This year’s IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia Biphobia Intersexphobia and Transphobia) isn’t going to be like any that we have had in our life times. Some of us are much closer to sources of prejudice, discrimination and ignorance, with the lockdown making it hard to get away. Social distancing has meant that our regular spaces that give support and validation have either moved online or been cancelled entirely.
As a non-binary person I can relate to how this time could be particularly challenging. It is also why the LGBTQ+ youth group that I run, METRO Snap, is providing text-based support, ensuring those young people who don’t feel they can openly join video meetings at home still have that vital connectivity and can access our group.
If we look to the LGBTQ+ community and ourselves for support we can fight these attitudes. By taking these actions we will be stronger than ever, both personally and as a queer community, when things return to ‘normal’. You might think this is much easier said than done, especially when it feels like voices around you - at home, online or some individuals in our government - shout louder than the voices of the LGBTQ+ community and our allies. But, as people ask for practical help due to coronavirus, we too need to reach out and ask for support in challenging prejudice and discrimination. If we have the time, energy and can tear ourselves away from Netflix, we can be part of creating spaces for our community to come together.
Asking for help and support is hard. We fear that we are a burden or our problems are too small to be worth sharing. I want to tell you right now, they are not. People who are not part of the LGBTQ+ community do not have their gender questioned or debated, they don’t consider if they should tell people they are straight, they don’t have to look for themselves in everyday representation because it’s everywhere. The issues we face as part of the queer community are significant, and awareness of these issues is growing thanks to efforts like IDAHOBIT. Asking the LGBTQ+ community and our allies for support means you will be supported with compassion and empathy by people with the same lived experience as you.
When was the last time you asked for something? How did you feel about it? We are often hesitant to ask, especially as adults; we feel we should have our own answers. Asking is simply that, an ask. No one is obliged to give their help, time or support. This means when people do give these things you know that they genuinely want to. Supporting others also helps us find strength in ourselves and gives us insight into our own lives. If you are concerned about asking for what you need from someone you can always check with them first ‘are you in a good place for me to talk about my issues’ and the same applies for you. Like they say on planes ‘put on your own oxygen masks before you help those around you’.
Sometimes we might not feel able to ask for what we need or not have anyone to reach out to. In these situations we can draw on our own strength and be our own allies. Every time we are misgendered or dead named, shout the corrections in our heads. When we hear homophobic remarks from the people around us or in the media confidently remind yourself ‘that person has no idea what they are talking about’. You will find your own way of empowering yourself and have fun doing it. Self-validation is a way of harnessing your power and you are more powerful than you realise.
I hope today brings you optimism that regardless of what is going on in the world, society and our homes there is always someone out there to support you, you might not have met them yet or that person might be you. If you would like to find out more about accessing LGBTQ+ spaces explore the links below. If you can’t find anything in your area the Stonewall website provides a directory of LGBT services and community groups.
- At METRO we offer, sexual health services and advice, mental health support, free LGBTQ+ Counselling for under 25’s and low cost for over 25s, youth groups (currently online) and support for people living with HIV..
- Switchboard LGBT+ helpline 0300 330 0630, also offering instant messaging and email support, open 10:00am-10:00pm daily.
- LGBT Foundation offers advice on how to safely affirm your LGBT identity during lockdown.
- OutLife Forums provides a safe and non-judgemental space for LGBTQ+ people to talk to one another about their issues and life experience. You must be 16+ to use OutLife.
- MindLine Trans+ 0300 330 5468,provides a safe place to talk about your feelings confidentially. They have volunteers with lived trans experience or allies answering to calls as much as possible and are open Mondays and Fridays 8:00pm to midnight.
- Rainbow Friends is a social group for people who identify as LGBTQ and have learning disabilities. They meet on the first Thursday of the month at various London venues. DM them on Twitter for details.