A new network aims to build on achievements made by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender groups.
When Councillor Philip Glanville, Cabinet Member for Housing, married artist Giles McCrary at the Town Hall in December last year, it looked like a definitive sign of a final victory for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) equality in the borough.
But the fight is not over yet, according to Hackney Council for Voluntary Service (HCVS), with discrimination still a large problem in areas further removed from the public gaze.
“Young LGBT+ people suffer discrimination and bullying at school, not only from other young people but also from staff,” says Matt Bray, co-ordinator of Out There Hackney, a new network set up by HCVS to campaign for greater equality. “Likewise, when older LGBT+ people go into care homes they are often forced back into the closet.”
Out There Hackney seeks to challenge negative attitudes towards homosexuality and aims to extend equality to other groups – as reflected in the language it uses to promote its activities.
“When we set up Out There Hackney we decided on the acronym ‘LGBT+’ as we wanted to have a network that could be inclusive for all people who don’t necessarily identify with heteronormative society,” explains Bray.
“The ‘plus’ symbol includes, for example, ‘intersexed’ people – people who have been born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit a typical male or female definition.” The network aims to connect different groups together and promote LGBT+ events. One of the organisations it is connecting is the East London Out Project (ELOP), which promotes the mental health and wellbeing of LGBT+ communities through advocacy and counselling, mainly aimed at young people.
ELOP’s Business Lead Claire McComb, is enthusiastic about Out There Hackney, which she sees as a key component in the battle to do more with less that all public and community groups currently face. “We feel that in the age of austerity it’s vital to be connected with other services,” she says. “We can ensure that people have a positive experience from the first point of contact.
“We feel that we have a lot of learned, lived community experience to offer the network and that it’s important to share that to improve LGBT inclusion in and experience of wider services.”
Senior council members are supporters of Out There Hackney and the network has also had meetings with the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which coordinates medical services in the borough. “The CCG has been speaking to us to ensure that health professionals are sensitive to the specific needs of LGBT+ communities,” says Bray.
Out There Hackney is looking to expand and is recruiting volunteers. Its first major activity will be a ‘community heritage media project’ to document and celebrate the history of LGBT+ people in Hackney.