Updated: Jul 20, 2022
October 2018, one of our wonderful youth workers, Sophie, attended an LGBT+ leadership conference in London – here are her reflections on the event…
On Friday 12th I traveled to London to take part in the fifth annual LGBT+ leaders conference ran over 2 days. The event began Friday evening with a “Political outlook for 2019” where we celebrated our achievements but also looked at the crucial upcoming issues to get involved with, including the Gender Recognition Act Consultation and how to support Northern Ireland to finally pass their same-sex marriage bill after five attempts.
Following this we heard from the renowned singer Will Young about being openly gay in the public eye and what he feels has changed since he came out in 2002. Following Will, Karina Govindji, global head of diversity at Vodafone, stepped up on stage and showed the attendees an inspirational video Vodafone created called “Vodafone LGBT+ and Friends: Belong” which aimed to tackle the fact that more than half of young LGBT+ people feel they can’t be themselves at work for fear of discrimination by managers and colleagues.
Before rounding up the evening, we heard from a final panel dedicated to activism in 2019. Chaired by Sanjay Sood-Smith, Director of Empowerment Programmes at Stonewall. Through this panel we heard from an inspirational teacher and LGBT activist, Sarah Sawyer and Hannah and Jake Graf. Hannah and Jake are transgender activists and a married couple. They spoke about their worries of coming out but how it has changed their lives and lead them to find each other. I found them inspirational and true role models.
The next morning, we heard from an LGBT executive and allies panel, an international LGBT rights panel and an LGBT entrepreneurship panel. The international LGBT rights panel was inspirational, three men who have dedicated their lives to LGBT rights spoke. Paul Dillane, the executive director of the Kaleidoscope trust, the UKs leading international LGBT charity, Jide Macaulay, founding pastor of House of Rainbows, which is a religious community for LGBT+ BAMER people based in London and Glenroy Murray, the associate director of J-FLAG, an organisation that aims to build a Jamaican society that respects and empowers the LGBT community. The three of them discussed work with LGBT refugees, finding a balance between sexuality and religion, differences in cultures and views and how far certain countries have come with their LGBT+ laws and beliefs.
After a well-deserved and really tasty lunch I attended two chosen workshops, Being LGBT in Media and being LGBT in Education. I found both sessions interesting without gay speakers sharing their stories. It was particularly nice to hear from Louisa Compton, who after a long stream of mainly gay men was the first openly gay women I heard speak. I also discovered LGBTed which I hope we can work with in the future to help schools become a safer space for LGBT+ students.
My favourite part of the conference was hearing from Asifa Lahore, living up to the stereotype of drag queens, Asifa was late to being interviewed after the afternoon break. I knew about Asifa after watching a documentary called “Muslim drag queens” which aired in 2015. Since the documentary Asifa came out as transgender, and is currently in the process of transitioning. Asifa spoke genuinely and personally about her experiences as a Muslim, BAMER, gay man, and then coming to the realisation she’s a woman and how she balances her drag persona and her female identity.
The last session of the day was led by UK Black Pride about lessons in allyship. It was a small, personal workshop uncovering what it really means to be an ally and what more can be done to help the LGBT BME community.
The day left me feeling hopeful for the future, after hearing so many people speak about the work they are doing, and meeting so many inspirational LGBT+ people I felt empowered and determined. I hope to bring some of the contacts I’ve made and lesson I’ve learnt into SAYiT but also outside of work.
Thanks SAYiT for the opportunity! Sophie Williams SAYiT Assistant Team Leader