21 / 12 / 20
Working in partnership has been even more important this year in the LGBT+ / faith sector, as our Programmes Coordinator Siobhan Anderson reflects…
As we reach the end of 2020, I have been reflecting on the importance of partnerships for F&BF’s LGBT+Faith programmes. The year has thrown up so many unexpected challenges for individuals, families, and organisations across LGBT+/ faith communities, with increased threats to people’s safety, mental health, finances, and access to healthcare. Coming together in our communities – for connection, support, spiritual nourishment, moments of fun and laughter – has been essential.
When the first lockdown arrived back in March I was incredibly moved by those I work with across the LGBT+/ faith sector reaching out to check in with me – How are you doing? What is happening in communities you work with? What do we need to do together? I have found that despite the physical distance there have been countless offerings of well wishes, support, and connection between those in community groups trying their best to adapt and to serve our beneficiaries in the best way we can. There has been much to learn from each other, and collaboration and signposting has been essential as we all explored and got to grips with new ways to engage and have impact remotely.
This November we could not gather in person for our annual LGBT+ Interfaith Week celebration. However many of us felt that coming together as an LGBT+ Interfaith community was more important than ever – to share stories of lockdown life, to explore sources of strength and comfort, to connect with old friends, and to bring new folks in who may need safe spaces to be. Together we, the Faith & Belief Forum, House of Rainbow, London Queer Muslims, Sarbat LGBT Sikhs, and Keshet UK, created a much-needed online space of togetherness, for people from our community groups and beyond. We were joined by over 50 people from across the UK and beyond (some of whom would not have been able to join us were we gathering in our usual London home). I am still energised by the openness and warmth of that evening, and the willingness of partners to speak from the heart about experiences of these difficult few months. As one guest reflected, “coming to places like this where I can be my authentic self has been life saving”.
And the collaboration continues! This last week alone I was in awe to see the momentous act of interfaith solidarity, coordinated by the Ozanne Foundation, of more than 370 religious and faith leaders from different traditions and around the world signing a declaration affirming the equality of LGBT+ people, asking for forgiveness for the harms done to LGBT+ people in the name of religion, and calling for a worldwide ban on so-called conversion therapies. The declaration is still live, and is open for signatories here. I was also fortunate to be part of the online conference ‘Ritual Reconstructed Revisited’, chairing the interfaith panel on ‘Narrative, Inclusion and the Queering of Religious Practice’, where speakers from four different faith traditions shared their wisdom about working together to challenge the prejudices against LGBT+ people in our wider communities.
I cannot thank enough the partners who have supported F&BF’s LGBT+Faith programmes this year – for their willingness to share their wisdom, their time, and for checking in with us! There will be much to do in 2021, and thanks to funding from Consortium’s LGBT+ Futures Fund we are able to continue to grow our partnerships with other LGBT+/ faith groups through regular events for our LGBT+ Interfaith Network in 2021.
So as we approach the new year, I am honoured that the Faith & Belief Forum is part of an interfaith movement, of the organisations above and many more, working together in solidarity for a more positive future for LGBT+ people of faith. I am looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together in 2021!
For those who missed November’s LGBTQ+ Network celebration, below are some reflections from those who attended:
“For me personally, as an LGBT person of faith the event felt special for a number of reasons. During 2020 I’ve had fewer opportunities to feel part of communities I would normally draw strength from. Normally I would regularly attend LGBT venues and volunteer with an LGBT charity, but these opportunities are currently not possible (especially for the last two weeks as my housemate has COVID and we’re self isolating!). The event was a chance to reconnect with old friends and new, but also to hear from others who have similar (but also different) backgrounds to me and their struggles and triumphs over this period. I was really encouraged to find an online space that felt personal, intimate and not awkward!!” – Tim Mortimer, Programmes Manager, Movement Building
“Thank you so much to each and every one of our fantastic partners, for this year’s LGBT+ Interfaith event. Our annual event is always really special, but this year, more than ever, being in a safe space with LGBT+ people of different faiths and beliefs felt so important, and so needed. It’s been such a difficult year in so many ways, and not having shared and safe spaces is definitely one of the things I’ve struggled with the most over these months. I left the event feeling renewed and nourished – thank you to everyone who shared so personally about your experiences during this time, and I can’t wait to see you all again soon” – Hannah Taylor, Head of Operations, the Faith & Belief Forum
“It was the first LGBTQ+ event for people of faith that I’ve been involved in since the start of lockdown, so it made for a welcome reminder that the community still exists. It was also one of the only interactive faith events I’ve been a part of in all these months. This lockdown has been a lonely time for us all, and it was helpful to acknowledge the ways in which lockdown has been particularly hard spiritually, and to hear that others have felt the same way. My favourite thing about the event was feeling (to use a Quaker term) ‘gathered’- for me it felt safe and that the spirit of the divine, however we describe or experience it, was the glue holding us together.”
Find about more about the Faith & Belief Forum’s LGBT+Faith work, and sign up for updates on our LGBT+ Network events here