Network message for LGBT History Month 2022

The theme of LGBT History Month 2022 is ‘Art.’ More on this in the second part of this article. LGBT History Month takes place every year.

Some history: the month of February having been chosen for LGBT History Month, from the month in 2003 when the infamous Victorian scale homophobic ‘Section 28’ was brought in by the then UK Government (May 1988), clearly under the influence of extreme anti-LGBT religious and other phobic elements utilising the AIDS epidemic, to de-facto persecute LGBT, and especially gay and bisexual men.

History Month has the dual purpose of celebrating the contributions LGBT people have contributed to the world, all nations, cultures, and society since the earliest of times, AND also to highlight the story and record [to help by this crucially important knowledge, to effect meaningful change in the present] of anti-LGBT persecutions that have taken place in many lands and societies (but NOT all) from the earliest times, but especially the medieval period.

And in regard to the Victorian era (see article below in reference to the British Government’s imposition of ‘Section 377’ under a Lord Macauley) when in many lands across the world that were, after de-facto invasion, occupation, and exploitation by, over centuries those who instituted, directed, and profited by the British Empire. Regarding the harm done by the latter, directed from Whitehall – Westminster, the example of India is instructive: https://m.timesofindia.com/india/ancient-india-didnt-think-homosexuality-was-against-nature/articleshow/4708206.cms

To this day, the UK, has sadly a dark legacy of under it’s British Empire period, particularly it’s Victorian era phase, has a responsibility under a number of 19th Century UK Government administrations, for instituting laws in the British Empire occupied lands that made same-sex love a crime, and gave full rein to anti-LGB elements to persecute (including up to in practice, tormenting, torturing, murdering and of course driving to suicide) those who did not conform to heterosexual values and relations.

As such to this day, the worst homophobic elements in institutionally homophobic countries and cultures that were subject, under occupation, to these UK 19th Century laws, that carried over to post British Empire, modern restoration of independence times, provide legal bulwarks for state supported homophobia.

As LGBT History Month is ultimately about history, and history in the making, it is therefore on this occasion, it gives the LGBT+ Network for Change, great happiness to record that at the end of November 2021 with Barbados [a former British Empire, slave trade era land] chose on becoming a Republic, to institute in it’s new constitution, specific recognition of LGBT equality and human rights, overturning the British Victorian era homophobic laws that have given across many lands of the West Indies, subject to same, powerful support for the most ugly and extreme manifestations of homophobia.

The LGBT+ Network for Change, which originated in and remains directly active in its educational & related work in the pan-Dorset area, concentrates on a number of areas of support for meaningful [non ‘tick box’] Change. These include, but are not limited to challenging and providing educational solutions to the medieval and Victorian era anti-LGBT influences referred to above — such as the evil of LGBTQ+ homelessness, support for the voice of BAME LGBTs, the UK Home Office de-facto anti-LGBT ‘hostile environment,’ work for and with the UK Prison Service (HMPPS) on it’s challenge to establish LGBT & LGBTQ+ safe, prejudice-free custodial environments, and NHS workplaces free of de-facto anti-LGBT prejudice.

At the Bournemouth/Poole/Christchurch and Dorset area level we on the occasion of LGBT History Month 2022, we are Proud to record that through a year long engagement we secured for the BCP area major breakthroughs on our LGBT+ Homeless & Sofa Surfing campaign representation to the area’s Homeless engagement and support panel, with the fantastic result of a Diverse Communities (LGBT and BAME in particular) Homeless Reduction Board multi-agency group being instituted, with the BCP area ‘Community Action Network’ (CAN) having one of their team as coordinator.

Beyond this breakthrough, the Network’s direct multiagency LGBT & LGBTQ+ homeless initiative which was initiated at the end of 2020 has made and continues to make major advance, especially through work with our partner, Dorset Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Steps to Wellbeing programme team.

This article concludes though on an Art and Education note, fitting directly to the Art theme of LGBT History Month 2022.

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It is now ten years since the direct Arts enabled Anti-Homophobia Olympics Legacy Exhibition Project took place at Bournemouth & Poole College’s Art & Design Department (http://ahs-exhibition2012.co.uk/). The exhibition went on to achieve national level importance, including featuring the pull up panels designed by the 25+ BPC Arts & Design Department students at the National Football Museum in Manchester.

At the start of that project, some 20% of those students who subsequently involved in the project dynamically and with enthusiasm, where homophobic: all but one of those particular students made on their own, through facts and knowledge about the origins, nature, and anti-social/socially incompetent, and mental health impacts of anti-LGBT prejudice changed to provide very direct personal commitment to the project because of realisation of the full corrosive & destructive impacts on heart mind and conduct of being enslaved by prejudice & ignorance.

At this time, we/the Network is also delighted to update that we are working with Bournemouth University, through its Events Management team on a new LGBT+ inclusion and anti-prejudice arts related educational project.  This concerns work we are currently undertaking with our friends at Dorset Race Equality Council (DREC) on profiling the special support needs and counteraction of anti-LGBT prejudice and racism challenges our Black And Minority Ethnic (BAME) LGBT+ community face.  The project, led by a Bournemouth University Events Management students team, launches shortly and will focus on an online World/Global LGBT+ related films review and subsequent discussion of learning, event (in early May). 

LGBT+ Network for Change

Website: https://lgbtnetwork4change.com/

Network Team page

Details coming before the end of December 2021. The page will include brief biographical details of the Lead Officer, Chairs and Board, and Advisors. In some cases, where appropriate email addresses of team members will be provided.

Network new Working Name and organisation Constitutional Objects and associated charity structure bring much needed outreach and influence development:

The Network has completed the main stages of it’s reorganisation, which included Charity Commission authorisation of our new Working Name ‘LGBT+ Network for Change’ and adjustment of aspects of our constitution Objects. Both of these bring the Network up to date with its pan-UK and enablement of pan-British Isles activity and strategy, whose development began 2+ years ago resulting from the major impact and nature of our more national to international level work and specialist interest areas successful work record and it’s impacts (reflected in our news items).

However, we have retained as our legal, Charity Commission authorised, founding name of ‘LGB&T Dorset Equality Network’ as this reflects the location of origin and continued activity in a number of areas in this locality; similarly our revised constitution includes specific reference to the pan-Dorset/BCP area, where we maintain a Chapter/branch of the Network. The experience base of this area has been very important in the evolution of the organisation’s work, and in areas such as our LGBT & LGBTQ+ homeless support multi-agency initiative, NHS engagement and partnerships, and with the prison service.

The Network now has to Co-Lead/Chairs of the Board, Ms Erin Greenslade and Mx Mattier Viner; the Dorset Chapter has Fr John Hyde as it’s local Chair.

A Network Team page is being developed for our website, and will be complete before late December 2021.

Network LGBT & LGBTQ+ Homeless initiative update: completion of Bournemouth area consolidation – opening of opportunity for other areas of UK development:

Update: the Network LGBT & LGBTQ+ homeless and hidden homeless multi agency initiative has now (end of November 2021) seen completed preparation of all the main components for it’s Bournemouth-Christchurch-Poole area pilot. The locality, possessed all of the necessary factors for being a pilot that could with some minor adjustments, be able to be utilised elsewhere in England, but for this to be possible the Network had to complete to the right level the Bournemouth-Christchurch-Poole area components.

We are therefore for very pleased to announce this has now been undertaken. In particular the components include:

— Information resources development for NHS mental health support use (the groundwork on this achieved, including with funding support from Bourne Free LGBT Pride, JP Morgan, and others up to Autumn 2021, the expansion and role out phase is commencing from early 2022), including dedicated training for relevant staff

— A BCP Council area Homeless Partnership/Forum to undertake creation of a dedicated Diverse Communities homeless support sub-group, with clear defined LGBT outreach specifics (this has now been established, with the Network playing a key role, linked to delivery of aspects of our LGBT & LGBTQ+ homeless and hidden homeless initiative

— For the conurbation’s FE college to partner with us on FE college specific awareness information resources and related training and signposting mechanisms — now this has been agreed by Bournemouth & Poole College (further to initial flagging up of the key FE age group dimension of our initiative: please see the first news item on: https://lgbtnetwork4change.com/lgbt-history-month-2021/)

— That Dorset Police could be engaged to support the initiative in regard to policing and crime prevention/reduction on safety and safeguarding aspects of experiences of LGBT & LGBTQ+ homeless community members, and most of all ‘hidden homeless / sofa surfing homeless.’ The Network has secured the enthusiastic support of the Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner in conjunction with the appropriate Dorset Police officer, as a result of outcomes of a dedicated Network and DPCC meeting in late October 2021. In early 2022 we shall be completing a training resource and an operational support strategy for Dorset Police’s relevant services and officers, as a result of the outcomes of the meeting referred to

Major advance on LGBT+ human rights protection and UK Immigration achieved through Network contribution to Parliamentary Select Committee inquiry

The Network has long established a record of mobilising scrutiny on the operational level performance of the UK immigration services performance on LGBT & LGBTQ+ safety, equality, and human rights. This has included representations to the Home Office, UKVI, the Immigration Tribunal, and in some cases LGBT organisations with interests in this area, as well as to the NHS England LGBT engagement group.

In particular though our extensive experience and expertise in this area — where we are seeking transparency and accountability at the Home Office and Tribunal, with goal of comprehensive change of culture and practice — we have over recent years had a number of submissions to major relevant Parliamentary Select Committee inquiries.

However, the most recent of these by the highly important and influential House of Commons Women & Equalities Select Committee (Womeq) has been the most significant of all as it has centred on Protected Characteristic Communities (de-facto LGBT in this case) Equality and the UK Immigration system: please see https://lgbtnetwork4change.com/lgbt-network-for-change-provides-submission-to-historically-important-parliamentary-inquiry-into-home-office-immigration-diverse-communities/

We included for example in our evidence about our recent and ongoing work with our LGBT & LGBTQ+ Ugandan community’ in Uganda, and the issues relating to UK Government (FCDO) performance, impacted by the Home Office UK Immigration record on LGBT human rights, and also some concerns on LGBT refugee and asylum applicants category omission from the Census 2021 questions, as well as major themes of concern on very senior Home Office officials treatment of LGBT cases.

Out of about 25+ published submissions only about five were directly from dedicated LGBT organisations (some better known names being absent altogether), with the Network’s evidence being one of these. In addition, one of the other five published submissions came from Bournemouth University: with the Network lead, Alan Mercel-Sanca involved in contributing his/the Network’s knowledge and expertise in this field to help guide and input on an LGBT refugees & asylum seekers and UK immigration research and working group creation; without which the latter would have been all but impossible.

The published paper by the Network will therefore be helping the Select Committee to inform effective scrutiny of UK government officials performance in this area (and indeed more broadly, including better awareness of the Immigration Tribunal dimension), as we have long sought, and contributing to better transparency on that performance at detailed level that will progressively influence for meaningful change.

You can read the Network submission at: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/328/women-and-equalities-committee/publications/written-evidence/?page=5

Network major success for LGBT+ voice in UK prison service — CEO of HMPPS responds to Network representation

The LGBT+ Network for Change (the Network) has achieved a major breakthrough with its LGBT & LGBTQ+ support work with HMPPS (the UK Prison & Probation Service) further to it’s 1.5 years detailed support across healthcare to staff engagement and education at Portland Prison.

Network Lead, Alan Mercel-Sanca, having had substantial engagement with HMP & YOI Portland, at the request of the former Quality Assurance lead of the HMPPS Avon & South Dorset Prisons Group) had undertaken extensive liaison at the prison across much of the period, culminating with a strategic service providers and prison staff meeting at the prison in early May 2021.

Resources to support a culture change on LGBT support needs had been produced by Alan as a result of learning of all of the factors that were holding the prison back on LGBT support, and their deployment has now been secured due to the intervention of the Head/CEO of HMPPS, Dr Jo Farrar: https://lgbtnetwork4change.com/the-lgbt-network-for-change-contacts-the-ceo-of-the-uk-prison-service-on-its-experiences-of-engagement-with-portland-prison-and-the-avon-south-dorset-hmpps/

Dr Farrar has written to the Network confirming understanding of the major issues that had been blocking badly needed improvement, and a ‘change of culture’ at the prison where LGBT engagement and support was concerned. Consequently actions as a result of the Network engagement and concerns highlighted by the Network at the prison. This enabling major improvement at strategic and on the ground/operational level, with a meeting to take place end of January/first week of February 2022 with the Prison Governor, members of the Board of Governors, Equality Lead and other key prison staff, to start progressive implementation and utilisation of the resources developed by Alan/the Network.

Many aspects of the new stage of HMP & YOI Portland relationship are intended to see the prison as a pilot for other HMPPS institutions across the country facing similar challenges due to engrained cultures that are not comfortable with meaningful change and equality on LGBT & LGBTQ+ duty of care, mental health, and inclusion across many domains of prison & YOI institutional services and life.

The Network is delighted to be playing such a clear and effective role in an area of great importance for meaningful support on implementation of LGBT human rights, safety, and dignity, and salutes the CEO of HMPPS for her direct support for change, and similarly Portland Prison).

The LGBT+ Network for Change contacts the CEO of the UK Prison Service on it’s experiences of engagement with Portland Prison and the Avon & South Dorset HMPPS

The LGBT+ Network for Change has had to contact the CEO of the UK Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS), Ms Jo Farrar further to its experiences of engagement with Portland Prison on LGBT support issues across a number of months. The revelations on the real state of the UK prisons and young offender institutes (YOIs) where LGBT, and especially LGBTQ, inclusion, safety, and mental health in HMPPS institutes have been extremely important, on showing the nature and scale of the challenges involved. The Network is very pleased to be engaged in support in this area to all those in UK prisons and YOIs who are LGBT or LGBTQ, both staff as well as inmates/residents.

We have through the formal representation to the CEO of HMPPS raised both major concerns about some aspects of the prison referred to and Avon & South Dorset HMPPS communication & support requests experience encountered by the Network, and on the other, some very positive experiences and opportunity for HMPPS enabled through our work.

We will provide more specific particulars here or on a follow up news article soon, but are pleased to confirm that formal confirmation of receipt of our representation has been received by the Network from the office of the HMPPS CEO.

ONS Census 2021 data analysis to inform policy and government services provision Consultation

The Network has provided it’s submission to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Census 2021 data analysis consultation.

This consultation has the scope and influence to be one of the most important consultation’s within the last 10 years, as Census 2021 data analysis will inform Government departments policy change and scrutiny of Government agencies through to public services and local authorities priorities, funding, and policy interpretation and implementation across all domains of life and equality, inclusion, and anti-discrimination where our LGBT+ and LGBTQ+ communities are concerned.

By taking part (our submission confirmed as received) the Network has provided a service of major importance to our communities, and especially our more overlooked, vulnerable, and poorly supported LGBT sub-population groups (such as BAME LGBTs, LGBT asylum applicants, LGBT homeless, LGBT community members in prisons and YOIs including inmates/residents and HMPPS staff who are LGBT) as well as community members working in the NHS and beyond. We have included too major reference to support on mental health issues and related services improvement.

The consultation participation relates too and builds further on the findings and recommendations on our Census 2021 questions analysis report: https://lgbtnetwork4change.com/network-census-2021-report-provided-to-the-national-statistician-appreciation-for-report-and-for-working-with-the-ons-on-census-data-utilisation/

LGBT+ Network for Change provides submission to historically important Parliamentary inquiry into Home Office immigration & Diverse Communities

The LGBT+ Network for Change has today (Monday 8th November 2021) successfully submitted it’s input to the House of Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee’s formal inquiry into the experiences of Diverse Communities (Protected Characteristics) accessing Home Office asylum related immigration services.

This inquiry is of historic importance to the UK, Parliament, accountability and transparency of Whitehall/UK Government civil servants actions and performance in this very important area for our community across the world and in the UK. For many years the Network has been playing a key catalyst and lead role where the perceived anti-LGBT discriminatory and often brutal and life-threatening conduct of the Home Office/UKVI and Immigration Enforcement, and the Immigration Tribunal, have been concerned.

There is now at last realistic probability of Parliament through the Committee’s inquiry, being able to effect major reform and shine strong light into some very dark places where the anti-LGBT dimension of the ‘Hostile Environment’ is concerned.

We have contributed over recent years a number of subsequently published submissions to related inquiries by WOMEQ, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights. We believe the greatly respected evidence and particular points we provided in these have played a very real part in the movement of alarm in Parliament on the issues involved, that has now culminated in this inquiry. Example questions from the inquiry included:

Are those with certain protected characteristics more or less likely to be granted asylum in the UK? 

What is the nature and extent of UK asylum claims based on discrimination or persecution relating to the protected characteristics? 

What is the nature and extent of the dangers for those with protected characteristics who are seeking asylum in the UK? 

Is the UK asylum process safe and fair for those with protected characteristics? 

Are individuals with certain protected characteristics more at risk of harm or unfair treatment when going through the UK asylum process?

We are delighted to share that earlier today our submission (that included particulars on our direct support/intervention in regard to our Ugandan LGBT community) was confirmed as being successfully received, with thanks, by the Committee.

Network LGBTQ+ homeless initiative update — DPCC and Dorset Police support + BCP homeless partnership advance

The LGBT+ Network for Change (new, working name authorised by the Charity Commission, for the LGB&T Dorset Equality Network) is very pleased to share two major developments for the implementation of our LGBTQ+ homeless and hidden homeless community.

Following a recent meeting with the Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner, Mr David Sidwick, and a senior Dorset Police officer who part of the Dorset OPCC team, and Network Lead Officer, Alan Mercel-Sanca, some groundbreaking outcomes resulted on the police dimension of the Network initiative. These concerning development by the Network of police frontline officers focused LGBT & homeless and hidden homeless (especially LGBT ‘sofa surfing’) issues and needs. These around crime prevention in the areas of abuses and exploitation. We will keep you posted on this development — a very important component on the Network initiative — which is unique, or almost unique in the UK in regard to policing and police & crime commissioner remits.

In addition, further to major effort and work by the Network over many months and helpful engagement with the lead officer of the BCP Council Homeless Partnership/Forum, on the need to have a clear dedicated component of the work of the latter where the distinct, particular issues and support needs of our LGBTQ+ homeless community is concerned, so that all within the Partnership/Forum can have a clear understanding of those needs and their particular backgrounds and characteristics.

A new Diverse Communities sub-group for the Partnership/Forum, has a result been established and will in addition to LGBTQ+ community support mechanisms, also include the particular issues and needs our BAME homeless community encounter, AND same for our Intersectional LGBT – BAME homeless community. The BCP based Community Action Network (CAN) voluntary and community sector support organisation is leading on coordination of the new sub-group with support from the Network, Dorset Race Equality Council (with whom the Network has also had valuable discussions on LGBT BAME community issues collaborative support), Shelter, and other organisations, in conjunction with the BCP Council Homeless Partnership/Forum.

We will keep you posted with more news on these breakthroughs as they are taken forward.