By Simon Allcock, Care and Support Regional Operations Manager
As Liverpool Pride approaches and people across the country take to the streets to celebrate how far we’ve come in terms of LGBT rights, I’d like you to consider a few questions.
- How can someone live in a nice flat in a well-thought-of small community for years without any issue – and then one week everything changes? They start to become the victim of a serious and sustained hate campaign from those same neighbours who used to say hello on the way to the shops.
- What leaves someone open to the risk that their most personal and private information is broadcast without warning in everyday situations like the post office or the foyer of a bank?
- How can it be that one of our tenants could live in fear of occasions where they need to do something as simple as establish their identity?
I’ve been on a learning curve in the last 18 months – some of it pretty steep, some infuriating, some saddening, some heartening and all of it new.
I’ve met people for who just being able to go to the garden centre, as themselves, once a week for a cup of tea with their partner was enough. I’ve met people living two lives in two different personas – one at work, one at home.
I’ve spoken with tenants who have suffered horrendous abuse at the hands of a community they once enjoyed being part of. I’ve met with people homeless because their support network melted away once they were honest about who they really were. I’ve met people who heartbreakingly have no meaningful relationship with their children because their family has never been able to reconcile what it actually means to be transgender.
So that’s how I ended up going to the Sparkle Weekend again – the UK’s largest celebration of the trans community – with colleague Danielle Oliver and three Riverside customers who are trans.
The sun shone, it was packed with visitors and there was such a friendly atmosphere. I’ve never been among a more inclusive, safe and accepting group.
The five of us were on our feet all day. Stacey volunteered with the Sparkle organisers and collected a bucket of coin donations so heavy I could hardly pick it up, Nat came out of her comfort zone and chatted with people about her experience of Riverside and Alison, who has just been accepted onto the Riverside Federation Executive Committee, was in her element, explaining to anyone who would listen how inclusive Riverside was and what we were doing to help.
One of the genuinely striking elements of the day for me was the number of Riverside tenants who approached us, just to say hello. Initially they were surprised to see Riverside at Sparkle – we were the only housing association with a stall. I noticed one tenant glace over surprised, turn away, take a couple of steps then think more about it, coming over saying “Hi I’ve lived in one of your properties in Anfield for 17 years and I just wanted to say what a brilliant landlord you have been.”
I’ll tell you what – when you’ve worked for an organisation for a long time and maybe you’ve had a difficult week – a comment like that can make a world of difference!
Something else I realised was the diversity of our services. Wherever people had come, from within the county and sometimes overseas, we could find some area of Riverside’s business which was relevant. Housing crisis, homelessness, austerity, ageing, equality, we are in the thick of it. Trying to make things better for people. Fighting for fairness.
As a straight cis male I feel deeply privileged to have the opportunity to support our trans community – and for the experience to have such a reaffirming quality about the value of Riverside to our customers was unexpected and highly motivating.
So while Pride might be about celebrating how far we’ve come in terms of LGBT equality, there is still so much to do for trans people. I’m certainly proud to work for an organisation that recognises this and is working with both trans staff and customers to make a real difference.