The thin blue line – #LGBTHM review part 2

Last time I wrote I set myself the challenge of a series of posts detailing my participation in, and reflection on, LGBT History Month in February. Since then I have been involved in more events and have been recovering from what our local paper called the ‘Liverpool lurgy‘ so this has taken longer than planned. Hope it’s worth the wait.

Christian Voice group protests at Liverpool Pride. PHOTO: Jonathan Jelfs

LOCAL POLICE forces hosted two of the events I spoke at recently. The ‘thin blue line’ of police protection has not always been well drawn for minority communities who experience prejudice and hate crime, but I’m pleased to say that, in my professional experience in the last ten years, local forces have done much to build trust and relationships and support the reporting and prosecution of hate crime.

My first encounter with local police in this way was following the tragic death of Michael Causer following a brutal assault in 2008. Merseyside Police contacted me as lead worker of Liverpool’s longest running LGBT youth group to offer support and reassurance to members of the youth group about how to report hate incidents and hate crime in confidence. The following year Merseyside Police funded Project Triangle, a partnership with the Homotopia festival and several local LGBT youth groups to take ten young people to Poland to meet an LGBT rights group in Warsaw and visit Auschwitz to learn about how hate crime can escalate if it goes unchallenged. The young people took part in making this 60 minute film documenting their experiences. The relationships we made between young people, youth workers and police officers continue to this day.

As a result I have taken part in several events over recent years, including a Hate Crime conference last July at which I met officers from the Community Engagement Team, who invited me to be part of a quarterly Community Advisory Group (CAG) meeting to share examples of good practice and network with other organisations. I spoke at the CAG meeting in January to raise awareness of LGBT History Month and the events I was involved in. I co-presented with Mo Taher, a community development worker specialising in supporting refugees and asylum seekers, especially those who are LGBT and would experience extreme prejudice and harm in their country of origin. We shared this map from the International LGBTI Association of world laws related to sexual orientation:

Through networking at this event I met a Police Community Support Officer with a special interest in working with hard to reach groups including Irish Travellers and the LGBT community, volunteers from a group for people from black and minority ethnic communities and a worker from a project for marginalised and vulnerable women about how we might work together to raise awareness of LGBT issues in their communities.

The second event I spoke at was at Cheshire Police HQ – this came about after I met Kat Stock, the Chair of the Cheshire Police LGBT Network at the LGBT Foundation in Manchester in Interfaith Week 2015. She was looking for inspiration for her LGBT & Faith Masterclass in February, and I was delighted to accept the invitation to be a keynote speaker about my experience in working with LGBT youth and as LGBT Ministry Facilitator for Open Table, a monthly Christian service for the LGBT community in Liverpool, alongside:

  • the Equality & Diversity representative from 5 Boroughs NHS Partnership Tara Hewitt who spoke of being trans and becoming Catholic;
  • Rose Neelam, former director of the Safra Project discussing being LGBT and Muslim;
  • Khakan Qureshi from Finding a Voice, a project for LGBT South Asians in Birmingham
  • Bob and Mandy, who founded LGBT Lincs for parents whose children identify as LGBT when their child came out as trans. Their evangelical Christian faith was deeply challenged by this experience but they have now found a new ministry in peer support for parents. Read their reflection on the LGBT & Faith Masterclass here.

Cheshire Police organised this event in association with Cheshire Fire Service and Cheshire West and Chester Council – the LGBT Champions from all three organisations fielded questions from the floor on how they are progressing with addressing inclusion of and dialogue between minority communities,, and challenging prejudice and hate crime when it arises. A fine example of how working in partnership can make our society safer and more inclusive for all.

Merseyside Police also supported one of the LGBT History Month events I organised in Liverpool last month – more on that in part 3.

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