2018 GSK IMPACT Awards: Birmingham LGBT

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Part of GSK IMPACT Awards

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  • Posted:Thursday 17 May 2018

Estimates suggest 5-7 per cent of the UK population are LGBT and discrimination can lead to mental anxiety and harmful behaviour. Birmingham LGBT’s inclusive approach reaches marginalised communities, such as LGBT refugees, homeless people, isolated older people and victims of domestic violence. It provides essential health and wellbeing services via its Wellbeing Centre and community outreach programmes including testing for HIV.

Birmingham LGBT is doing much-needed work in offering a wide range of support for this community. What is particularly impressive is the great effort it has made to support some of the most marginalised LGBT communities, which has helped maximise its impact.

GSK IMPACT Awards judging panel

Video transcript

LGBT populations often suffer a lifetime of discrimination, abuse, they’re more likely to have adverse childhood experiences, we know that they experience discrimination in the workplace, they’re less likely to access health services. 

To be a lesbian in Cameroon, it’s against the law, and if caught you are taken to jail. 

Birmingham LGBT centre and its staff offer anybody who walks through the door an inclusive and safe space in which they can flourish.

Birmingham LGBT is very keen to work with all members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community in the city which includes people who are BME, older, younger, transgender, bi. We try and look at people holistically rather than just focusing on the health needs that present. Somebody could come here for a sexual health screen, after that they could then access a yoga class, they could come along for wellbeing support, they could come to film club or a variety of other social activities.

Sometimes you walk through the door, it’s so welcoming, it offers a lot, this is the first time I felt like I can be myself and it’s okay. It is home for me. 

I’m Vanessa, I’m married to Becky, we’ve been married nearly 18 years, I came out as transgender last January.

Our initial concern was telling other people and the centre really helped us think of strategies. Telling our children was the biggest hurdle and luckily they took it well.

Mainstream services are not always set up for the needs of LGB&T people.

As a result of our partnership with Umbrella, which is the sexual health contract for the city, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people have access to sexual health motion services 80 hours a week.

What we’re about is trying to improve people’s sexual health in the broadest sense of things and to do that we have to be able to access people. We need a door that people identify with and they can walk through and feel comfortable with. 

People know that when they come through the door here they can talk openly about the issue that they’ve actually turned up with rather than worrying about whether the person is perceiving them in the right way or is being judgmental. In the last year we had over 7,000 visits from the service users and over half of those were people who access the sexual health services. We provide HIV rapid testing and STI testing over seven days a week. As part of our Chemfidential service we offer access for service users who are engaged in chem sex to safer injecting packs, so that people who are engaged in using drugs, or chems as they’re referred to, can do it as safely as possible. 

We know that we needed more LGBT leaders and allies to raise awareness of the issues the community face. As a result of that we set up a leadership academy. The leadership program it’s a unique program developed by Birmingham LGBT to better empower and equip our LGBT staff to be our leaders of the future. It’s given our staff the confidence to be role models to other LGBT staff and patients that I can do this you can do it too.

I’m so happy that I came to Birmingham LGBT because when I came here I was fractured, I was wounded, I was scared. I just found who I used to be, being lesbian is great, they’re amazing.