Why do we need a worldwide day to defend LGBT rights?
At least 81 countries in the world criminalize same sex relationships. This means that 40% of the world population (or 2.8 billion people) are not free to choose who they love. Millions of homosexual and bisexual people live in a constant state of fear. In 10 countries, the death penalty can be applied for same sex acts.
A multitude of countries do not offer any form of legal recognition of trans and gender variant people’s true gender. With few exceptions, in almost all countries, which provide legal gender recognition, trans and gender variant people face compulsory psychiatric treatment and in the majority of countries even sterilization if they want their true gender to be recognized.
In Interfaith Week, November 2015, the LGBT Foundation in Manchester held an event called ‘Believing In LGBT Young People‘, which was the inspiration for the Divine Love event I facilitated in Liverpool in LGBT History Month this February.
At this event I met a young playwright and director who was promoting her new play, One Flesh, about an evangelical Christian woman who has fallen in love with another woman and seeks the blessing of her brother, a church pastor.
This is how the play’s flyer describes her dilemma:
Esther and Natalie are in love and want the approval of those they care about. But Esther’s brother, Caleb, thinks that God doesn’t approve.
Should they play things by The Book and cancel their plans for marriage? Will faith and family determine who they love?
As the theme for this year’s LGBT History Month was Religion, Belief and Philosophy, it felt right to explore a way to bring this performance to Liverpool, to supplement the dates already planned for late February in Manchester and Salford.
In the end, the date we set for Liverpool was 5th March, after the end of LGBT History Month, but I took the opportunity at all the previous events to promote the play. (more…)
The last event I spoke at during LGBT History Month in February was the first interfaith seminar coordinated by the LGBT rights charity Stonewall.
The invitation came after I trained as a Role Model to deliver LGBT awareness sessions in schools registered as Stonewall School Champions. I wrote about my first experience as a Role Model in November 2015 here.
I was also invited to appear on a poster for LGBT History Month. As the theme this year was Religion, Belief & Philosophy, the aim of the poster campaign was to show that people can be both LGBT and have faith. You can see a detail of the poster above. During the month Role Model stories were shared on social media – you can read them here and see the poster here. (more…)
IN OCTOBER 2014, the UK Government announced £2 million funding for charities offering creative ideas to stamp out homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying in schools.
In March 2015, eight organisations received a share of the fund, including the children’s charity Barnardo’s, for its plan ‘to provide face-to-face support for victims of HBT bullying and training for staff with a focus on cultural issues in schools in Leeds and Wakefield.’
After a year of consultation and development, what emerged was the Faith Toolkit, a resource to give schools and local communities the tools to effectively address HBT bullying, and support young people. it includes views from all the major religions, as well as an information pack with background to the issue, advice sheets and personal stories from the LGBTQ community. (more…)
Jo Clifford as Jesus Queen of Heaven
One of the few LGBT History Month events in February which tackled the controversial theme of Religion, Belief and Philosophy head on was a performance of a play written and performed in an Anglican Church in Manchester by Jo Clifford, a trans Christian actor portraying Jesus as a trans woman.
I first became aware of the one-person show called The Gospel According To Jesus Queen of Heaven in 2009 when the play’s opening night in Glasgow was attended by about 300 demonstrators. Roman Catholics joined evangelical Christians for a two-hour protest during which they waved placards and sang hymns. I was intrigued and saddened by this, not least because Catholics and Evangelicals are not natural allies historically – each group has condemned the other in the past as being not truly Christian. But such is the strength of feeling around LGBT issues among some people of faith that their opposition can bring them together in ways that ecumenism and interfaith work cannot. (more…)
WHEN I LEARNED that the theme of LGBT History Month in February was ‘Religion, Belief & Philosophy‘, I knew it was a great opportunity for the LGBT affirming faith groups I support – and what better way to raise awareness than through the power of story?
One of the events I facilitated last month did exactly that – Divine Love: LGBTQIA* People & Faith was a free half day workshop hosted by Spectrum of Spirituality, Liverpool’s LGBTQIA (*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex & Allies) interfaith partnership at Liverpool Quaker Meeting House, who generously gave the meeting room for free.
Conservative Christian protestors at Liverpool Pride with police cordon
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.
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.
LGBT History Month has taken place in the UK every February since 2004, organised by Schools Out UK, a campaigning group for LGBT people in education, and taking inspiration from the annual commemoration in October each year in the USA.
It’s a chance to celebrate the lives and achievements of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people from our past and present. Each year it takes a theme from the education curriculum – this year it was ‘Religion, Belief and Philosophy’.
‘It’s a sad, sad situation, and it’s getting more and more absurd.’
So sang Elton John 40 years ago – his lament for a lost relationship could have been written for the Church of England this past month.
At the first full meeting of its governing body this year, the General Synod met this week to respond, among other things, to last month’s meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, and calls for the church to apologise for its treatment of LGBTI Christians around the world.
I wrote a personal response to the Primates’ meeting before it began, not knowing that the truth of what would happen was stranger than any prediction I could make. (more…)