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Say hello to LGBT Foundation!

grahamerobertson-picofgraham-pages103&104This year is one of big anniversaries and big changes here in LGBT Manchester. In August we’ll see Manchester Pride celebrate 25 years of events celebrating LGBT life in Manchester. Our friends at George House Trust are marking 30 years of delivering services to HIV positive people. And The Lesbian & Gay Foundation, after 15 years, is about to change its name, its look, and offer an even more inclusive service as LGBT Foundation. By Grahame Robertson

This will be the second time I’ve been around for such a massive change. Before we were The Lesbian & Gay Foundation, we were Healthy Gay Manchester (HGM). I’m sure some of Gaylife’s slightly older readers will remember HGM with a lot of affection. I certainly do.

I moved to from Edinburgh to Manchester in 1999 to work for Healthy Gay Manchester, and I couldn’t have been more excited to be part of a hugely creative and innovative charity. Word of HGM’s safer sex campaigns and no-nonsense approach to gay men’s sexual health promotion (does anyone else remember ‘Fist My Fuck Hole’?) reached as far as Edinburgh, and when the opportunity arose to work for HGM I grabbed it with both hands.

After a year of working at HGM, we unified with Manchester Lesbian and Gay Switchboard Services to become The Lesbian & Gay Foundation (The LGF). This gave us an opportunity to expand services to lesbian and bisexual women and to offer a wider range of services that went beyond just sexual health.

(Incidentally, if you haven’t already, get yourself to the Central Library in Manchester who now hold the LGF’sextensive archive. They’ve got some very impressive interactive displays charting the work of both HGM and The LGF.)

So, 2015 and times have changed again. From 1st April, The LGF will become LGBT Foundation. Why? Well, I went straight to the top and spoke to our Chief Executive Paul Martin OBE, and our Chair David McGovern.

It was at a recent Trustees’ meeting at The LGF that unanimous support was shown to enable The LGF to become more trans inclusive. This significant decision came after 18 months of conversations, meetings and consultations with representatives of trans community groups in Greater Manchester.  Tjis in turn led to a formal request from the local trans* groups to the LGF’s Board, which was both welcomed and accepted.

David McGovern said, “I’m delighted to announce that The LGF is to expand its current practice of trans inclusivity to support more trans specific work in the future.  The existing, positive collaborations with trans groups in Greater Manchester will increase and become more visible.”

Currently, about 8% of The LGF’ services users identify as trans and we hope to see that number increasing in the coming months.

Paul Martin OBE, The LGF’s Chief Executive has been leading discussions with members of the trans communities about their concerns that a number of trans groups are facing real hardship at the moment.  Recently in Greater Manchester, the Trans Resource and Empowerment Centre (TREC) was forced to close its doors.

Paul said, “There is a real sense that trans people here in Greater Manchester have a number of needs that existing services are really struggling to meet.  There is also a strong sense of community confidence emerging, and a recognition and acknowledgement that trans people need to be treated better and differently than they are currently.  The LGF is very keen to support trans groups to develop more tangible and comprehensive services for trans people, run by trans people here in Greater Manchester.”

Throughout this process, The LGF has been working with a number of representatives from over ten different trans groups from across Greater Manchester.  The discussions have been independently facilitated by Lewis Turner from Lancashire LGBT, and the changes have been supported by TransForum Manchester, MORF, Sparkle, BUFF, Trans Ramblers, Butterflies, Marlin, SOFFAs, Trans 5-a-side Football, Press For Change and Manchester Concord.

For everyone involved, the aim is to ensure closer integration, whilst maintaining the independence of the various groups and helping to ensure their future. Jenny-Anne Bishop, Chair of TransForum Manchester said, “We are delighted to have helped initiate this journey together with The LGF, and feel empowered by the chance to help diversify further The LGF and improve cooperation across all the Trans* and LGB communities. We are thrilled to be working with The LGF on these projects which will further cement the increasing inclusion of the Trans* community in The LGF”.

Elliott Brooker, Chair of MORF said, “It’s been really positive and exciting to bring the community together and already we’re seeing the benefits of collaborative working.  We’re very much looking forward to working with The LGF to strengthen the LGB&T community in Greater Manchester”.

Final word goes to Paul, “We want to ensure that trans people feel as welcome, supported and represented as cis-gendered people. We also want the work we do involving health inequalities and research to have a real impact on the lives of trans people. At The LGF, we work hard not to make assumptions about anyone and we will be referring to everyone with gender neutral pronouns until we are specifically told otherwise. The more trans people are involved with our staff, volunteers and services, the more we can realistically reflect and respond to their experiences and needs.”

LGBT Foundation would love to have more real-life stories and role models to include on our website so visit www.lgf.org.uk/Take-Action/tell-us-your-story-/ and tell us your story. If you’d like to volunteer and raise visibility in your community, get in touch with us at voices@lgf.org.uk

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