Whilst many people were celebrating England’s success in the World Cup last Saturday, tens of thousands of others took to the streets of London to celebrate a different cause: Pride. The month of Pride culminated in London last Saturday as 30,000 people from almost 500 LGBTQ+ groups marched, sung and danced their way from Regent Street, down Piccadilly Circus to Trafalgar Square, cheered on by thousands of supporters.
Whilst for many, Pride is a wonderful way to enjoy a day with friends celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, for others it is a chance to be heard and a space to safely express themselves. Pride, as we are often quick to forget, began as a protest during a time far less accepting than our own. The UK has come a long way since then, but the journey to full equality is still far from over, and that is why it is so important to remember what the heart of pride is all about.
Across the capital, many community groups work tirelessly to support those members of the LGBTQ+ community who face challenges and inequality every day simply for being themselves. These groups provide a space safe from discrimination, they challenge inequality, celebrate diversity and give a voice to those who otherwise feel unheard.
One such group is Free2B Alliance, a London based charity which was set up in 2015 by Lucie Brooke and her co-founder, Nicki Ryan. I caught up with Lucie to find out more about Free2B, about the work they do with LGBTQ+ young people and about what Pride means to them.
Tell us about the services you offer and how you know they work for your young people?
All of our services are member led – so for example, the 1:1 mentoring provision was developed directly in response to young people’s feedback. Many of our youth club members had mainstream support in place through social services and mental health workers and counsellors, but they were telling us that their support workers didn’t understand their sexuality & / or gender identity. In many instances, they had not even come out to their support worker as they did not feel confident to, so it was not surprising the ‘support’ they were receiving had only a limited impact. We therefore carried out a piece of research to obtain more detailed information and used the findings to secure funds to launch our LGBTQ+ 1:1 mentoring service.
What sort of impact have you seen Free2B have on the lives of your young people?
We have seen the amazing resilience and strength of our young people and parents and we are always impressed by their capacity to help their peers even when they are struggling themselves. Since launching Free2B our youth members have developed a youth council: Rainbow Power and they contribute to our strategic planning as well as getting involved in promotional activities. We also had over 25 young people and parents get involved in helping to shape our training provision including 10 young people who are trained to be able to co-facilitate the workshops.
We have seen a significant positive impact since the launch of this service in 2016, with our members overcoming barriers and progressing to meet their goals and aspirations.
I did not expect to still be alive at this age, but because of all the care and support I have received from The Gap, and the sheer happiness I gain from being there, I am on track to start at a top 10 university in September which will steer me in the direction of my dream career…Member feedback Feb 2018
The theme for this year's Pride London is Pride Matters. What does Pride mean to you/your young people?
We put your question to our youth club members and this is what they said:
Celebrating the freedom that LGBT+ fought for us to have, honouring their fight for our rights.
It’s a day to be yourself without fear
It’s a way to express yourself without fear
Shows how far we have come in the last 50 years!
To recognise the fight and where we have come from and celebrate where we are now and who we are now
How important is Pride to the fight for LGBTQ+ equality?
In a recent (2018) survey 63% of our members stated they experience HBT-phobia [homophobia, biphobia, transphobia] in their daily lives. Our training in schools highlights the lack of understanding and awareness with regards to tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and our youth club remains a safeguarded venue as our members need a safe space free from discrimination. Despite progress in terms of equalities legislation in the UK, we are still a very long way from achieving actual equality and until we reach a time when organisations like ours don’t need to exist – Pride is essential as a means to challenge inequality, celebrate diversity and provide visibility. It is also extremely important that we celebrate Pride here, on behalf of the LGBTQ+ communities across all of the countries where they cannot.
It is so important that LGBTQ+ people across the capital know that they have a safe space they can go to get support and acceptance and to be heard. It is not acceptable that 63% of Free2B’s young LGBTQ+ members experience HBT-phobia in their daily lives and until we reach a time when real equality is achieved, The London Community Foundation will continue to proudly support LGBTQ+ groups. Free2B recently received a grant from the Wimbledon Foundation Community Fund to develop a referral pathways programme.
The young people at Free2B recently produced a brand new video! They hope it will showcase their work and services so that professionals in the youth and family sector will understand what they do in order to make referrals. Check it out here.