FFLAG Networking Day - Sat 18th April 2015

It was a wonderful, encouraging, refreshing and motivating day of meeting up with friends old and new at the Lesbian and Gay Foundation headquarters in the heart of the Manchester gay village. 35 delegates and guests from as far apart as Scotland and Cornwall gathered to celebrate the progress that has been achieved over the past year as well as hear about the challenges ahead.
The day was chaired by Jenny Broughton MBE, FFLAG’s President who welcomed everyone and expressed the sadness we all felt that Sue Allen, FFLAG’s Chair of Trustees, was unable to attend due to sickness.  Bob Allen was asked to pass on our best wishes to her for a swift recovery.
Paul Martin, Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, then addressed the delegates. After thanking everyone for the sterling work done by the delegates, he abandoned the agenda and timetable and led the group in an open discussion on what we felt were the main challenges still facing us. The consensus was that we have made great progress in the UK in many ways but that we are largely a white middle class group.  Many abuses of LGBTQI people happen within religious and ethnic minority groups and we want to be doing better at reaching the people there who are still suffering abuse.
Following this, everyone present had the opportunity to say a few words about themselves and what they are personally about.  It was truly amazing to learn the huge variety and scope of all the good work that is being quietly accomplished around the UK.  Not least of which was Margaret Evans who showed us copies of her new novel “Out in the Wilderness” which describes the huge emotional turmoil faced by a Christian parent with LGBT offspring. 
We also heard about the poster for schools and were able to see the banner which says “families are all different and that’s ok”. This is a positive message and we encourage everyone to spread it wherever we can.
We then had the opportunity to hear from Aashi Gahlot the founder and editor-in-chief at SHOR LGBTQ speak about “Honour and Shame in the South Asian Community”.  This was a deeply moving presentation of the persecutions that she, personally, and many of her fellow South Asians have suffered within their communities because of their sexual orientation or identity.  She had been disowned by her family on two occasions and yet still she refuses to stay quiet. Aashi is boldly championing the cause of those who are suffering as a result of ignorance and prejudice but at great personal cost.
After lunch we heard from Suzanne Brooks from Manchester Parents Support group about just what it means to be ‘trans’, a word that covers a spectrum of different personal identities that the heterosexual community are largely ignorant and  unappreciative of. This, again, included a heart rending account of the trials involved in making a journey that some people have to undergo if they are to truly be themselves. The costs involve physical, mental, emotional and social as well as financial pain over many years.  
FFLAG has historically focussed on helping the families and friends of lesbians, gays and bisexuals because we are largely parents of such people. However, we are actively considering expanding our remit as we engage with more trans people and their families.  We were able to hear from Bob and Mandy about the work they have begun in Lincolnshire as they attended this FFLAG event for their first time.  They are parents of a trans daughter and have started Lincsparentslgbt
The day was a great success and Sue Allen received lots of appreciate feedback back at home which encouraged her greatly.  We look forward to the next time when we can get together again and have that time to learn more and meet up again with those we have come to appreciate so much.


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