TJ Richards is an audiobook narrator with a love for diverse LGBT+ fiction and damned fine stories!  She is also an LGBT+ activist, National Co-Chair of the LGBT+ Embrace Network, a Trustee for Q:Alliance and on the founding committee for RoundabOUT; Milton Keynes' Inter Company LGBT+ Network.  A busy woman indeed!

What a Year It's Been!

5 years ago, I was suffering with PTSD – I still have it, but I don’t consider it “suffering” anymore. 


I struggled to sleep more than 4 hours a night (hypervigilance – fun stuff!). I struggled going anywhere with crowds, anywhere that I couldn’t easily escape from if I needed to.  This included grocery stores, gigs, trains, tubes and airplanes.  I needed to have clear, easy access to exits at all times in case of an emergency where I needed to get out quickly.  I also struggled with driving anywhere other than work or home – I would sweat profusely, my legs would shake and I’d often have a “mini” panic attack if I had to drive anywhere I didn’t know the exact route to (including which lane I needed to be in on every roundabout).


My wife was (is) amazing, and supported me through all of it.  She spoke to people on the phone when I couldn’t, ordered from the menu when I couldn’t face talking to someone, drove me wherever I needed to go, and helped me try and calm my mind whenever it got too riled up.  She even let me wait in the car while she went into Costco and waded through that thick sea of humanity.  And her persistence paid off; knowing that I had her to catch me if I fell made me brave enough to realise that I would never improve if I didn’t step outside of my comfort zone.  So I made a decision, I wouldn’t fear being uncomfortable - I would make a habit of being uncomfortable.


So I started saying yes to things I normally wouldn’t have.  I started trying things I would normally avoid.  Suddenly I had a new job in a new town, I joined an LGBT+ employee network, and a year later even stepped up to chair that same network.  I often have to travel in that role, and even though it took some time, now I have no problem going into London, Bradford or even Belfast!  I speak to people I don’t know all the time, I make new friends, I have new experiences – and I’m finally feeling like the old me.  The outgoing, smart arsed, cheeky me who loves to help people and make them smile while I’m doing it.  I got a new hobby narrating audiobooks (again – thank you wife!), and have had some pretty good successes with bringing more LGBT+ positive fiction into a world that sorely needs more LGBT+ role models. 


Recently I signed a contract for a book with an author that I used to dream of working with – and would tell myself “don’t be daft that’s never going to actually happen” – but because I opened myself up to new things, it did!  In the past 2 months I’ve also met and learned so much about the local LGBT+ charity in my area, I was so impressed I even agreed to become a trustee – because how differently would my life have turned out if I had accepted myself for who I was when I was a kid?  The chance to give back to my local community is a great one, and I only hope I can live up to the passion that I see them displaying every day!  I even worked with local businesses to help pull together an intercompany LGBT+ “network of networks” called RoundabOUT, to try and provide more local networking and awareness opportunities for all the people in our area. 


At work I’ve started a new role that is getting me out and about even more, and I’m loving it.  My LGBT+ employee network is going from strength to strength and we’ve got such a driven and passionate bunch on board that I can’t wait to see what our new expanded leadership team are able to do for our members next year.  RoundabOUT is starting to take off, and we’re finally able to provide more networking and awareness events in the local area. 


But all of this great stuff in my life has taught me that I have to make sure I’m taking care of myself as well – so I’ve decided to rebalance my life a teensy tiny bit.   


Starting in 2018, I will only be narrating LGBT+ audiobooks – or follow on titles from the many brilliant authors I’ve already worked with.  I’m not trying to build an empire in the audiobook world so I don’t want to have a production line of titles all lined up with no time for me to recharge, I want to devote the time to each title that it deserves.  Because we deserve good fiction!


 I’d never have been able to do any of this if I hadn’t decided to say yes to more things, so please believe me when I tell you that sometimes, being a little outside of your comfort zone is exactly the best place you can be. 


And a massive thank you to everyone who’s bought my books, helped out at a fundraiser, supported the LGBT+ community, or even just provided a shoulder when I needed to vent a little.  You are all amazing, and I wish you the very best 2018.