Last Friday, 17th of February, we held a Conference to celebrate our 40th Birthday. We used this opportunity to reflect on the Challenges and Achievements faced by the LGBT+ communities; focusing on Transgender Young People, LGBT+ Hate Crime and Gay men, faith and ethnicity.
The conference began with the Leicester LGBT Centre Board of Directors Chair, Mark Beasley, reflecting on different anniversaries: '50 years since decriminalisation of sex offences Act, 40 years since the Centre was set up as a helpline, and 21 years since I come out'. We also watched a short video about the Centre.
This is event was made possible thanks to a partnership with De Montfort University and Leicester LGBT Centre. Following Mark Beasley’s words, the Head of Public Engagement at DMU, Mark Charlton, dedicated a few words, highlighting the important role that universities make on a positive impact on LGBT+ people: 'We can and should lead on fairness, and actions speak louder than words, so we are really proud to host this unique conference'.
Once the conference started, our first invited speaker, CEO of Mermaids UK, Susie Green, took to the stage. Susie started by defining transgender and reflecting on the media’s influence affecting transgender lives, including those influencing negatively. Susie also introduced us to Mermaids UK’s mission and tasks, discussed the daily challenges faced by trans young people, such as isolation, discrimination, prejudice, bullying, etc. in addition to the problems accessing healthcare. Susie highlighted how important it is to support young trans people, lamenting that sometimes 'the people who should love transgender young people the most, refuse who they are and advocating: 'if you support your kids, they will be happier'.
Following on the Transgender Young People theme, the Lead of the Young Transgender Project at Leicester LGBT Centre, Lisa Vine, gave us some insights into the situation for trans kids in Leicestershire and Rutland. She explained how important it is to have projects like this, the only one of its kind in the East Midlands: 'We need to achieve an increase in positive sense of identity, of acceptance and security to trans young people'. Lisa, along with the public, also reflected on the local challenges to the Young Transgender Project, such us the inaccessibility of rural locations, lack of NHS specialists, demographics, etc.
After lunch, it was time to discuss another worrying challenge faced by the LGBT+ communities: Hate Crime. The Strategic Development and Partnerships Manager from the Leicester LGBT Centre, Andrew Bolland, provided us with a local perspective of the LGBT+ Hate Crime experiences, describing the preoccupying amount of hate crime within the community and the life-changing impact it has on the victims. Andrew noted how important it is to report hate crime incidents and advocated for a bigger commitment from charities and institutions to support the victims. A final debate with the attendees analysed ways in which we can improve reporting statistics and what gaps services have when assisting victims.
A professor of Psycology and Sexual Health, Rusi Jaspal, conducted the last theme of the conference, dealing with an analysis of ethnicity, faith and sexuality and their reconciliation. Rusi explained the implication of conflicting identities and the effects to one's general sense of self. Professor Rusi talked about the different situations regarding homosexuality and Islam, Sikh and Hindu perspectives on homosexuality, advocating for a 'change in representations of homosexuality'.
The event’s closure consisted of a discussion panel with all the speakers, where issues such as Trans and Education and labels were vividly debated.
We cannot think of a better celebration of our #40YearsOnYourSide and we are grateful to all the people who made it possible, including DMU, attendees and speakers. Thank you!