gay from a young age, but realised telling his mum and dad would not be easy as it meant going against South Asian cultural norms about same sex relationships.

However, Prashanta confided in his sister who went on to tell them. As a result the youngster suffered months of verbal abuse and honour based violence. There was even an attempt to force an arranged marriage on him.

Pushed to breaking point, Prashanta contacted the LGBT+ anti-violence charity GALOP for help. He found safety in Romford two weeks after leaving home and in the middle of lockdown.

Prashanta said: “Not that long ago, I was in a dark place during a darker time. The YMCA has changed that and made me feel welcome and valued.

“It has also made me realise that my thoughts, feelings, and crucially dreams matter.”

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Since leaving home, Prashanta has taken part in Romford’s virtual Pride and raised awareness.

The Sussex University student, whose career goal is to provide legal support and advocate for law reform, is now involved in a project tackling misrepresentation on social media.

On being selected for a Youth Matters Week award, Prashanta said: “This nomination matters because visibility in the media matters.

“Under-represented individuals need someone they can relate to, just like I did when building up the courage to come out.”

He also hopes that if positive, gay, South Asian role models can be more visible, it will bring issues around sexuality out into the open.

The YMCA’s director of housing, Brian Cooke, said: “Prashanta has overcome some incredibly difficult obstacles in his life. He is a true advocate for change and is determined to keep LGBT rights on the political agenda.

“As someone who knows what it is like to feel isolated and overwhelmed, he wants to support anyone else suffering from discrimination because of their sexuality or gender identity.”

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