January-June 2022

2022 has flown by already, so here is a recap of the highlights of the year so far…

Mental Health Hour:

In February we had our sixth Mental Health Hour episode with Daniele Lul from Parapride. Daniele is the Co-founder and Community Engagement Director of Parapride, a non-profit organisation that focuses on the intersection between disability and LGBTQ+ advocating for the visibility, education and awareness of this community. He describes himself as a proud, gay, disabled person of colour. Through his journey as a disabled person, he realised there was a very evident need to address the lack of inclusion for disabled people within the LGBTQ+ community, a need for more accessible LGBTQ spaces, and a need to promote sex positivity around different bodies and being able to celebrate that. This motivated him to co-found Parapride and were some of the issues that were discussed during the LGBT+ Mental Health Hour episode, with a focus on how these lived experiences have impacted on his mental health, as well as a much-needed open conversation about the mental health of LGBTQ+ disabled people in society at large. You can watch the episode (which includes a BSL translation) on YouTube via this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFsmUywG8VU

Then in June we had our seventh Mental Health Hour episode with Emma Preston. Emma Preston is a creative: an artist, author, public speaker and Television Production UCLAN student from Preston. In 2019 she published her book ‘Being Transgender: A personal journey of one life in two worlds’ and has recently finished her TV series ‘Bit Parts’. She is an active member of the trans community and has been a part of Lancashire LGBT’s Women and Non-Binary Peer Support Group since it began in March 2021. Emma candidly discussed her personal journey as a trans woman, its joys and challenges, how she has navigated mental health and the support available, and significantly, how important her creative outputs are to her life. As she describes:

“Art is so precious to me.  Art lives and breathes inside of me.  If I run out of words, I can always turn to art to explain what I mean.  Art has a soul and life cycle, sometimes spanning centuries.  No doubt most of my art will outlive me by decades if not the odd one or two by a century or so.  In a way, art is an extension of my life.  It allows me to show others in the future what the past (my present) means (or meant) to me.”

You can watch the episode (which includes a BSL translation) on YouTube via this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm97ZZWn51Q

LGBT+ Women and Non-Binary Peer Support Group:

In May some of the group members attended an event at UCLAN in support of Emma Preston. She was hosting a screening of her TV mini-series ‘Bit Parts’ as part of her TV Production degree at UCLAN. The series was fantastic, and we are very impressed by her work. The day at UCLAN also gave me the opportunity to have a lovely in-person meeting with the EDI team, who we are partnering up with the Group’s Rainbow Roses art exhibition on Thursday 22nd September – more info about how to register to attend this special event coming soon!

In June we met up in Accrington Arndale as a welcome change to meeting online. We were thrilled that workers at Active Lancashire’s charity shop in the Arndale got in touch as they wanted to provide a space to be used by the community. Charity Shops have often proven to be safer spaces for trans women in particular to shop in, and having a comfortable place to buy gender-affirming clothes without fear of judgment or discrimination is really important. Thank you so much to the hospitality of the whole team, we will certainly be back!

One-to-one support service:

After much deliberation and consultation Lancashire LGBT  will now offer 6-8 sessions per new referral and co-produce a specific goal to work towards in those sessions. This is to accommodate my capacity as the solo part-time Community Support Worker at Lancashire LGBT, as well as provide more structure, transparency and ultimately empowerment to the people we support. We are not a mental health crisis intervention charity, and seek to offer shorter-term support with the one to one service as outlined above. Our longer-term lower-risk support options include a range of social and peer support groups: our Walking Group, Swimming Group and LGBT+ Women and Non-Binary Group. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to ask! If you would like to access this service, please use our self-referral form: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/self_refer/ or third party referral form: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/ThPRef/

You can contact me via email bethm@lancslgbt.org.uk or text/call me on 07553026464. My working hours are Wednesday 1:00pm-6:00pm, Thursday and Friday 8:30am-4:30pm.

End of year blog 2021

September

In September I was invited to appear on the ‘Spill It UK’ podcast, by Marcus Wright. The LIVE podcast chat show is where he talks to inspirational people and shares inspirational stories! Each week he connects live and discusses different subjects to connect, inspire and learn. You can watch back the episode via this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8TAbeldye4 And be sure to like ‘Spill It UK’ on socials as Marcus really deserves the support!

October

In October our LBT+ Women and Non-Binary Peer Support Group met up in person in Preston again. We took some photos of urban landscapes for our photography project, which will be showcased as part of our art exhibition in Burnley Library on Thursday 10th March, 2022. More details about how to register to attend this exciting event coming soon!

As October was Black History Month, I was very pleased to host episode 4 of our LGBT+ Mental Health Hour series ‘Queer Black Mental Health’. Our incredible guest speakers were Tolu Ajayi and Cheryl Martin: artists, community organisers, charity workers, their combined list of credentials is very impressive! You can watch back the episode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4S27NFXq63A

November

In November we had another Mental Health Hour, this time for Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR). Dr Jay McNeil, a hero in the field of Trans mental health, joined me for a fantastic conversation around Trans mental health, in particular around building resilience and practising self-care. The episode is available via this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gm8cjVW9wKk

December

In December we had another in-person meet up with the LBT+ Women and Non-Binary Peer Support Group in Manchester, to visit the Christmas markets. We had a wonderful time, good weather and even better company!

For our final online group session of the year, we were joined by Gender Outreach Worker Sophie Bracewell from the Leeds Gender Identity Clinic (GIC). It was brilliant to have her in the group, to share her expertise and answer questions from many of our group members who are currently going through transition via the GIC. She will be popping in again at some point so if you would like to join the group and speak with her then please let me know!

As Christmas is the time for giving, Lush Preston were very kind to donate some gorgeous products to us for our group members this year, which put a big smile on people’s faces – thank you again Lush, we really appreciate it!

2021 was a fantastic year for me in my role, and I am very proud of all that has been achieved. The main highlights are the success of the group, which has become a really special space for its members. Also the Mental Health Hour, a refreshing approach for Lancashire LGBT to talk about important issues from an intersectional perspective.

I am excited to see how this, plus the one to one support service, will continue to develop in 2022. Already plans for new ways to help even more of the local LGBT+ community are underway too!

So…roll on 2022! 😊

Summer 2021 recap

Summer has been and gone very quickly, and lots of exciting things have been happening at Lancashire LGBT+ in my role. The support service has continued to grow with more referrals, as has the LBT+ Women and Non-Binary Person’s Peer Support Group with new faces joining every time.

In June I hosted our second Mental Health Hour with Osman and Deenah from Hidiyah called ‘Mind, Body, Spirit: a Queer Muslim Perspective’. It was an excellent session that provided some important food for thought about the intersections of faith, race and sexuality. Moreover, how these identities can manifest in people’s mental health in both positive and negative ways. You can watch it back on Youtube via this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFeBXM59o50&list=PLGTqDvDocdlrCH5fawEq-PV7OJn1ka5sp&index=3

In July I spoke at an event by The Dukes Lancaster, a film screening of ‘Supernova (2021)’. I did a short presentation about Queer representation in cinema. The event was a great success with lots of interesting questions from the audience. The recording of it will be available soon!

I also had my training with Meet n Match, a friendship and dating agency for people with autism and learning disabilities. I will start my role as a Chaperone for dates soon and am very much looking forward to it, especially at how it may help my role here at Lancashire LGBT+!

Lewis our Chief Executive and I had a meeting with James Wilson from Leeds Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) to discuss our work and areas of collaboration. It has been a difficult time for all NHS services, and the GIC is no exception. They will be hiring two new Gender Outreach Workers soon! 

We had our third Mental Health Hour in August with Matthew Peace from SHARE (Sexual Help and Relationship Enhancement) called ‘Accessing support for sex and relationship problems and gender issues’. We covered a variety of topics, including Asexuality and the shift in relationship dynamics when a partner transitions gender. You can watch it back on Youtube via this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQjKzI1_ez4&list=PLGTqDvDocdlrCH5fawEq-PV7OJn1ka5sp&index=3

Towards the end of the month, we (finally) got to meet in person as our LBT+ Women and Non-Binary Peer Support group! A group of 12 met in Preston and enjoyed a picnic, as well as one another’s company after months of seeing each other through a screen. It was brilliant. We will keep the fortnightly group via Zoom, but plan to meet again to continue with our art projects in the next couple of months.

May 2021

May has been another busy month at Lancashire LGBT. We have had a big increase of service users coming into the support service with a variety of needs, including domestic abuse.   

I attended a Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA) 2-day course to help with the emotional support side of my role. It was an absolutely fantastic training opportunity, with great insights into the complexity and scale of Mental Health in the UK. We know that this disproportionately impacts on the LGBTQ+ community due to the additional social stigmas faced like homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, so it is really important to learn as much as possible about how to offer support to those struggling. I am pleased to say I am now a qualified Mental Health First Aider!

Our LBT+ Women’s peer support group continues to grow from strength to strength with regular high attendance, new people joining each meeting, and active engagement. The art project on what it means to be an LGBTQ+ Woman/Non-Binary person that we are running, with the view to turn the art into a Zine, is very exciting – there has been some amazing pieces created already! We are also planning to host an exhibition in Burnley Library with our ‘Signature Cloth’, a collaborative piece of art where we are all connected by key indicators of our identities such as (an open interpretation of) signatures. If any LBT+ woman, non-binary, genderqueer or intersex person wants to join the group, please do (we’re a lovely bunch!) by emailing me at bethm@lancslgbt.org.uk.

This month we launched an exciting new project at Lancashire LGBT: our LGBTQ+ Mental Health Hour! This will be a monthly event where I will host a conversation about LGBTQ+ mental health with a guest in a related field. During Mental Health Week, on Thursday 13th May we had our first one with Bryan Dalgleish-Warburton as our guest. Bryan is an accredited psychotherapist with BABCP, a registered member of BACP, and an accredited EMDR practitioner. Bryan is a Senior Lecturer at UCLAN where he teaches in the School of Community Health and Midwifery. He is also the first openly gay Mayor of Longridge. The event was a great success and Bryan gave some very useful tips on the small things we can do to look after our mental health. You can watch the episode back on Youtube with the BSL interpreter and subtitles here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HNzEUjDqZ0

For our next LGBTQ+ Mental Health Hour I will host the conversation with Osman and Deenah from Hidayah on Mind, Body, Spirt: a Queer Muslim perspective. Osman is the outreach volunteer for Hidayah, a charity which provides support and welfare for LGBTQI+ Muslims and education around the queer Muslim community to counter discrimination, prejudice and injustice. Deenah is also a volunteer for Hidayah, and a proud Muslim lesbian. She is a fledgling journalist and believes strongly in empowering marginalised communities. The event will take place on Thursday 10th June, 18:00-19:00 on Zoom. The recording will also be later uploaded to Lancashire LGBT’s Youtube channel. A BSL interpreter will be present and subtitles will be included in the Zoom. If you would like to attend the event, please register with this form: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/LGBTQMHH100621/ where you can suggest any questions you would like to be put to Osman and Deenah.

June commences Pride so we will be busy attending various events to celebrate our wonderful, resilient and powerful LGBTQ+ family – I am excited to share our updates from over the summer with you!

April 2021

Our LBT+ Women’s peer support group continues to grow from strength to strength with regular high attendance, new people joining each meeting, and active engagement. The art project on what it means to be an LGBTQ+ Woman that we are running, with the view to turn the art into a Zine, is very exciting – there has been some amazing pieces created already! We will also begin plans to meet in person outdoors when the lockdown restrictions change again in May. If any LBT+ woman, non-binary, genderqueer or intersex person wants to join the group, please do (we’re a lovely bunch!) by emailing me at bethm@lancslgbt.org.uk.

This month we launched an exciting new project at Lancashire LGBT: our LGBTQ+ Mental Health Hour! This will be a monthly event where I will host a conversation about LGBTQ+ mental health with a guest in a related field. During Mental Health Week, on Thursday 13th May we will have our first one with Bryan Dalgleish-Warburton as our guest. Bryan is an accredited psychotherapist with BABCP, a registered member of BACP, and an accredited EMDR practitioner. Bryan is a Senior Lecturer at UCLAN where he teaches in the School of Community Health and Midwifery. He is also soon to become the first openly gay Mayor or Longridge. The event will take place on Thursday 13th May, 18:00-19:00 on Zoom. The recording will also be uploaded to our Lancashire LGBT Youtube channel. A BSL interpreter will be on the Zoom and subtitles will be included in the Youtube upload. If you would like to attend the event, please register with this form: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/LGBTQMHH/, where you can suggest any questions you would like to be put to Bryan.

We have had an influx of new service users over the past couple of weeks, showing our self-referral form is being well used. I am supporting them with a variety of needs around gender identity and transition, mental health, and connecting with other LGBTQ+ people for peer support.

On 21st April, I attended the LGBT+ Sector Women’s Network Relaunch Event via Zoom. It was great to meet women from various LGBTQ+ organisations around the country who want to connect over shared experiences and interests. There was really lively discussion and exciting future planning for the network, so I will definitely be joining their next meeting! 26th April commenced Lesbian Visibility Week! Lesbian Visibility Day launched in 2008. Now there is a Lesbian Visibility Week, ran by Diva Media Group and supported by lots of LGBTQ+ organisations such as Stonewall. ‘Lesbian Visibility Week aims to show solidarity with every woman within the LGBTQI community, as well as celebrate lesbians. It wants to create a week that recognises, celebrates, and importantly supports lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women across the UK and beyond to be their true selves at work, at home and socially. It is essential that Lesbian Visibility Week is a voice for unity and uplifts ALL women, especially those who come from marginalised communities.’ (LVW website) Recent research (Pride Matters survey, conducted by Pride In London 2018) has shown that gay women are almost twice as unlikely to be out in the workplace as gay male colleagues. Lesbians also face an array of social stigmas including harmful stereotypes, hypersexualisation, and a lack of authentic representation in popular media and press. As an employer, showing your solidarity with the week demonstrates to your employees and beyond that you care about LGBTQ+ issues and are here to support the community. Allyship matters! For more info see the website: https://www.lesbianvisibilityweek.com/

March 2021

What a month – hello Spring! Rolling on from the momentum of LGBT+ History month, I have had another busy couple of weeks at Lancashire LGBT.

The support service continues to help people with a variety of needs and new service users are coming in. We now have a quick and simple Self-Referral Form to make it easier for people who want to get help themselves. Please use it if you feel like you need help: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/self_refer/  Note: this is for Self-Referrals only, please see the Third Party Referral Form on our website if you are a professional or agency or looking for help for someone else.

I was so happy to join UCLAN Pulse LGBT radio, hosted by students Emma Preston and Luca Matthews, where we discussed everything from Lancashire LGBT and my role to broader societal issues related to gender, sexuality, and identity. It aired on Thursday 25th at 6pm, but you can listen again here: http://www.pulsemedia-online.co.uk/lgbtalks-live-episode-6/

We had an amazing first two LBT+ Women’s Peer Support Group meetings, with a high turn-out both weeks, exceeding all my expectations! It is a lovely atmosphere as there is a real sense that this group has been a long time coming in Lancashire and therefore very much needed. We have a variety of people there in terms of ages, professions, and lived experiences as women (*including non-binary, genderqueer and intersex people). But a shared desire to learn more about one another to develop a strong, supportive and powerful community! We have already begun an arts project in collaboration with That 0282 Place based in Burnley, with the hope to create a photography exhibition, as well as a Zine about what we feel it means to be a Queer woman*. I am so excited to see what the group will do moving forward!

31st March is Trans Day of Visibility, and to honour it I made some content about some visible Trans people we at Lancashire LGBT are inspired by and wanted to highlight. Visibility is so important to Trans communities and has seen a significant increase in representation over the past 5 or so years, but it has been met by a backlash in the media and spike in Trans hate crimes. So, we must try our best to ensure our representation of Trans experiences is authentic and positive.

That is all for this month, hope you enjoyed reading this and will do again next month!  

February 2021

This month has been LGBT+ History month so a very special time for us at Lancashire LGBT indeed. I have been working on our social media content throughout the month, posting different LGBT+ Heroes each week as well as spotlighting some amazing LGBT+ organisations and providing educational resources. For example, I made a handy guide to (the many) LGBTQIA+ flags which went down a storm!

I have been supporting our service users with various needs ranging from housing, mental health, social isolation and digital access. As the support service is new to Lancashire LGBT+, I have been helping design procedures to make it as efficient as possible too.

I was thrilled to dial into of the InclusiviTy peer support groups for Trans people, ran by the Yorkshire/Lancashire Gender Outreach Workers and Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service. It was an uplifting and supportive group dynamic, see their Facebook page if you would like to join one of the sessions, which run each Thursday evening: https://www.facebook.com/GenderOutreachWorker

On Friday 19th, I joined Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCFT) at an online event around LGBTQ+ History month. It was inspiring to hear from guest speakers from local LGBT+ organisations such as Stephanie Holmes of Chrysalis, and Louise Ashworth EDI Corporate Strategic Advisor and Project Worker at Barnardos and Chair of Barnardos Disability Network who discussed the intersections of disability and sexuality, as well as reflecting on her own white privilege as a mother to a mixed-race child.

On Wednesday 24th, I attended UCLAN’S Hate Crime training session alongside representatives from Lancashire Police and Victim Support. It was an engaging, informative session and a great opportunity to further promote our support service. UCLAN has a brilliant platform for staff and students reporting Hate Crime.

Finally, on Friday 26th it was the last LSCFT event. It was a pleasure to hear the chair of our Trustee board, PC Ian Ashton, discuss his personal journey as an openly gay man in the police, and how far Lancashire police has come in terms of inclusion. Debs Bradshaw from Lancashire Women delivered an incredibly informative session on domestic abuse in the LBTQ women’s community, an issue that is in desperate need of more attention.

Next month we will launch our very own peer support group for Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (including Non-Binary/Genderqueer/Intersex) Women. To my knowledge no such group exists in Lancashire, which made me think – there is a gap to fill! The first online meeting will be during the national LBT Women’s Health Week, the same week of International Women’s Day. The group will be co-produced, which means it is led by the interests and needs of the members. It aims to be a safe, inclusive space where our different lived experiences as women and non-binary people are embraced. The first session will be on Thursday 11th March at 6:30pm, see here for more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/3489061437871602 Or simply email me bethm@lancslgbt.org.uk if you would like to attend.

So, February has been a busy month, and there is lots to look forward to in the coming weeks of March which I shall speak about in the next blog installment! 

January 2021

First week on the job: starting my new role with Lancashire LGBT!

Hi folks! My name is Beth (she/her/hers) and welcome to the first installment of my monthly blog as Lancashire LGBT’s new Support Worker. I will be writing about my experiences to give you an insight of what it is like to work for a LGBT+ charity helping communities through these difficult times of the pandemic.

A little bit about me: I have a background in social justice work and intersectional activism. I am very passionate about LGBTQ+ visibility, rights and justice especially as a Queer woman. And I am really excited to be starting this role!

I will be working Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday. I am here to support people who need it in any way I can, as during these harsh lockdown periods LGBT+ people are more vulnerable to mental ill-health and a lack of safety. It is important to reach out for help now more than ever, and we want to let people know that services are still out there.

A big part of my role is trying to engage with people who want to access our services, as you can see in the introductory video I did. Please feel free to share this!

You can reach me in several ways (whichever is easiest for you): my email is bethm@lancslgbt.org.uk, mobile 07553026464, or my Facebook is Beth Meadows-Lancslgbt. We also now have an Instagram account @lancslgbt.

I am looking forward to hearing from you!

Everyone take good care of yourselves and stay tuned for next month’s post!