Everyday pride: How the LGBT Foundation is helping Britain’s hidden communities
As Pride Month celebrations continue across the UK, we are proud to support the LGBT Foundation, a national charity that started in 1975.
For the teams on the frontline of the organisation’s services, Pride celebrations show a mixed picture. On the one hand, they allow people from different LGBTQ+ communities to openly celebrate who they are and to feel a sense of unity and belonging .
On the other hand, as LGBTQ+ people continue to face high levels of discrimination in the UK, a few days a year is not enough to tackle widespread injustices. LGBTQ+ rights and concerns are something everyone should be aware of and strive to educate themselves about on an ongoing basis.
Virgin Red members can donate their points to LGBT Foundation and directly support the charity in its mission to provide a wide range of critical services, including a national helpline for people in crisis, an email helpline (for anyone not confident in calling in), and a variety of talking therapies. And if you donate your Virgin Points during the month of June, we will double the cash value of your donations towards LGBT Foundation's work in the UK.
As Pride casts a spotlight on LGBTQ+ rights, we caught up with the LGBT Foundation’s Debra Nixon (She/Her), Deputy Director of Self-Generated Income, and Esther Purves (She/Her), Income Generation Officer, to find out more about the charity’s vital work. Here’s what they had to say:
Here if you need us
“LGBT Foundation has a very simple motto: “we’re here if you need us”. We provide a range of programmes that recognise the many ways in which many LGBTQ+ communities are marginalised. These services deal with issues such as domestic abuse, sexual health, substance recovery, trans advocacy, ageing and more, through the lens of LGBTQ+ lived experiences.
We also support people with hate crime reporting, and do it on their behalf if they're not able to. We run a befriending service as well, for anyone who feels socially isolated. And we advocate to ensure key areas of governance, such as health care, are LGBTQ+ inclusive.
Some of our services are geographically located within our hubs in London and Greater Manchester. But no matter where we are based, we’ll always share advice and support with people who contact us; including information on alternative services in their area. Even if someone phones in from abroad, including places where it’s illegal to be LGBTQ+, we’ll be able to signpost them to support available in their country.”
"Because gay marriage is legal in the UK, there’s a misguided assumption that everyone's on an equal playing field. But the reality is, our entire society is centred around heterosexual, cisgendered people. This means that the LGBTQ+ communities we support come up against all the nuances in their daily lives, a world of heteronormalcy in a tendency that can be very damaging and isolating for anyone who doesn’t identify in that way.
So it’s really important for us, as a society, to educate ourselves, and build awareness of how we can help LGBTQ+ people feel included in the language and subtleties of everyday life.
Our report Hidden Figures shines a light on the multiple health inequalities that LGBTQ+ people encounter across the course of their lives, including higher rates of homelessness, domestic abuse and sexual violence. We hope our research prompts key decision makers in healthcare and beyond to become more conscious of the barriers that LGBTQ+ people encounter; and take conscious steps to remove them.”
The fallout from Covid
"A combination of research and reports from our helplines and online focus groups showed that Covid-19 was a really tough time for the LGBTQ+ people we support. Not only were LGBTQ+ communities disproportionately impacted in terms of health, our figures highlighted that the pandemic brought about a huge increase in homophobia, transphobia and other traumatic experiences. It really magnified the kind of discrimination that many LGBTQ+ people come up against daily.
For example, some of the young people we support had to move back with their families during the health crisis; but since their families may not have known they were LGBTQ+, this often involved going back in the closet. We also supported people in domestic abuse situations that heightened due to being trapped in that environment 24 hours a day, every day of the week.
Take something as simple as going out for your daily walk, during the peak of the first lockdown. We had reports of gay women receiving abuse because they were holding hands. People they passed assumed they were breaking rules, as opposed to them being a couple from the same household. It was a really tough time for the communities we champion."
Making a difference
"LGBT Foundation provides lots of services, but not many of our programmes are fully funded. So a donation of £10, or even £1, can help us secure really valuable regional projects, such as Rainbow Buddies, which reduces loneliness for LGBTQ+ people in the Greater Manchester area. For that kind of initiative, we need money for the programme itself, along with cash to cover resources, staff salaries and volunteer expenses. So anybody who is able to donate, with any amount, supports us as a team, and helps ensure the future of that programme.
The work we do can make a huge difference to peoples’ lives. Often we get feedback years after providing support, as it usually takes a while for people to feel that their life is actually back on track. One person, for example, told us, "This is the first birthday in 4 years that I haven’t tried to kill myself" – and that was after contacting LGBT Foundation’s helpline on and off over a number of years. So, we really can be there for people."
"For a charity like ours, every day is Pride. Pride celebrations *are* important in a way, because it’s useful for people to celebrate with other like-minded people; to hold hands and not feel different. But LGBTQ+ inclusion is not something that should be confined to special occasions. Ultimately, our goal is for our charity not to have to exist. To create the kind of fair and equal society where people can be who they want to be, with zero prejudice, as a daily reality of life."
Find out more about LGBT Foundation or donate your Virgin Points in support of their brilliant work.