In this guest blog, our member Holly from Say it Loud Club shares the importance of promoting inclusivity at the intersection of two communities.
This week is Refugee Week. A week when the country comes together to celebrate the incredible contributions that refugees have made to UK culture; to recognise the hardships they have faced to do so, the resilience they have had to find. It is also Pride month, a time for similar celebrations and reflections of the LGBTQ+ community. As a community supporting LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, the falling of Refugee Week slap bang in the middle of Pride month is significant to us – LGBTQ+ refugees are where they belong, at the heart of the UK’s LGBTQ+ community.
Sadly, this is not the case most of the year round. It is increasingly difficult for people to be granted asylum in the UK on the grounds of sexuality, with decisions being made on the basis of appearance, religion, and circumstance rather than genuine need.123 Whilst there are some incredible LGBTQ+ individuals and organisations working tirelessly to support LGBTQ+ refugees, mainstream queer culture is inaccessible to many due to financial hardship and fear of discrimination. The same is true for refugee organisations; the support provided is excellent and much-needed, but often avoided by LGBTQ+ refugees who fear homo- or transphobia, or whose experiences are simply very different to other refugees.
Say It Loud Club aims to fill this gap, providing a space where people are understood and supported as both LGBTQ+ people and refugees, rather than just one or the other. Members of Say It Loud Club have access to individual mentoring, peer support, social events and workshops, but most importantly a community of people who understand them, who have gone through similar things, and who can share invaluable advice and encouragement. We also work with partner organisations to help our members find legal support, healthcare, counselling and therapy, housing, and employment in environments that respect and welcome every aspect of their identities and individualities.
“Connecting with other LGBTQ+ people, especially refugees, has transformed my life.”
“I can relate to who I am and not be ashamed of it anymore. I’ve become so confident and have been able to come out as a gay Muslim man.”
“I have learned that I am not alone, and I am safe, as I have my Say It Loud Club family behind me.”
Over lockdown, we have been focused primarily on reducing the isolation felt deeply by our community by running as many online events as possible – providing spaces for people to share skills and learn new creative practices as well as simply be together. This included a special ‘PRIDE: What’s it to me?’ discussion in partnership with Impact Hub King’s Cross. We also found that there was a huge need for emergency support to address lack of food and other essentials, unsafe housing and homelessness, and mental and physical health crises. While it has been an unimaginably tough year for us all, few have felt it more than communities like ours who are overlooked and under-served by the country’s structures of support. Now that we are able to look to the future again, we have been excited to plan and begin new projects: a Housing Project which is finding safe, permanent housing for LGBTQ+ refugees; an Ambassador Programme which provides a pathway to employment for members volunteering within Say It Loud Club.
To find out more about our current work, you can visit our website, sayitloudclub.org, find us on Instagram @sayitloudclub, or email me on [email protected]. Of course, we are also incredibly grateful for donations, which can be made at sayitloudclub.org/donate. We are lucky as an organisation to be constantly growing, evolving, and able to offer increasingly more support to our members. We always welcome the opportunity to work with new people, so if you would like to volunteer, become a partner, or simply have a chat, please do get in touch!
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