In this Note, Andrew Kerr, a member of BD Giving’s Board of Trustees talks about growing up as a gay man in Barking and Dagenham, and the changes happening in the borough.
June 2023 marks the 54th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City – arguably the beginning of the Queer civil rights movement – when LGBTQ+ communities took a stand against the ongoing police brutality they were facing.
Pride month represents a celebration of how far LGBTQ+ communities have come in the fight for equality, but also the continued fight for acceptance, equity, and recognition. LGBTQ+ communities are not just a month-long branding and marketing exercise, we are real people who want to be able to live our lives openly and unapologetically.
Unfortunately, in 2023 this is still not possible. That is especially true for trans and non-binary people. In 2021/22, 4,355 hate crimes against transgender people were recorded by the police in England and Wales, a 56% increase from the previous year. This is not even a complete picture. In the 2018 National LGBT Survey, 48% of transgender people said that they were not satisfied with the police response they received when reporting the most serious of incidents, with 88% stating that they did not even report the most serious of incidents.
Black trans women threw the first bricks at the Stonewall riots, and it is unacceptable that trans and non-binary people are still facing such high levels of hate and discrimination 54 years later.
Growing up as a gay man in Barking and Dagenham was challenging. There were no services or safe spaces for LGBTQ+ communities to access within the borough, nor was it possible for us to openly express ourselves in public. Queerphobia, including homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia, were seen and experienced by many LGBTQ+ children and young people in school, which only drove them to internalise the hate and abuse they were facing. To refer to something as ‘gay’ was an insult; a casualisation of homophobia, which often went unchallenged by the people whose role it was to protect and safeguard the children and young people who were in their care. I left school in 2012, and there has not been as much progress or development within this area of education as I had hoped or expected.
That is not to say that no progress has been made, as Barking & Dagenham does have a budding queer scene, which is growing every day. The Council fund and deliver Flipside, an LGBTQ+ youth group, which is led by three fantastic youth workers: Heather McKelvey, Grace Kihu, and Michelle Coleman. The LGBTQ+ Staff Network has been conducting several public-facing events, including professional networking opportunities, a book club, and regular socials. Thanks and praise to Athena Parnell, Carlos Ojelade, and Wayne Trevor. The borough also marches in the London Pride Parade, one of only a few London boroughs to do so, and several venues across the borough also promote the ‘Ask for Clive’ campaign.
As a Trustee for BD Giving, I am proud to be involved with an organisation working towards inclusivity in the borough. It brings me great joy to know that LGBTQ+ staff members and volunteers can work and contribute in a safe space where they can bring their whole selves. BD Giving is rooted in local communities, and their core values of collaboration, inclusion, and learning directly align with the ethos LGBTQ+ communities need to thrive within the borough.
In the 2021 Census, 1.17% of people in Barking & Dagenham aged 16 and over reported that their gender identity was different from the sex they were assigned at birth. 2.28% listed their sexual orientation as either gay, lesbian, or bisexual, which includes those who identify as asexual, pansexual, and queer.
While this likely does not provide a full, accurate representation, it does show us: We Are Here. We Are Queer. We Always Have Been. We Always Will Be.
A Message of Solidarity
BD Giving stands in solidarity with LGBTQ+ communities, both during Pride month and beyond. This includes staff members and volunteers, those who live, work, study, and socialise within the borough, as well as colleagues within our partner organisations. BD Giving stands shoulder-to-shoulder with LGBTQ+ communities in their continued fight for a future which is free from hate, abuse and discrimination.
BD Giving Notes is a bi-monthly blog aimed at sharing some thoughts on running a social infrastructure charity.
Each post focuses on things we have learnt or done; what’s gone well and what didn’t.