an lgbtq+ person surrounded by thoughts like bullying, misgendering and no role models

London LGBTQ+ youth organisation has to exist under the radar to protect itself 

The challenges faced by a London LGBTQ+ youth organisation have become more complex in the wake of legal action towards its allies.

In the past six months, LBGTQ+ advocacy organisations such as Mermaids and Stonewall have been subject to criticism from opponents of the LGBTQ+ movement, resulting in Mermaids having to close down their helpline to protect their volunteers from abuse.

Despite funding for legal teams, these large organisations are so heavily affected that smaller groups that exist without these resources are becoming more and more concerned. 

Groups with less funding are walking a tightrope ensuring they continue to provide safe spaces for young people, while also flying under the radar.  

An LGBTQ+ youth organisation in London, who wish to remain anonymous due to the volatile landscape threatening their livelihood, is determined to power through these tumultuous times. 

The director and co-founder of the group said: “The situation at the moment is really quite frightening and upsetting for our young people because they’re seeing their lives politicised and their identities debated.

“You shouldn’t debate whether someone exists or not.

“Our mission at the moment, now more so than ever, is to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ young people.

“It’s so important because a lot of our young people are experiencing homophobia, biphobia and transphobia at school, from peers, out and about and even potentially at home.

“For quite a lot of young people this is literally the only space that they can be their true selves and this is their slice of safe.”

Some individuals even change their clothes and hair to express their authenticity as they are welcomed into the safe space provided by this group. 

Safeguarding the children who attend is a big priority for the group, therefore they are careful not to publish addresses or any identifiers on their website or social media platforms in order to protect their members from any harmful and unwanted contact. 

A ZERO JUDGEMENT ZONE | Image Credit: Lara Iyer

The group was formed nearly a decade ago in response to the critical lack of support for the LGBTQ+ community in the area.

They focus on gender variant, gay, bisexual and lesbian young people and offer counselling sessions for both adolescents and their parents along with three different age-based youth groups. 

According to a recent study conducted by Stonewall, half of LGBTQ+ people experience depression and one in eight have attempted to take their life. 

More than half of transgender people have thought about ending their lives. 

A transgender youth group attendee, 19, said: “This group opened up lots of options for me. 

“It gave me a layer of support that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

“Youth clubs are on the decline, and so finding a space where people can be with others who are like them is not something you can get anywhere else.”

Another transgender member, 18, said: “Since being here I have come to the realisation of who I am and I have met some brilliant people.

“This group is so important to me because having two hours to be yourself without any judgement is pretty incredible.” 

The youth group activities are entirely for young people, decided by young people with all their social and creative projects spearheaded by them. 

Within the last year, the group made a board game entitled ‘LGBTQ+ Inclusion’ that can now be purchased by schools and organisations in order to teach people about the LBGTQ+ experience.

The group’s youth service manager and youth counsellor said: “We always ask young people what they want because they’re so playful and creative. 

“We try to focus on the joys of being queer, rather than the challenges.”

LONDON PRIDE | Image Credit: Lara Iyer

Topics discussed in these youth groups include healthy relationships, consent, drugs, online safety and alcohol use. 

Additionally, the group specialises in counselling specifically for LGBTQ+ adolescents so as to create an environment wherein they do not have to explain themselves or the nuances of the community as a prerequisite to any discussions. 

The group’s youth counsellor said: “I hope to create a space where clients feel like they don’t have to filter themselves in any way. 

“They know that they don’t have to hide and they can trust that whatever you bring, no matter how big it is, we can sit beside them and be there for them.” 

Another impactful service offered by the group are the sessions they run for parents of adolescent LGBTQ+ people. 

As reported by the Guardian, a home with unsupportive, homophobic or transphobic parents is a home that condones child abuse. 

Another director of the group who runs these parent meetings said: “A parent needs someone to ask questions to and to talk to.

“Unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma. 

“It’s important to take into account religious backgrounds and cultural beliefs but a parent is still a parent and a lot of them have similar questions.

“We have parents who attend the group even if their child is grown-up and working because they still want to offer their support to other parents at different stages.” 

The parents’ session has moved to an online format since Covid, but with a Whatsapp group to keep everyone in touch and an online step-by-step guide, no one is ever left without advice or answers. 

Intersectionalities within the LGBTQ+ community are a complex and intricate issue and this London-based group aspires to promote LBGTQ+ values alongside an individual’s race and faith through their creation of an easy to digest handbook. 

Inside it reads: “Whatever your faith, whatever your race, your LGBTQ+ identity is valid.” 

The group has also created Widgits, a method of using symbols for communication, for young people with special education needs to allow them to express their identities, even if they are non-verbal. 

This multifaceted group’s objective, although paradoxical, is an important one. 

The most successful thing they can hope to achieve is to eradicate the very need for the existence of groups like theirs. 

If society became a more accepting space, rid of voices such as those who are taking action against Stonewall and Mermaids, this group would not need to so precariously camouflage themselves while trying to create a safe space for young LGBTQ+ people.

If you or anyone you know are affected by any issues discussed in this story, you can find the above mentioned London LGBTQ+ youth organisation and many others on the official LGBT+ Consortium website

Related Articles