24 / 06 / 21
Access to supportive, affirming, and uplifting networks is always important, but perhaps even more so during the stresses and increased isolation of the pandemic. Due to the restrictions, many LGBTQ+ people of faith have been unable to gather with our communities in the ways that normally bring us strength and support, whether this is through our faith communities, LGBT+ communities, or our chosen families.
This is why the Faith & Belief Forum wanted to run a series of events during the months of April and May, to bring LGBTQ+ people from different and similar faiths, beliefs and backgrounds together to connect, support, uplift each other, and to share experiences and stories. Thanks to funding from Consortium, we ran a series of online events, Spring Sessions, in collaboration with guest speakers and partner organisations.
Each of the six dialogue sessions focused on different topics, discussions, and activities. They offered a friendly environment, places to learn, and to have important discussions surrounding faith and belief.
The first session focused on Special Objects. For this event, attendees were encouraged to bring along an important object relating to their faith, background, or identity. Attendees bought along a range of personal items from books to candles to prayer beads to photographs, allowing everyone to get to know each other better, and to learn about each other’s stories.
At the second session, we discussed Spring festivals and celebrations. We learned from London Queer Muslims, Sarbat LGBT Sikhs, House of Rainbow, and other group members about the many different festivals occurring this spring, such as Ramadan and Passover. We discussed what these meant to different people, and how they have been celebrated and marked during the pandemic.
The next session focused on lino-printing. Participants for this session received a lino-printing kit, and learned this new skill under the guidance of artist Gemma Curtis. Attendees finished the session with prints of their own creation, on the themes of Connection and Joy, which they were invited to share the meaning behind.
Sarah Hagger-Holt, children’s author, joined us for our fourth session, in which we discussed representation in children’s books. Amongst discussing our favourite children’s books (including Jacqueline Wilson and Adrian Mole), those who attended reflected upon the first time they saw LGBTQ+ people, people of faith and LGBTQ+ people of faith represented in children’s books.
In our fifth session, we discussed and explored mindfulness and meditation with Derek Aidoo. Derek took participants through a guided meditation, suitable for all, which left me feeling very calm and rejuvenated. We also explored the importance of taking care of ourselves, finding time to slow down, and how to deal with stresses of life.
The sixth session was a creative writing workshop with poet Zelly Lisanework. Zelly taught a beginner’s session on different poetry structures and how to write an effective, meaningful poem. Participants were given time to put these skills into practice, with many producing, and sharing, beautiful, touching poems for the rest of the group to hear on themes including identity, belonging, and faith.
We completed our Spring Sessions with a final celebration event, at which we were joined by brilliant guest speakers. These included Asifa Lahore, Britain’s first out Muslim drag queen, who shared an inspiring talk on her own faith and belief journey and the importance of interfaith connectivity, and Jay Hulme, an award-winning transgender performance poet, speaker and educator. Jay shared with us some hilarious, meaningful and thought-provoking poems that explored faith, belief, religion and LGBTQ+ topics. This final session also featured talks from our amazing partner organisations including: House of Rainbow, London Queer Muslims, Sarbat LGBT Sikhs, York LGBT Forum. In this session we also watched a video from attendees, discussing how important the sessions had been to them for the last few months, and their hopes for the future. This session highlighted the importance of the interfaith aspect of our group, and how important building a network of strong relationships across difference is to members of the group.
Personally, taking part and helping at these events has been a pleasure and helped me in ways I did not expect. Not only did it allow me to make up for the queer connections I was missing during lockdown, it allowed me to learn about the perspectives of other LGBTQ+ people of faith, and to reflect upon my own experiences and thoughts. Sarah Hagger-Holt’s session gave me a rare opportunity to contemplate on the minimal LGBTQ+ representation I saw in children’s books and highlighted the importance of our part in changing this for future generations. Furthermore, Asifa’s speech also inspired me to reflect on my own experiences with faith and to appreciate my chosen LGBTQ+ family even further.
Other people who attended the events shared:
Lastly, I would like to thank all those who were involved and attended – I hope to see you again at future events! If you would like to be notified about future events, you can register here. You can join our LGBTQ+ Interfaith Facebook group here.
Happy Pride Month! 🏳️🌈