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FFLAG News

 

Kristi Barnette, a research student in the USA

'We have been contacted by Kirsti Barnette, a research student in the USA. She would like  to spread awareness of the important issues the LGBT community is facing in American culture.
Kristi has bought to our attention a timeline that provides an informative look at the prejudices and difficulties LGBT individuals have encountered to bring the movement to where it is today. Take a look at Kirsti's website, It makes fascinating reading.'
 

 


 

News from the North

Parents Enquiry North East had a very busy, very hot Northern Pride. On the Saturday we had a tombola stall where we raised £214.00. Our thanks to the generosity of everyone who took part and to our parents and committee for providing some lovely prizes.  I don't think I've been hugged and kissed by so many people in my life  -  lovely!

On the Sunday we had our leaflet stall displaying FFLAG and PENE literature.  This was a much quieter event and we actually got time to talk to people.

Two weeks later we had "Paws with Pride". This is Northern Pride's pet show. It was another lovely day, especially meeting so many nice people and dogs.  My pug Louis had a whale of a time and won the best 6 legs with my son Richard.  2014 has certainly been a busy summer!

 


 

It Gets Better

The Battersea Group was treated to an entertaining and informative talk from Inspector (Response) Jaiye Warwick-Saunders of Barnet Borough, with support from his black Labrador Jake, who made us all laugh at his antics!
 
The theme of “It Gets Better” was based on Jaiye’s coming out experience within his family, school and college friends, the police force and in policing society, all of which threw up issues of their own. 
 
Jaiye was confident, based on his experience, that since he openly and in anger declared himself gay to his stepfather at Christmas, there were positives both for him personally and in the attitudes of wider society. This “getting better” was given anecdotal support evidenced from his original negative relationship with his stepfather to eventually one of a positive nature and acceptance by his stepfather of his stepson’s homosexuality.
 
Indeed he felt well placed to say to the group that it does get better, particularly as he considered he was hit by a “triple whammy” of height (short-arse!), colour and minority sexual orientation, all of which required him to break new ground. In the police force he has become the highest-ranking black and gay policeman in England (but he’s still short!!!).
 
His comments on the issues of violence and homophobic attitudes towards LGBT people from wider societies were a particularly helpful guidance from “a policemen in the know”, ie having to deal with gay issues on a regular basis. Jaiye recommends that LGBT people should be aware of moderate behaviour in certain social aspects, as they might provoke negative reactions from “straight” people. It was self-evident from Jaiye’s talk that his journey has brought him to a place where he is confident, happy and in a fulfilling relationship. From the darker days of coming out to his stepfather it most certainly has got better!
 
Joanne Mason

 


 

Pride

Last night I saw a film which made me laugh, cry and above all CHEER.
 
It is called ‘Pride’, an appropriate title, and it tells of a piece of Lesbian and Gay history of which, I am ashamed to say, I knew nothing.   In 1984, at the height of the Miners’ Strike, a small group in London led by an activist called Mark Ashton set up the LGSM - LESBIANS AND GAYS SUPPORT THE MINERS.   
 
They collected money for the miners’ families but could not donate it directly to the National Union of Mineworkers because Margaret Thatcher had sequestered their funds, so they found a village in the Dulais Valley in the South Wales coalfields, got into their battered old van and took the money to them.
 
 
The film is the story of their relationship with the mining community.  Not without its ups and downs and initial problems of acceptance by the men of the community, they build together a strong and mutually supportive relationship.
 
Although it is a fictionalised account, the main facts and characters are real and after the screening we were privileged to have with us for a discussion David Donovan, the NUM leader in the film, as strong and gentle a man as he is portrayed by Paddy Considine.  It is beautifully directed by Matthew Warchus and acted by a brilliant cast led by Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton.
 
Go and see it.  You will have a wonderful, heartwarming evening and come out filled with pride in our lesbian and gay daughters and sons.
 
Jenny Broughton

 


 

Brenda Oakes

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of FFLAG’s Vice President, Brenda Oakes. We send our deepest condolences to her husband Jim and all who knew and loved her. Brenda was a founder member of FFLAG, a staunch advocate of LGBT rights and she will sadly missed. We will be compiling a full tribute to Brenda, and would much appreciate contributions and memories of this very special person from those who knew Brenda.

 


 

News from the Groups

And Brenda’s work continues through the parents’ support groups that are busy across the country - busy attending Prides, holding meetings and giving talks. 
 
There’s a lovely photo of Joan at the Parents Enquiry North East (PENE) stall at Northern Pride which has got lots of ‘likes of Facebook and Twitter. Joan has put a request out for people to please ‘Like’ PENE’s Facebook page to raise awareness of the support offered by the group.
 
 
 
 
 
Barbara and Lois from Manchester Parents Group helped run the FFLAG stall at London Pride, and it was great to see members of Families Together London on the parade and at Trafalgar Square. Bristol Family and Friends ran the FFLAG stall at Bristol Pride and were joined by Bristol Lord Mayor, George Ferguson. We sent greetings to all the Pride organisations that we are in touch with – and just wish we could attend them all. One particular Pride that is dear to our hearts is Istanbul Pride. We are proud to have a photo of two of the brave mums from LISTAG support group as one of the images on the Home page of FFLAG’s website.
 
 
Alison from Parents of Jewish Gays and Lesbians has shared her personal story as a mother in The Jewish Chronicle, which can be read online www.thejc.com. Parent’s support groups continue to meet regularly. For information about individual groups go to the Support page and click on Parents Group. Margaret reports that New Road Worcestershire Parents group had a good meeting recently.
 “Stuart Bray of Core Assets Fostering, spoke to us about his journey as a gay adopter – now of three children. Core Assets have been in the Stonewall top100 Diversity awards list for four successive years and this year won the top performer in the West Midlands for their commitment to lesbian, gay and bisexual employees and service users. Stuart also runs a support group for lesbian, gay bisexual parents called F.A.B. 
 
A ‘new’ parent also attended our meeting and was greatly helped by listening to the journeys of other parents and sharing the difficult feelings. She was reassured that we all move on and learn to accept and value our children.”
 
A busy summer of Prides and events coming up in the next few weeks. Please get in touch with your news and topics of interest and we will share them on the website or via Twitter and Facebook.
 

 

 


 

FFLAG meets South London Gays

Thank you to all the members of South London Gays who made FFLAG so welcome last week. We were invited to talkto the group on the work of FFLAG and to reflect on some of the experiences of parents today who have a gay or lesbian son or daughter.
 
 
There were some 35 members present, many of whom shared their thoughts and experiences in the Q and A session that followed the talk. The members were particularly interested to learn about relationships between gay sons and their fathers and between lesbian daughters and their mothers.There was also a lively discussion about the role of religion and early years education in influencing society's views of being gay or lesbian.
 
Many of the audience were older men who grew up when being in a sexual relationship with another man was illegal. It was humbling to listen to some of their experiences and to hear first hand of the secrets & half truths that they had to engage in simply to live their lives... and of the broken family relationships because they dare not tell a mother or father that they were gay. As one of the members said. - " I had my first relationship with a man when I was in my twenties in the late 1950s. I was terrified the police would come running up the stairs. I hadn't hit anyone. I hadn't robbed anyone - and yet I was being treated as a criminal just the same."
 
We all agreed that we have come a long way since those dark days, but much still needs to be done. Thank you again to all the SLG members for your warm hospitality and kindness.

 


 

Singing in the rain!

What a fabulous day we all had at London Pride on June 28th. It rained - and some! - but nothing could dampen the spirits, the love, the laughter and sense of community of the whole event. We were joined by lots of friends from the South Asian community. Their teeshirts  & placards with messages of love & support written in Hindi caused huge interest from the watching crowds.
 
 
Parents from Manchester Parents' Group and Bristol Family and Friends had a busy day offering support and information at the FFLAG stall in Trafalgar Square. We were very proud to have our President Jenny Broughton at Trafalgar Square and to have one of FFLAG's founders Frances Nicol join us on the parade.
 
Aashi, Davina  and friends kept us all entertained with an amazing repertoire of Bollywood songs. The singing, the huge FFLAG  banner and proud parents marching along with family members meant that the message of love was seen and heard by all. As always the reception from the crowds was truly amazing: the cheering: the applause: the words of thanks  and appreciation made for another very special Pride.
 
A huge thank you to everyone who took part!
 

 

 

 


 

Join us at London Pride

We are looking forward to seeing lots of friends and supporters at London Pride on Saturday 28th June. FFLAG is part of the Head of Parade walking group which is a really exciting. FFLAG will also have a stall in Trafalgar Square where everyone can meet when the parade is over. The stall will be there throughout the afternoon for anyone to access and talk to FFLAG parents and to be part of a really exciting day.
 
Information for all who will be part of the walking group.
We will be meeting at  12.00 outside the main entrance of Marks and Spencer Marble Arch branch (on the junction of Orchard St and Oxford Street) We will leave to take up our place on the parade at 12.15. The parade sets off from Baker Street and FFLAG/head of parade starting point is at Fitzhardinge Street (by Barclays). We must all meet beforehand as access to the parade area is restricted
(This  M &S branch is equidistant between Bond St and Marble Arch underground stations. To check on underground train times/weekend maintenance visit www.tfl.gov.uk  All groups have to be in place by 12.45 and the parade leaves at 1 o'clock sharp.)
 
We are so looking forward to seeing everyone there. Our contact numbers on the day are 07890558994 or 07715349984. Please keep in touch via Twitter @OfficialFFLAG or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Facebook  - Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. fflag   For more information on the whole event visit www.prideinlondon.org.uk
 
See you there!

 


 

Social Media CallOut

Are you a British gay man in the UK currently in touch with gay prison inmates in the US? Through pen pal organisations or otherwise? If so, our UK-based production company specialising in serious documentaries would like to hear from you for an exciting new project.
 
 
We are making a documentary looking to explore the benefits that these relationships can bring to both prisoners and pen pals. If interested, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in complete confidence.

 


 

Report from New Road Parents - Worcestershire

A busy day on June 9th , as I represented both New Road and Birmingham Parent Support Groups at NEW College of Further Education in Redditch. The small, newly formed LGBT group at the College held their first Pride event. Next year it will be bigger as they grow in confidence and they also hope to take part in the Birmingham Pride march and earlier in the year to do something for LGBT History Month.
 
 
Then later the same day I took part in a protest meeting at Redditch Town Hall against the homophobia and racism expressed by David Small, the 81 year old who was sacked by UKIP for allegedly posting racist and homophobic comments online. Small was elected as a UKIP councillor on May 22, but spent just six days as the UKIP councillor before he was expelled for bringing the party into disrepute. He then stood as an Independent, but resigned his seat when the Police spoke to him. The police in Worcestershire are very hot on Hate Crime.  
 
About thirty people from various organisations and individuals, stood outside the Town Hall with rainbow banners, posters, badges and even whistles. We had a few speeches and assurances that Redditch was not generally homophobic. Councillors from Bromsgrove, including the Civic Chair also took part and the Redditch press were present.
 
Author - Margaret Evans

 


 

The Love That Knows Much Shame

a panel part of the Alchemy Festival in London 2014, discussing whether one can be both LGBT and South Asian in Britain today

I had the honour of partaking as a speaker at The Love That Knows Much Shame on the 23rd of May, 2014, in London. 
This opportunity came about by my accepting and beginning to face my ghosts and my fears.
I run a creative online portal, शोर ! SHOR (www.shorlgbtq.com)
Through SHOR, we tackle the myths surrounding homosexuality and being LGBTQ amongst South Asian society worldwide. 
This is done through creative works such as short stories, poetry and spoken word. 
Recently, we added a new section – Interviews. 
Very recently, we interviewed a mother whose daughter came out to her 12 years ago as a lesbian.
It was specifically because of this interview, that I was propelled to face a ghost of my past- perhaps not just of my past, but of the present and for the future too.
 
My ghost is a familiar one to all:
 
Parents. 
Parents can be frightening and difficult to face regardless of sexuality.
With their own dreams, ambitions and futures set out neatly in a parent’s mind, it can get messy if our own journey doesn’t fit their plan. 
My sexuality created/creates issues both for myself and my parents. 
But now, I try and see the bigger picture. 
I try and take the responsibility of trying to make my parents see me for me- not for my sexuality. 
I don’t want them to see me as their “lesbian” daughter, but I want them to see me as their daughter.
True, I want them to accept me whole heartedly, rather than in hushed tones. 
But how can they do that when I cannot completely do that myself? 
Coming out, acceptance from others and self acceptance certainly cannot be force fed. 
These are organic, works in progress that need the time and space to grow.
Speaking at the panel, having the opportunity to share my experience and my insight was truly an honour.   
The panel made me realise how activism, how trying to make the world a better place, has to start from within. 
I spoke about being estranged from my family for 4 years from the age of 19, my sexuality being the catalyst.
I spoke about the shame and disgrace my parents have had to face, especially whilst I was away. 
I proudly spoke on my recent opportunity to work with FFLAG, through translating a guide book (English-Hindi) for parents who have had a child come out as gay or bisexual to them.
I touched on the difficulties faced by my parents but due to a lack of time, I couldn’t delve further.
 
What is it that we need to un-weed?
Is it family shame?
The rejection?
A parents fear- regardless of sexuality, but I feel prevalent within LGBTQ societies- is the trepidation that their child will not have a “proper” family or any offspring.
 Not to add the ultimate fear… what if my child gets left on the shelf? 
Shame and dishonour are definitely factors, but I refuse to believe that these hold more power than the efforts of making homophobic people understand firstly that homosexuality is not a choice, and that homosexuality is about whom you fall in love with and are attracted to.
 
Making people understand this is certainly not easy due to the stigma surrounding the topic.
As I write in Hindi, try not to be afraid of what society says, your child is not impure or abnormal; or as I write, there is no shame in supporting your homosexual child, I am forced to face the fact of how difficult it can be for a parent to wholeheartedly agree.
Society can be ruthless in making a mockery out of difficult family situations and supporting your homosexual child can have you accused as a bad parent – issues that we explore through the translation.
However, what drives me on is hope - the hope that although it may be frightening for a parent, it is possible for a parent to understand and accept their child for whoever they are. 
Devi, the mother whom we interviewed, made a remarkable journey through the 12 years since her daughter came out. Whereas Devi had cried for days and felt ashamed and angry at her daughter initially, she now not only accepts her daughter for who she is, but accepts her daughter’s partner.
 
I can’t help asking;
 
How do we accept not just others, but also ourselves? Perhaps these two are conjoined - Irrelevant and disempowered without the other?
Our work forces me to face my life - all my actions that I am proud of, but also those that make me uncomfortable and not so proud.
Something that has made me uncomfortable is the fact that I have had to come out - again.
 
Having been away from “home” for 4 years, coming back to my traditional Indian family was a confusing culture shock of sorts. 
I was told not to reveal my life to others in the family or share any of my experiences for the fear of shame. 
For example, I remember being hushed when I wanted to speak on a Greek holiday that my then girlfriend’s family had taken me on. 
This was hurtful but more than that, confusing for me.
I wanted to share my life with my family and tell them the experiences I had had.
I couldn’t understand why I had to be so careful on what I said when all I’ve ever want to say is the truth. 
 
Now I understand that my parents were themselves going through a process and a roller-coaster of emotions, just like myself.
Very soon, the elation felt by both my family members and I, began to dip. 
To the surface emerged the anger, betrayal and hurt felt by us both. 
This was a very difficult time and I am so grateful to have got through it.
My then girlfriend broke up with me and I lost her support.
Call it denial, fear, shock, heart break or the innate instinctual adaptation to situations in order to defend and protect myself, I convinced myself that I like men and from now on, will “move on” from women. 
I believed this with all I could, and ignored that space inside me that felt like a void - that space I refused to face.
My cousin asked: “I heard something disgusting about you. People said all sorts of things…”
I replied: “No it’s not true”
My uncle asked: “People say that you’re a lesbian. Is it true?”
I felt especially sick and quickly replied: “No. I am not that.”
Another cousin who is connected to a priest in India told me that this priest had revealed that I will be marrying in a few years, and my husband will be someone who starts off a business, initially not doing very well, but then doing exceptionally well. 
This confirmed to me and I felt the relief that yep, I have “moved on”.
No more pain.
No more rejection. 
I can forget about being gay.
Then one day, around a year or so later, I was sat in a Hindi lecture at University. 
We were reading a short story by an author named Ugra. This story was homophobic and compared homosexuals to paedophiles. 
This woke me up.
I was ready to face that void inside me.
I was ready to come out again. 
Firstly, I first spoke up against the story in class and emphasised how unfair the portrayal was.
Then I came out to my lecturer.
Eventually I came out again to my father, who now completely accepts me for who I am. 
I came out to my brother spontaneously in our garden, whilst we were having a casual cigarette. This was the day after a protest in London against Section 377: the global day of rage. 
It clearly made him uncomfortable and he told me to be careful of the family finding out on my work and my being gay. However, I have noticed that since this day, my brother and I have bonded better than ever before. I feel that the sexuality thing is now being forgotten, no longer a thorn and that at last, I am just his older sister.
When I came out to my teenage cousin, she didn’t look surprised and said that she had heard something about this. She was supportive and asserted that she will always stand up for my rights. Refreshingly, she casually added that her best friend is gay.
 
I have asked myself, I have asked my friends and allies: do I deserve to be fighting for LGBTQ rights and running a portal on trying to make things better when I still am not out completely? 
My friends say, yes.
Do I say, yes?
I have not felt good about myself for having to have come out again, but I know that I never lied. 
More importantly, my heart is in my work.
I convinced myself after coming back home that I can marry a man, even though within the core of my heart I knew something was not right about this and that I can never love a man.
All I have wanted is my family and to be accepted. 
I could have sacrificed my feelings for that stamp of approval at one point.
I felt like a kid who has done really well at school and is revealing top grades for a piece of work when I told my mother and myself a few weeks after coming home in 2009, that I like men. 
Sounds silly, but my mother gave me a smile that I have never before seen in my life and an acceptance that I have never received before. 
That was short lived.
Not only because I am gay and cannot marry a man, but because I now understand that another person cannot be responsible for someone else’s happiness.
Even if I married a man, then this would not solve my family’s problems.
So now, I forgive myself for having to come out once again. 
 
I hope that through my work at both FLLAG and SHOR, I can help not just parents but LGB persons themselves to understand that sexuality does not define you. 
Yes, it is important and a human right to be accepted for who you are, but that acceptance will be an individual process that cannot be rushed.
Our work at SHOR and the Hindi translation at FFLAG are not magical answers to acceptance but are important resources contributing to the individual journey that must be taken by all regardless of whether one is a parent whose child has come out, is a young LGBTQ person already or in the process of coming out - whatever stage that maybe.
 

Author - Aashi Gahlot

 


 

Churches unite in Croydon in support of LGBT equality

In brilliant sunshine, on Saturday 17th May 2014, FFLAG supported eight local church groups in Croydon as they joined with eight local LGBT groups to celebrate IDAHO Day * in the busy central shopping precinct of Croydon, south London under the banner of “ONE LOVE”.

It was gratifying to see churches actually supporting LGBT rights and taking a stand against homophobic bullying in such an exuberant , colourful and positive way.  Joyful music was provided by the ‘Endurance Steel Orchestra’ and ‘Happy Noise’, a brass band recruited from within the LGBT community.   The articipating churches were the Croydon M

ethodist Circuit,  St John Church the Evangelist Upper Norwood, St Stephen’s Norbury and Thornton Heath, Croydon Unitarians,  The Regeneration Project,  Purley Quakers,  Metropolitan Community Church, Balham and Quest – a group for LGBT Catholics.

In addition the ‘Rainbows  Across Borders’ group who are composed of LGBT asylum seekers from a number of countries provided songs and dance.  The members have many harrowing stories to tell.  Bruce and Janet Kent who ran the FFLAG stall spoke with one dear lady from this group who was forced to flee from Uganda, leaving her husband and four sons because of the homophobia in that country.  She is still unable to return safely to see her loved ones.
 
The event was endorsed by Rev. Steve Chalke  MBE, founder of the Oasis Trust who said, 
“One Love demonstrates that there is a growing move towards a more compassionate rounded, thoughtful and consistent approach to sexuality within the Church. I am extremely encouraged that LGBT groups and churches in Croydon are working together and I hope that this event serves as a reminder that the Church’s mandate is to love and serve the whole community, reflecting the truth that we are all uniquely made in the image of God.”
 
The Bishop of Croydon, The Right Reverend Jonathan Clark also said, 
“The Archbishop of Canterbury has recently launched a campaign in schools against homophobic bullying, and I am pleased to know that this event will seek to encourage people to be accepting of others regardless of their sexual orientation. The Church of England seeks to be inclusive of all, and I hope that this event for IDAHO will encourage people to see the church as somewhere that they can find a place.”
 
These were encouraging words indeed, although not mirrored by everyone.  Two sincere and devout Christian ladies made sure that they pointed out to Bruce and Janet that gays will all burn in hell forever if they don’t turn from their evil ways and that FFLAG supporters are instruments of the devil himself!
 
So there’s still room for progress to be made.  Overall, however, the event was well received by the people of Croydon.  One young lady, hurrying to work that morning, who didn’t know the event was to be there said that it had made her day to see us all out there making a stand.  Many people of all ages were able to take a booklet or leaflet or have a chat and be encouraged that even among the Christian denominations changes are beginning to happen.
 
  
 
*  May 17th is celebrated as the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, often referred to as IDAHO. It marks the anniversary of the day in 1990 when homosexuality was removed from The World Health Organisation’s list of mental disorders.
 

 


 

The Love That Knows Much Shame

Can you be both LGBT and South Asian in Britain today?

The Love That Knows Much Shame is a panel discussion on being LGBT and South Asian in Britain today, 

takingplace  as part of the fifth anniversary of Southbank Centre’s Alchemy festival (15 -26 May), produced in partnership with Bobby Tiwana of Safar (Beneath the Surface).

The arrival of Same Sex Marriage legislation was a catalyst for the panel discussion. LGB Theatre Producer and Cultural Activist Bobby Tiwana says, “On the one hand we’ve had this landmark milestone in equality for gay men and women, and on the other we’ve still the situation where most South Asians still feel unable to come out to their parents and families. As a South Asian gay man I understand the status quo and feel compelled to start a discussion about it”

FFLAG is delighted to have been invited to be part of this important event and we are so pleased that Aashi Gahlot will be representing FFLAG on the discussion panel. Aashi is the founder of SHOR (www.shorlgbtq.com) and we are currently working together to produce some of FFLAG’s resources in Hindi.

Panel Discussion 23 May, 6pm: Free Event. Southbank Centre, London SE1 8XX www.southbankcentre.co.uk

 


 

A 'Thank You' to Janet

We want to say a huge ‘Thank You’ to Janet who is standing down as co-ordinator of SPLAGWales.

She is an inspiration to so many and her dedication and drive has made SPLAG the success it is today. She has produced 50 editions of the SPLAG newsletter which has offered insight, understanding and opinions on so many topics affecting parents and their LGBT loved ones.

The final edition of the newsletter went out in March.

SPLAG helplines continue to be run by Hilary and Jan and with Murray’s help all other aspects of SPLAG’s work will carry on.

There is a new email address This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We all send our love and very best wishes to Janet and her husband Paul.

 

FFLAG's Prison Visit

Sue and Bob Allen accepted a recent invitation for FFLAG to talk about our work to inmates at HMP Ashfield, Bristol. Ashfield is a category C adult male establishment with 397 prisoners currently on role. Last year a GBT peer support group was set up called Real Voices, for those who identify as GBT. The group is also open to anyone with a shared interest in all matters GBT and is run by the prisoners for the prisoners. There is a Real Voices representative on all 4 wings and the chair person and secretary carry out regular wing walks to speak to the reps and other prisoners about any concerns they may have.
They hold regular monthly support meetings and drop-in sessions. They have visits from healthcare organisations, guest speakers from other departments and outside agencies who offer additional support. 
 
Sue reported
‘Equality Manager Hannah Jaine met us and after the obligatory photo shot and body search, took us to the room where the event was being held  & where the gay men’s choir was in full flow. We were introduced to the compare and chairperson of Real Voices, a transgendered male to female. Poems and more songs followed with noisy performances of ‘YMCA’ and ‘I Am Who I Am!’ We were then introduced and spent about 30 minutes talking about the work of FFLAG and our own personal stories. Lots of questions were asked, notably about support for BME families and children with gay parents. The time went very quickly and before we knew it, it was time for lunch and they all disappeared, but not before many of them came to thank us for attending and how impressed they were with the work that FFLAG does. Hannah then gave us a conducted tour of one of the wings where we were invited into the compares’ room to see what the accommodation was like. I asked her how she was treated by the staff and other inmates and she said on the whole very well. She is able to wear her own women’s clothes, make up etc.’
 
Overall we were very impressed by the whole ethos at Ashfield around sexuality and gender issues and it is hoped by them that we will return soon.’
 

 


 

Joe Godwin's visit to Battersea


The 8th of March 2014 was a beautiful spring day which brought many of our members out, and we welcomed JoeGodwin for a second time to our meeting in Battersea. As Director of BBC Children’s Television, Joe Godwin is responsible for all of the BBC’s services for children – the two digital channels, CBBC and CBeebies and their websites.
 
Joe spoke about the strides which have been made in the portrayal of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) families; far from the days of “Are you being served” and the “Carry on Films” thankfully.
 
Joe emphasized that his aim and that of the BBC Children’s Section is not just about looking at LGBT programming in isolation, but to look at the broader based issues of Diversity-ethnicity, disability, gender roles and sexual orientation.
 
He said that if CBBC and CBeebies programming makes people think about their attitudes to difference a lot would have been achieved. Joe thinks that although there have been improvements in the programming of LGBT people, that there is still a lot to be done with “normalizing” their lives. His aim within the BBC is to encourage children to understand and accept difference as the rich diversity of all human beings.
 
We had a lively discussion following Joe’s initial talk and thanked him for giving up his time to be with us, and to share the exciting news of new developments in programming of LGBT people. We look forward to the broadcasting of a fascinating new programme which will be aired in September 2014 on CBBC. 
 
By Joanne Manson 

 


 

Setting up Ricochet

When I arrived in Bridport three years ago, there was no support group for parents of gay children in Dorset; or further west in Devon and Cornwall; or further east in Hampshire. The only group in the whole peninsula was the long established Bristol Families & Friends. Finding Families Together London had been such a relief when I learnt that both my children were gay and I knew there must be parents near my new home who would be feeling as I had once. 
 
I wasn’t sure where to begin in starting a group from scratch. What should I call it? Where would it be based? Would I have to pay to advertise? Would I be inundated with enquiries?  Or would I struggle to track down anyone who could possibly be interested? If people did come, would I be any help to them?
 
I got lots of friendly advice from the Intercom Trust in Exeter – and from FFLAG, of course. And, having spent almost two years attending sessions at Families Together London, I knew what success ought to look like.
 
The order of play went something like this:
 
Come up with a name. 
 
Buy a mobile phone and record a message welcoming callers to the helpline. Keep phone close by, all the time. Expect broken sleep.
 
Design website, ricochet-dorset.org using a free and easy design site called Weebly.  Get site hosted.
 
Plan monthly meetings, on a Saturday afternoon so that people who work can come along.
 
Find a venue. I wanted somewhere central, inexpensive, anonymous, unconnected with the gay world. Some of the old community fire-stations offer rooms for free so that’s what we’ve gone for now. For the first two years we hired a room.
 
Write a press release announcing the launch of the group. Expect to write a press release once a month thereafter to advertise the date of the next meeting.
 
Expect to put your hand in your own pocket to pay for it all. I calculated that in my first year I spent about £500 on venue hire, mobile phone rental, printing, website hosting and so on. It sounds more bearable if you think it’s less than £10 a week. Some groups ask for a contribution from parents who come along. 
 
Four couples came to Ricochet’s first meeting. They had read about the launch of the group in the Dorset Echo and had rung the helpline to find out more. They felt confused, isolated, and daunted. One mother couldn’t speak. More than one clutched tissues. I found I didn’t really have to say anything. The main thing was to listen. Talking to each other that first afternoon made an immediate difference. Many who came to those early sessions still come two years on to help make newcomers welcome and reassure them that things do indeed get better. People come from across the region and we have even had enquiries from the Channel Islands.
 
Our group is still small. Some months we may be as few as three sharing our stories over a cup of tea or coffee. Our biggest session was last July when a lesbian couple and their third child joined us to talk about gay parenting. This summer, we plan to invite two men who have adopted successfully and some of us will be going to Bourne Free, Bournemouth’s pride festival to publicise Ricochet and to hand out leaflets. 
 
It would be wonderful if there were a network of accessible groups to reach everyone across the country. It takes courage to set up your own group but the rewards are fantastic. It is a great way to make new friends and to spread the word that being gay is just another version of normal.

 


 

News from New Roads Parents, Worcestershire

New Road Parents Group met on the evening of Shrove Tuesday at our usual venue - a private house in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. We enjoyed pancakes and welcomed two ‘new’ parents – one of whom had contacted me whilst working in the Far East. They had been living out there for several months and their son had come out to them when he visited them a few weeks ago and she was still feeling surprised and raw. She had looked us up on the internet and was surprised to see that our meetings took place only two roads away from their Bromsgrove home! She was back in the UK in time so she bravely came to the LGBT History Month family-friendly event funded by the District Council at the Arts Centre in Bromsgrove on February 6th. So too did the other new parent, who has a gay daughter, so Irene Dudley and I had met them before our meeting of the group. 
 
 
On March 4th there were eight of us parents present. We had a guest speaker Matthew Lacey from Worcester Community Housing Trust who had heard me briefly talking about the parents’ support group on Free Radio and had contacted me following this. He spoke about his own journey in coming out and the equality policies that are in place in working environments now. These were not in place when he was first in the navy and then in the police force. He had been made to leave the navy despite a successful career and no wrongdoing, simply because he acknowledged he was gay. It was a most informative and interesting talk from a very personable guy, and we learnt a lot. He also said he had not considered how parents might react, so he was just as interested to learn from us.
 
 
The History Month event at the Artrix was well attended and the Wizard of Oz was also shown as a free film. Our New Road Parents stall was one of many in the display to do with equality and diversity, and the police had a stall drawing attention to Hate Crime and how it is tackled. One of our parents had also managed the display stall in Redditch on February 1st – the first time there had been an exhibition presented there in the Library. It included a poster exhibition ‘Living my Life: Celebrating the Lives of Trans People’ which was shown in both towns.  Bromsgrove and Redditch Councils collaborated with LGBT History Month and a glossy leaflet was produced advertising the events and displays in various venues throughout the month. 
 
New Road Parents meet alternate months with the Birmingham Parents’ Support Group and there is some crossover with members attending both - some who travel from as far as Coventry.
 
Margaret Evans
 

 


 

Prayers for Bobby

As part of LGBT History Month, Rev. Sharon Ferguson, Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, (LGCM), and pastor of Metropolitan Community Church North London in Camden invited a representative of FFLAG to a showing of the film “Prayers for Bobby”. Bruce Kent, FFLAG Trustee and his wife Janet attended.
 
After the film, Bruce and Janet led an open discussion about the issues that this film raised.  ‘Prayers for Bobby’ is based on the true story of the life and legacy of Bobby Griffith, a young gay man who killed himself in 1983 due to his mother's and their church community's homophobia. The film stars Ryan Kelley as Bobby Griffith and Sigourney Weaver as his mother, Mary.
 
Mary did, after much soul-searching, eventually manage to come to understand the horrific errors of the fundamentalist Christian church teachings and went on to be a powerful force for change as an early member of PFLAG (The American counterpart of FFLAG).
 
This film is an emotionally harrowing story for anyone who (themselves or a loved one) has suffered as a result of religious intolerance of LGBT people.  Bruce and Janet were able to talk freely about their own religious prejudices and the heart rending trauma this caused when their own son came out as gay and the ongoing work of FFLAG to support families in similar situations.
 
Bruce, himself, said “I tried to read the book three times before I was able to finish it.  The image of Bobby, with all hope gone from his life, falling backwards over the freeway bridge into the path of an oncoming truck, was too much to prevent the tears from flowing freely.”
 
The discussion in Camden with the delightful MCC and LGCM members and their guests, was, at times, deeply moving, as different ones contributed their own insights and experiences.  Some found the film truly helpful in understanding more of the conflicts that parents face when their strongly held religious beliefs come into violent conflict with their acceptance of their dearly love children.  
 

 


 

A Lush Day

On Saturday Feb 8th, two FFLAG mums spent a very worthwhile (though chilly!) day standing by a table loaded with FFLAG literature near the door of the Exeter branch of Lush (the organic soap & cosmetics company).  
 
We had been invited there to publicise FFLAG and all we do at a time when LGBT rights were high on the news media agenda due to Russian President Putin’s notorious comments effectively equating ‘homosexuality and paedophilia’ and telling the gays ‘…just to leave the kids alone please’.
 
Lush, who provide significant financial support to FFLAG already, were running a ‘Sign of Love’ campaign in the run up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics hosted by Russia.  They were encouraging customers to paint pink triangles on themselves as a sign of solidarity with Russia’s LGBT community.  Lush itself has many shops in Russia and it was unclear if participating in these would be in violation of the country’s ban on ‘gay propaganda’.
 
So what was the response of customers to us?  Well, in general, it was very British!  It was a busy day (despite the wind and rain) and the mainly young female customers glanced at us as they came in and out.  Some even stopped to look.  Some mentioned us to the friends they were with.  And then, throughout the day, some people stayed and talked to us about moving, heart-warming, personal and profound issues in their lives or lives of those they knew or loved.  Perhaps that we were so obviously there in support of children who we love and respect had something to do with their openness.  Perhaps they just wanted an opportunity to talk through matters of concern to them and theirs.  Some people asked for information.  Some people even told us about help and services they could offer.
So was it worth it?  Yes! And a big thank you to Lush for providing the opportunity.

SHOR

We are delighted to be working with SHOR, an online portal reflecting the experiences of South Asian LGBTQ people and their families and friends. We feel privileged to be able to share a moving interview of Devi, a mother of South Asian descent and the struggle she faced on learning that her daughter Davina is lesbian. Devi was interviewed by Aashi Gahlot and her story appears on our website under My Story. 
 
In Hindi, ‘SHOR’ means to break the silence and to make some noise. To find out more about the way SHOR works to help educate and inspire others to be themselves and accept others for who they are, visit SHOR

Devi's Story

With kind permission from SHOR we have published Devi's story.

Click here to read more...

 


 

Sign of Love

 
 
FFLAG is delighted to be part of Lush Cosmetics 'Sign of Love' campaign in February. The campaign is being run as aprotest at the oppressive anti-gay legislation in Russia in the face of the Sochi Games. 
 
 
Events for the campaign are being held at Lush stores internationally - that is apart from Russia where it would be seen as breaking the anti-gay laws. 
 
FFLAG parents have been invited to be part of the Sign of Love campaign at the Lush store in Exeter, Devon on February 8th, to raise awareness of FFLAG's work and the support on offer. 
Lush in Oxford are holding a Sign of Love event and Charity Pot party for FFLAG again on February 8th. 
Lush in Leicester gave a very warm welcome to founder member of FFLAG and of Leicester Parents Support Group, Betty Walker. 
 
We are extremely grateful for the Lush their continued and ongoing support.

 


 

LGBT History Month

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans History Month takes place every year in February. It celebrates the lives and achievements of the LGBT community.
 
 
There are events being held across the country. Parents Support Groups in towns and cities from Birmingham to Truro, from Bristol to Manchester are involved. There will be LGBT book displays in libraries and LGBT Historical Tours across 
the country too. FFLAG Patrons Peter Tatchell  and Ian Rivers are very involved in LGBTHM.Peter will be giving a talk on the struggles for LGBT rights from 1958-2014 and Ian is a Patron of LGBTHM.
 
As part of LGBT History Month FFLAG Trustees are taking part in Pride in Plymouth's 'We Are Family' event on February 8th.'We Are Family' is a free daytime community event with a focus on alternative families, same sex parents and equality & diversity issues. In addition to giving a talk on the work of FFLAG, we will be taking part in a live panel debate headed by Shaun Delenty (Founder of Inclusion for All).  
 
For a full calendar of events visit LGBT History Month Website
 

 


 

FFLAG Parents take part in Video

The Equality Network have published: 'It's Time' - Scotland's equal marriage video campaign. 

We are really proud to have taken part in this amazing campaign


 

Thank You Emily!

We are really sorry to be saying goodbye to our wonderful Treasurer Emily Kent. Emily has been  Treasurer for the past five years and has worked tirelessly to set FFLAG’s finances on the sure footing they are today. Emily has volunteered her time whilst busy bringing up four young children and setting up a new business with her husband. The Trustees all wish Emily and family every success in the future and thank her for all her hard work.
 
This means we are now looking for a new Treasurer! So if you or anyone you know would be willing and able to volunteer we would love to hear from you. Emily has kindly agreed to do a full hand over of the role. The Trustees meet quarterly in Bristol and ideally we would like the Treasurer to attend most of the meetings. Travel expenses would of course be paid.
 
Do please contact us by email or through Facebook or Twitter
 
Once again huge thanks to Emily and we look forward to hearing from a potential new Treasurer soon!
 

 


 

We received this lovely “Thank You” to put in to the annual FFLAG Newsletter.  We were so moved we wanted to share it with as wide an audience as possible and put it out on our website. Receiving something like this makes us renew our efforts in supporting our LGBT loved ones and their families. 

Coming Out & Thanks 

In my early teens I always thought that I was different but I was not really sure why or what that difference was. As the years went on I came to realise that I was most likely gay and that my life was somewhat different from that of my family and friends. I don’t think I was afraid to tell my family, more that I was still discovering who I was and needed to work that out for myself. I grew up in a rural location where there wasn’t much of a gay scene, the time I did spend on that scene was secretive and based around little white lies of where I was going and what I was up to. A combination of me living a ‘secretive’ life and wanting to travel, I decided to take a year out and go travelling.
 
I was the other side of the world and found myself in my first relationship. It was all very new and quite exciting and I found myself wanting to share this with my family. I took the easy option and decided to embrace technology and text my sister that I had met someone. After a short exchange of messages I had confirmed that that someone was a man and I was gay. It wasn’t long before the whole family knew and my mum was trying to plan a ‘coming out party’ I had always known in my heart that my family would still accept me but there was always that worry. I don’t  know why but my biggest fear was that my dad would not hug me again if he knew I was gay. A fear completely unfounded but one of the many different fears & emotions you experience when coming out. 
 
As you can see I have had very easy and pleasurable experience in coming out, so much so I even joked to my family about it being a bit of an anticlimax with no dramas! Though we all know there are still many, many people who’s coming out is not that easy and happy experience and these people and their families need support, encouragement and love. This is where the Mums and Dads of FFLAG play such an important role with their dedication to support the families of the LGBT community. These parents are continuing to fight for pure equality for their and others children. On behalf of myself, my friends and the LGBT community I would like to thank the parents of FFLAG for their ongoing support, love and the fight they have fought to make our lives better. 
 

 


 

 

Celebrating an historic moment!

Equal marriage is now enshrined in law. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill received Royal Assent on July 17th. The first same sex couples will be able to marry sometime in the middle of 2014 when it is enacted. This is a truly momentous time for all those who have fought so hard for marriage equality. So many organisations have worked alongside one another to make this happen. As parents it has been uplifting to hear the powerful and poignant speeches made in both
 
Houses of Parliament. Lord Jenkin of Roding spoke of ‘the character of love which marriage reflects – faithful, stable, tough, unselfish and unconditional’ and that the passing of equal marriage ‘was a victory for common sense’.
There have been some difficult times as the bill made its way through both Houses of Parliament. We have had to listen to some very unpleasant and hurtful speeches from those MPs and peers who vigorously opposed the bill. There were wrecking amendments and attempts to derail it at every stage. However pro­equality campaigners maintained the pressure to ensure the passage of the bill.
 
Vigils were held outside Parliament as the bill was voted on at each reading.
Pro­equality campaigners held a day­long vigil outside the House of Lords as the bill had its Third Reading on July 15th. We were so pleased that we were able to be there as the bill was approved by the peers. It felt very special to be part of such an historic and welcome day for our gay and lesbian sons and daughters.
 
‘Gay marriage is something I believe we can be proud of as a country’ David Cameron

 


Becoming President - Jenny Broughton

To have been asked to be President of FFLAG is a great honour and privilege, and I am very conscious that I am following in the footsteps of a remarkable woman, Rose Robertson.
 
Having been a founder member, FFLAG and its work are very dear to my heart and I will do my best, as President, to make a useful contribution to that work.
We are all aware of the amazing progress which has been made since FFLAG was set up in 1993 and I am very proud of all our members who campaigned with the LGB community for the repeal of Section 28, Equalisation of the Age of Consent, Gays in the military and Civil Partnerships among other issues. It was a bumpy ride at times but we were in such good company!
 
This legislation was crucial in the fight for equality but it does not immediately change hearts and minds and there are still families who find the issues difficult to cope with and this is where FFLAG can help. We can give information and support and because we are all out and proud parents of gay and lesbian daughters and sons, in my case a wonderful daughter, our support comes from a personal awareness of the journey many parents have to take.
 
The future holds more challenges, particularly in the crucial area of respect for diversity in children of primary school age, their parents and their teachers. I look forward to working with my wonderful colleagues to continue this work until the day comes, (hopefully in my lifetime!) when we are no longer needed".
 
Jenny Broughton ­ President FFLAG

 


 

Lush Charity Auction

"FFLAG was recently invited to Lush's Charity Auction at their annual international conference in Windsor. Lush Charity Pot has kindly supported FFLAG in the past. Lush Charity Pot supports grassroots charities working in the areas of animal protection, the environmentand human rights.
 
We were invited as a representative of human rights charities – because gay rights are human rights.
 
It was wonderful to meet Lush staff from around the globe and to have time to talk to so many people who felt so passionately about the work that they do – and the charities Lush supports. Before the auction, Trustee Sorrel Atkinson was asked to give a short motivational speech about the work of FFLAG.
 
'It was a bit nerve­racking to stand up and talk in front of 600 people. The atmosphere was electric and when I said that I was the out and proud mum of a gay son, I was met with whoops and cheers.' said Sorrel.
 
"Everyone was so attentive and interested in the work that FFLAG does. It was the most amazing evening. The auction was completely whacky – introduced by a pantomime cow. Items auctioned included everything from a Vivian Westwood signed teeshirt to an all expenses paid trip to Guatemala."
 
Although there isn't an exact figure yet, the donation from the Lush Charity auction is set to be the largest single donation that FFLAG has ever had. The generosity of all those who took part in that memorable evening will ensure that FFLAG will be able to continue to reach out to all those who need our support. Our most sincere and heartfelt thanks to everyone at Lush!

 


 

More Support!

We are delighted to announce that there are two new sources of support for parents of LGBT sons and daughters in the South of England.
 
There is now a parents group run under the auspices of Allsorts Youth Project.
Allsorts is based in Brighton to support and empower young people under 26 who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or unsure (LGBTU) of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. To get in touch with the Allsorts Parents Group, ring Sara on
 
07880708207 Mon -­ Fri 2­6pm
 
or email
 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Some years ago FFLAG was able to support to a mum called Eve when her child came out. Eve is now offering support to other parents of LGBT children on the Isle of Wight. Island life can be isolating and can pose different challenges so it is great that Eve will be there to support parents in that environment.
 
The Isle of Wight helpline is 01983 618856 and is available Mon­ - Fri 10.30­ - 4pm and 7pm - ­9pm.

 

Bereavement Support

The Department of Psychological Sciences at University of Liverpool are conducting research into bereavement amongst gay/bisexual male couples, and are interviewing men over 18 who were in a relationship for at least two years and have been bereaved for over 6 months.
 
They believe that research into this area is practically non­existent outside the HIV/Aids arena and are looking to interview at least 40 men.
 
FFLAG Trustee John Bedford, who is to be interviewed as part of the survey commented that in an ideal world bereavement should be the same for loving couples whether gay or straight but it is not an ideal world and the research should be very interesting.
 
Any one interested can contact
 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Steven is conducting interviews in various parts of the country.

 

 


 

A Weekend to remember

FFLAG's 20th Anniversary Conference 'Coming Out 2013: Parents, Families and LGBT Communities was an overwhelming success. Parents from across the UK met with FFLAG volunteers and supporters in Birmingham to reflect on and celebrate the work of FFLAG.

 
Chair of Trustees, Sue Allen welcomed delegates and FFLAG Patrons Michael Cashman CBE, MEP, Professor Ian Rivers and Peter Tatchell to the conference. Michael, Ian and Peter each made inspiring and thoughtful speeches, whilst messages of support came from Patrons Deidre Sanders, Baroness Massey of Darwen and Sir Ian McKellen CH, CBE.
A series of morning and afternoon workshops set the delegates thinking and led to deeper understanding about issues such as LGBT youth homelessness, transgender and faith issues and the importance of education. The topic of homophobic bullying and the experience of being the parent of a gay child held the attention of many delegates.
As one of the delegates commented 'The amount of emotion in the conference room was incredible' – and no more so than when one of the 'children' spoke at the end of the first day of the conference. Lisa Allen, daughter of Sue and Trustee Bob Allen, spoke on behalf of the LGBT children, saying what it meant to have the love and support of understanding parents. There were not many dry eyes in the room!
A celebratory dinner held on the Saturday evening allowed everyone to relax and enjoy themselves.
Sunday's activities included a visit to Birmingham LGBT Centre, a preview screening of a film ,'My Child', and a parents focus group.
The closing plenary with the FFLAG Trustees was followed by a networking lunch and lots of hugs and goodbyes.
It was a truly memorable weekend and, as many parents said, it gave us the inspiration and renewed energy to carry on fighting to ensure that all our children grow up in a world respectful of diversity.
The Trustees would like to thank all those who gave so generously of their time including photographer Jeremy Attwood, workshop facilitators and volunteers Lisa Allen, Jolyon Atkinson, Esther Burgess, Margaret Evans, Larna Gallier, Emily Kent, LGBT Consortium volunteers including Jason Broome, Jack Peat and Paul Roberts; Tim Sigsworth, Dave Tomlinson, Maureen Walsh, Victoria Whitmore and Andrew Wilson.
 
Especial thanks to Patrons Michael Cashman, Ian Rivers and Peter Tatchell for their enthusiastic support over the weekend and their
kind words! And a special thank you to all the staff at the Thistle Hotel Birmingham, who were simply amazing.
'Coming Out 2013 – Parents, Families and LGBT Communites' was made possible through the generosity of Awards for All, Big Lottery funding.
'What is so important and almost unique about FFLAG is that its work is based in love and understanding.
The world is a better place because of its work.' Sir Ian McKellen

 


 

Messages of support at 'Coming Out 2013'

FLAG Patrons Sir Ian McKellen CH, CBE and Baroness Massey of Darwen were unable to attend the 20th Anniversary Conference as they both out of the country. Their messages of support were warmly met by the delegates.

'Even as we celebrate FFLAG's twentieth year, it is more than a bit depressing that there should still be a need for the organisation. During the last two decades the law in the UK has at last ceased to discriminate against gay people young and old. But that still leaves confusion amongst many families about their reaction to gay children who want to be
open about their sexuality.
What is so important and almost unique about FFLAG is that its work is based in love and understanding. The world is a better place because of its work and has my full support now and in the future. I am sorry not to be at the conference and hope it is a great success.'
Ian McKellen
'Young people need all the help they can get in negotiating their lives. Young lesbian, gay and bisexual people may be particularly vulnerable to discrimination, misunderstanding, bullying and lack of support. Parents too need support to help their children.
 
It is sad that so many schools don't have adequate programmes of Personal, Social and Health Education to give young people confidence in their relationships and sexuality.
This is where FFLAG comes in. It is an organisation based on experience and commitments to the rights of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people to be values and respected. It recognises the concerns of parents and gives practical support. Good luck for the future!'
Baroness Massey
We were very sorry that FFLAG's Patron Deidre Sanders was unwell at the weekend and was unable to attend. We were so looking forward to hearing her speak. We very much hope that she is now fully recovered.
 

 


 

 

National Diversity Awards

FFLAG has been nominated for a prestigious national award for our work in the LGBT community. We are absolutely delighted. This is fantastic news, particularly as it comes in our 20th Anniversary year.

The National Diversity Awards recognise the achievements of grass roots organisations that tackle the issues in today’s society. We now need YOU to vote for us please! We need votes and commendations from all our supporters and friends to ensure that we go through to the final round in September. It is really easy to vote for us via the link above – a quick click and a few words on why you think we deserve the award.
 
To win this award would raise FFLAG’s profile and increase awareness of the work that all volunteers, parents and friends do around the country.
It would be a fantastic way to recognise the dedication and hard work of all those involved in the FFLAG family.
A big thank you to those who have helped us to achieve all that we have so far.
 
And now we ask you to support us with your vote.

 

Hisotric vote for Same-Sex Marriage

In an historic moment for equal rights in the UK, after a day of heated debate, MPs voted by 400 to 175 to legalise same­sex marriage. The debate was intense and often fraught. Anyone listening to it couldn't fail to be moved by the passion expressed by both sides of the divide – and divide there certainly was.
Many MPs spoke with eloquence and intensity – and the most moving speeches were made by gay MPs
 

'Equality is Absolute'

Bristol West Liberal Democrat, Stephen Williams, noted he was born in 1966, when homosexuality was a criminal offence."During my life we have seen much progress, but it has come in fits and starts and has not always been easy," he said.
"Throughout my teenage years and my years at university, being openly gay was virtually impossible, because occasionally it could be a terrifying identity for an individual to have."I am thinking of the abuse that I received myself, and the far worse that I saw meted out to other people at school and university.
"What I say to colleagues on both sides of the House who oppose what we are trying to achieve today is please have some empathy with what your fellow citizens have been through. Equality is not something that can be delivered partially—equality is absolute."
 
Former Conservative police minister, Nick Herbert, who was also born before being gay was decriminalised. "Not so long ago, it was possible to sack someone because they were gay," he said. "People did not dare to be open. Thank goodness so much has changed in my lifetime. That progress should be celebrated, but we should not believe
 
that the journey is complete. I think of the gay children who are still bullied at school or who are fearful about whether their friends and families accept them.
I think of sportsmen and women—vital role models—who still do not feel able to come out. The signal we send today about whether the law fully recognises the place of gay people in our society will really matter."
 
Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert spoke of his experience as a gay working­class teenager growing up in rural Cornwall where it was hugely difficult for him to be open, honest and up­front with his family, friends and workmates. He said that he welcomed the Bill that would be sending out the signal that people are valued equally across the country. "That signal will deeply affect people like me is the same way I was affected 20 years ago , when the House voted to equalise the age of consent, That was the first time I saw other gay people on a TV screen and it was the first time that I realised I was not alone. It changed my life".
 
Margot James, the first openly lesbian Tory MP said that "Having been different for most of my life, I can assure you that being treated equal is very welcome indeed"

'Personal Battles'

Crispin Blunt, Conservative MP for Reigate, said the Bill was part of an "astonishing and wonderful change" that had taken place over the past 50 years which had "taken millions of us from criminalisation to legal equality and the enjoyment of self­worth and validation. Those sentiments were certainly not apparent to me as a young man. I thought there was something wrong with me that had to be mastered, and for three decades I managed that struggle. The relief and happiness that comes from not having to do so any longer is due to the courage of others who fought for all the measures to advance equality over the past five decades that are the precursors to today's Bill."
 
Stewart Andrew, the Conservative MP for Pudsey, spoke of his "personal battles" and "some of the most troubling and dark times" in his life. "Many people have spoken and written about deeply held religious beliefs. From an early age, I developed those beliefs, going to church without the support of my family. That faith grew over time, but in my adolescence, I began to realise that I was gay. Being gay in a small Welsh village really was like being the only gay in the village. It was the start of some very deep questioning about my faith and my sexuality that has taken me years to try to resolve, and I am still seeking answers."

'Simply Asking for Equal Treatment'

It was another Conservative MP, Mike Freer, (Finchley and Golders Green) who made what is widely regarded as one of the most moving speeches. "I thought long and hard about seeking to speaking in this debate. I genuinely feared the tone of the debate and how colleagues would seek to oppose the bill. So when colleagues talked about gay marriage making them physically sick – or when colleagues suggested it was a step towards legalising polygamy or incest ­ They need to remember that there are people involved – people's lives are involved – and we should 
remember that the words spoken in this chamber hurt far beyond this chamber when we speak". Mr Freer told the Commons that the proudest day of his life was six years ago when he entered into a civil partnership with his partner of 21 years.
 
"Our civil partnership was a huge step forward for us, and yet many argue that we should be content with our civil partnership – after all it affords all of the same legal protections as marriage – but I ask my married colleagues, did you get married for legal protections it afforded you? Did you go down on one knee and say 'darling, please give me the protections marriage affords us? Of course you didn't. My civil partnership was our way of saying to my friends and my family this is who I love, this is who I am, this is who I wish to spend the rest of my life with."
 
Mr Freer added: "I'm not asking for special treatment I am simply asking for equal treatment. "I am a member of this Parliament. I sit alongside you in committees, in the bars and in the tea rooms. I queue alongside you in the division lobbies. But when it comes to marriage, why are you asking me to stand apart and to join a separate queue? I ask you: if I am equal in this House, give me every opportunity to be equal."

'No Room for Complacency'

FFLAG Patron Peter Tatchell comments "The bill may still face strong opposition. The next major battle on the bill will be in the House of Lords, where the outcome is far from certain. The opponents of equal marriage are determined to make a last ditch stand in defence of marriage discrimination. They want to keep lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people as second class, unequal citizens."
 
The Roman Catholic church made clear that it would use the strong objections to the bill voiced by MPs across the house to maintain its campaign against same­sex marriage. The anti­equal marriage group Coalition for Marriage, said that this would not be the end of the fight against gay marriage.
 
Philip Hensher writing in The Independent commented 'Marriages come in all shapes and sizes. Yours is not like your neighbours, and is certainly not like the marriage that you might have had 50 years ago. The description of a formal, legal union between people of the same sex as "marriage" is an important step. People understand a marriage in ways which they do not, quite, understand a civil partnership.'
 
As parents and friends who do all we can to support our LGBT loved ones, we can do no better than to quote Peter Tatchell again 'Our love will triumph over their prejudice'

 

Full of Pride

We are both proud and delighted that FFLAG Patron Michael Cashman has been named in the New Year’s Honours List as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), for his tireless fight for equality.
 
“This announcement is as big a surprise at it is an honour”, he commented “I have had an amazing life where I have been able to stand up for the values and principles which I believe in and to effect real change for my life and the lives of others. Not a day goes by when I don’t recognise how lucky and fortunate I have been in my life.” he continued. “Whilst we have achieved so much in terms of legal equality for LGBT people in the UK we still have so much more to do. Discrimination still exists and it destroys and blights so many lives. In other parts of the world people are imprisoned, criminalised or face capital punishment simply because they are different. On behalf of all those people I proudly accept this honour and commit to continue the fight for equality”, he concluded.
 
Michael has been a Labour Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands for the last 15 years. In this capacity, he is co­presiding the Intergroup for LGBT Rights and is continuously campaigning for inclusive legislation, horizontal non­discrimination frameworks and a more transparent and democratic decision­making process within the EU and beyond. For his work, he was 2 times awarded the title of MEP of the year (2007 and 2012) and received the European Diversity Lifetime Achievement Award (2012).

 

Will He Change?

“Mum, don’t ask me questions the answers to which you won’t like,” he would say every time she confronted him about staying overnight at his partner’s house on Saturday nights, which he’d been doing for several years. His mum insisted nevertheless. “Mum sensed,” he says. “Parents don’t want to see it, but they always sense. By asking questions, she wanted to clear her mind. Because she did not know exactly what she was to face.”
 
One night she asked him: “I know you love him. But is that normal love, son?” He replied: “Mum, in Turkey many people don’t consider it ‘normal’.” In shock, she burst into tears, tears he couldn’t control. From that moment on, mother and son lived as two foreigners in the same house, barely speaking to each other. And every Saturday, he would go to stay at his partner’s.
 
Hasan Metehan Özkan is one of the founders of LISTAG, an Istanbul­based voluntary support and solidarity group for families of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people. In Turkey, the law does not protect people against discrimination on sexual orientation or gender identity grounds. Hate crime is not uncommon, institutionalised and everyday discrimination is a reality, and homophobia is rife. “Homophobia and transphobia kill people in Turkey,” Özkan says. It killed sixteen people in 2010, and at least six in 2012.
 
The group’s meeting place, the feminist Amargi Cafe, is now closing down as a result of self­ criticism and the need for reinvention, but its activities will no doubt continue: hundreds of people are or have been involved with LISTAG since its founding in 2008. Özkan says there is no accurate information available for families of LGBT people who often perceive their children’s sexuality, by default, as “immoral”, “wrong”, and “shameful”. In desperation, he translated an English leaflet for his mother the night they stopped talking. She wouldn’t read it.
 
Özkan’s activism started in the 2000s, when he was working on social projects at university. During a trip to Sicily, he met Jenny Broughton and Paola Dall’Orto, activist mothers for gay people’s families in the UK andy Italy, respectively. “It was the first time in my life when I could openly cry on a mother’s shoulder,” Özkan says. Having started a PhD in social anthropology, he decided to be brave. “Academic research only stays in the library,” he says. “I wanted my research to have a positive impact on the society.” He calls it “action research”. And so the LISTAG project started – a challenge for Özkan himself, for he decided his support group would also help him come out to his own mother, then in her early seventies.
 
After discussions with other LGBT activists in Istanbul, his first point of contact was Sema, mother of a gay man who had been interviewed by a newspaper a couple of years before. He called her and explained the idea. “I’m in,” she said without hesitation. An acquaintance pulled their mother in, one more joined by coincidence, and suddenly “it was like a snowball”, Özkan says. The group would hold meetings attended by psychiatrists, to help the mothers (mostly it’s mothers, although fathers, siblings, aunts and a granny attend too) share their feelings and experiences, and by doing so learn to accept their child as they are, and be proud of them.
 
Istanbul Pride 2012 (LISTAG - Metehan)“It’s recommended to come out to one’s parents while still living together, otherwise once you leave, they will be left with a hot potato,” Özkan says. “When they find out, they feel like their child has gone and a stranger has moved in. They mourn. It takes time for them to accept that their child is still the same person, only with that one thing they didn’t know before.”
Parents from LISTAG and FFLAG . His own mother is the woman in front row in a white T­shirt and sunglasses.
 
Istanbul Pride 2012 (LISTAG ­ Metehan Özkan)
His own mother, however, continued to resist for a long time. “But I didn’t give up,” Özkan says. Neither did he fall into the destructive trap of self­denial. “I said ‘No lies’. No ‘Don’t worry, it won’t happen again’ nonsense. I was honest with her, but at the time, she didn’t want to listen. I was lucky to have my other mothers [the group’s mothers] around, though. My mother would call me and ask, ‘Where are you?’ I would reply, ‘I’m with my mothers’. This way, I made her jealous. I showed her that she could lose me.”
 
Slowly, the approach was working. One day, as Özkan was having coffee with the support group, his mother called. Gathering all his courage, he passed the phone to Sema, one of the group’s mothers. “Will he change?” his mum asked Sema, sobbing. “Let’s have a coffee,” came the reply.
 
Some time later, Özkan’s mother accompanied him and his partner to Rome and London Prides, waving a “Proud of a gay kid” poster from the top of a pink bus. That conversation over a coffee, as well as many other conversations and group sessions with LISTAG’s parents, had brought her close to him again. “After coming to the meetings, parents realise they are not the only ones with gay children,” Özkan says. “But it’s not group therapy. The real therapy is parents sharing their experiences.”
 
In Turkey as elsewhere, the main problem for people outside the hetero­normative mainstream is stubbornly limiting cultural norms and “What will the neighbours say?!” attitudes. “It’s cultural hypocrisy. From the outside, Turkey might look like a gay paradise – kisses on both cheeks, warm hugs, gay pop stars on stage are OK – but most Turks wouldn’t want to have a gay person as their neighbour,” Özkan says.
 
LISTAG has produced Benim Çocugum (My Child), a documentary film based on interviews with parents from the support group, which premieres in February 2013. To understand how much courage it took them to appear on camera, one has to see the movie. Özkan explains: “It’s an age­related project, too. I witnessed so many mothers – housewives, pensioners – regain purpose and meaning in life: to help others by sharing their own experiences, to make their lives better.” Lifting a pint of beer to his lips, he concludes: “Every time I see a mother change, I’m happy.”

 

Icing on the cake!

We are delighted to learn that Lush Cosmetics are featuring FFLAG on their Charity Pot lids this Christmas. Lush Charity Pot kindly granted us funds this summer to help us bring parents together from the UK and Turkey to celebrate World Pride in London. It was an amazing event enabling parents to share experiences and to show solidarity with their LGBT sons and daughters.
 
So the icing on the cake is that Lush has chosen FFLAG to feature on their Charity Pot. The Charity Pot cream is based on Fairtrade organic cocoa butter and almond oil and costs £12.75 for 240g pot.
 
As Mark from Lush explains “We often have trouble explaining our Charity Pot to people – because usually charity products only give an amount, like £1, from each sale to charity, or "all profit" to charity. But with this product we give ALL the money you pay to charity, not just the profit. The only thing we take out is the VAT, which we have to give to the government. Lush will give our time, Lush will give our raw materials and Lush will give our shop space – if you will be kind enough to buy it”
 
Lush take none of their costs back ­ that is their donation. By buying it, you are adding yours – then the whole amount goes into the Charity Pot Fund.
 
Please go out and buy a Charity Pot or two for yourself, friends or family. You will be doing your bit to raise awareness of FFLAG and enjoying a very special product.
 
And so a big, BIG thank you to everyone at Lush for all their support this year!
 

 

Patrons with Attitude!

We are truly delighted that two of our Patrons, Sir Ian McKellen and Peter Tatchell have been awarded Icon Awards for Outstanding Achievements at the recent Attitude Awards. We are very proud of them and so grateful for all that they do to support FFLAG. We have printed the citations that accompanied the awards and couldn’t agree more with the comments.
 
‘Internationally acclaimed thespian, outspoken LGBT rights activist, knight of the realm, and Gandalf to boot; Sir Ian McKellen is truly a national treasure beyond compare. Sir Ian is the man who came out when virtually no one famous would, the man who co­founded the lobby group that has changed all our lives, a man who continues to speak up for gay rights around the world.’
 
‘Though Peter was once routinely bullied and bloodied in the street, he is now lauded even by the Daily Mail for his efforts to tackle some of histories most disturbing characters such as Robert Mugabe and Nick Griffin. Peter spends his every waking hour working to improve the lives of others, with unparalleled levels of humility and self­sacrifice. Provocative, controversial and totally fearless, Peter has been on the front line of LGBT emancipation for decades, the scourge of homophobic and hypocritical politicians and public figures. ‘

 

 


 

It's OK 2BU!

FFLAG recently attended Equality South West's conference 'It's OK2BU' at Somerset College, Taunton. The conference looked at the issues faced by young lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBT) people in schools, colleges, workplaces and communities.
Research in the South West shows that, even today many young LGBT people do not feel that it's ok to be themselves. They continue to face people who are ignorant and prejudiced and young LGBT people are made to feel uncomfortable or even unsafe in their surroundings.
 
Human Resources Director of the College, Sheena Murphy­Collett spoke movingly about her own personal 'coming out' experience. It was heartening to learn that she met the person who was to become her civil partner when they were both in their teens. Sheena talked about the zero tolerance of any sort of homophobic/transphobic 'banter' and the open and supportive atmosphere there is at Somerset College towards LGBT students and staff.
 
Speakers included Andrew Wilson, founder of the youth group 2BU, Jonathon Charlesworth of Education Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH), and representatives from Stonewall and the Government's Equalities Office Berkeley Wilde of The Diversity Trust gave a presentation ' Delivering Equality: LGBT people in Somerset and their experiences of health and social care'
 
There was discussion around 'cyber homophobia' and how bullying can follow a young person from school in to their home via the various social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
 
One of the workshops, run by members of the 2BU youth group entitled 'What's the point? Nothing will change...' looked at young LGBT people's experiences in schools/colleges and how this has affected their mental health.
 
Lest we get complacent and think that things are okay for young LGBT people we need to remember the impact that homophobic or transphobic 'banter' has on our young people. We all need to work together to ensure that young people can be out, proud and valued... and that it is indeed OK to be you!

 

We Are Family

A new quarterly magazine for LGBT families is about to hit the news­stands. It’s called We Are Family and there is a pre­launch issue available on line now.
 
We Are Family recently contacted FFLAG Chair, Sue and her husband Bob, who is a FFLAG Trustee. They interviewed Sue and Bob about their experience when their daughter came out and about founding the parents’ support group Bristol Family and Friends. Read the full story in the pre­ launch issue which can be downloaded as a pdf on www.wearefamily.co.uk
 
Besides true life stories such as Sue and Bob’s, the magazine will feature celebrity interviews, news and reviews, lifestyle articles and a problem page. They will explore all the routes to same­sex parenting such as co­parenting, surrogacy, donor insemination, IVF, adoption and fostering. They will explore challenging areas such as how to tackle homophobic bullying in schools. They will also be exploring the experiences of and issues of interest to LGBT grandparents, youth, their friends and extended family members as well as support networks for LGBT families.
There is certainly a need for a magazine that will engage the whole LGBT family in its widest sense. Let’s hope it meets the needs of its readers and that it proves to be a success.
 
The first issue of the magazine is due out at the end of January 2013, with a cover price of £3.50

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

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