By Riverside’s Danielle Oliver
I could discuss in detail the many issues facing the trans community, or how the Sparkle weekend plays such a large part in the transgender calendar here in the UK.
But instead, I want to talk about Riverside and trans people.
When I write a blog it’s usually very fun, however this is a subject I’m proud of, so may be a little serious, with a lot of information in a short space.
This weekend, Riverside will be hosting a stall at Sparkle. I will be there with fellow Riverside colleague Simon Allcock and three wonderful residents. Sparkle is an amazing event, and I am honoured to be there, to say the least.
Now you might think ‘honoured’ is a strong word to describe my reaction to helping run a stall and my friends are asking why I wouldn’t prefer to be enjoying the day’s events. I can only respond by talking about the great sense of pride I feel in representing Riverside and I’ll now share with you why this is.
Pull back the curtains of the swirling mists of time to around six years ago – very dramatic, I know!
I was homeless as a result of ‘coming out’ although the details of this is a story for another time. I presented at The Crossings, Riverside’s temporary accommodation for the homeless in Hull. I was cold and full of anxiety, believing my life was as good as over. My coming out experience could not have gone any worse.
Luckily for me there was one room available. I can still remember now, bursting into tears during the assessment, blurting out ‘I’m a woman’. Now I was a 6ft tall and a pretty stocky bloke so the reaction I got still warms me to this day. ‘Whatever you are going through we can support you’ said with a warm smile.
It was from that moment on my life rebounded. I received the support I needed to get back on my feet and move forward. Within six months I was in my own place, I was at the Gender Clinic and I was back in employment, all of which I owe to Riverside, seeing me as a person who needed pointing in the right direction.
My support worker at the time went out of her way to research how she could support me better. When I lived at The Crossings, the support team there helped me to found and facilitate a support group, this still exists today.
Fast forward six years to now and the organisation that saw me as a person when others did not is also my employer. For a trans individual to find an employer where you are not discriminated against, either positively or negatively, is an amazing feat.
I am able to help support others and enjoy my job. As long as Riverside will have me I will be staying.
I hope you can get my sense of pride in representing Riverside at Sparkle and why it is my honour. To be part of such an inclusive organisation for me is what’s special and I will gladly spread the word to the far corners.
Enjoy Sparkle 2017 and I hope to see you there.
• Transgender charity Sparkle hosts the annual Sparkle Weekend, the world’s largest trans celebration, in Sackville Gardens in the heart of Manchester. The Sparkle Weekend is open to those who identify as trans, gender variant or questioning, their families, friends and allies, and features live music and performance, comedy, club nights, educational talks and workshops, and many other events across the city.