Kennedy Walker urges proactivity when it comes to building more infrastructure, services and spaces for LGBTQ people of colour

A few weeks ago I turned 25, which meant I came out 5 years ago. Turning a quarter of a century induced reflections on what it has meant for my life, the community I have and that hold me, the way I move through the world and the ways it has shaped my worldview.The more comfortable I’ve become with who I am, the more I don’t allow self policing of my mannerisms, vernacular and who I show affection to. This has lead to many positive shifts including healthier relationships and improved mental health

What has shaped, pushed and sustained this transformative process wasn’t me in isolation coming to terms with who i am (although there was a lot of that), it was the community I built around me, it was the groups and individuals that welcomed me. In a society where many LGBTQ+ people are marginalised and with infrastructure such as specialised accommodation, services and community centres being continuously stripped away and under funded it’s very easy to become isolated. This is why it’s so important to not only fight to keep LGBTQ+ venues open, most of which are nightlife venues, but also proactively create a diversity of spaces we want to see.

There are a number of reasons why this is vital. Not all LGBTQ+ people are able to access or feel safe in a nightclubs or bars, we know deep rooted homophobia within society leads to substance abuse within our community making dry spaces and services vital and alternative educational spaces for LGBTQ+ people and their kin, which leads to understanding and acceptance not just tolerance to name just a few.

A report published in September last year revealed that attacks on LGBT people have seen a steep increase. The report states that more than one in five LGBT people have been verbally or physically attacked due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in the 12 months preceding the poll, which 5,000 LGBT partook in. People of colour are disproportionately impacted with one in three experiencing attacks. This is an overall 80 percent increase in the last 4 years. This coupled with the onslaught of attacks on trans folk in the media, which are no doubt linked means more community spaces are more than wanted, but are essential to the safety for LGBTQ+ people.

There are communities taking matters in their own hands. The London LGBTQ+ Community Centre, which is currently in the fundraising phase of the project is a grassroots response to the lack of spaces for LGBTQ+ spaces in the capital. The centre is particularly exciting because it will be community led and ran by and for LGBTQ+ people as a not for profit in East London. In terms of what the space will be used for; it will be a fit for purpose, multi-use space, which will include a cafe, workspace, play space, information and outreach and space for performance and exhibitions.

I spoke to one of the organisers, Ola Awosika. When discussing why the centre is important he said

“When we are talking about LGBTQ+ communities i really feel there aren’t these communities or they are few and far between. I think this centre will go a long way in creating a space that is inclusive of all LGBTQ+ people. One of the values i feel we hold in the spaces we create in the meetings is every voice is heard and we try to centre the most marginalised in our community, this is something we want to bring to the centre”

He went on…

“It baffles me that we don’t have access to more of these spaces and resources in London. There’s been so much progress for gay white men and sadly there has been many in the LGBTQ+ community who have been left behind. There are many who still desperately need this space and i hope that it will remind us why us standing strong as a community is so important”

The London LGBTQ+ Community Centre has recently launched a crowd funder trying to raise 50k, go and support them. The UK has faced heavy austerity measures for the last 10 years and the first services to get the axe are specialised ones. In this case LGBTQ+ youth services. Mosaic, an LGBTQ+ youth centre, which opened every Wednesday for 15 years closed in 2016. This was a vital service for the physical and mental well being of many young people who would travel hours to get to a safe space. Any LGBTQ+ community centres that are left have either closed or are on the brink of closure due to very little or no funding.

We are not at the point where these services and spaces are not needed. When it comes to the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ folks we are far from done. With the ongoing attacks on our trans siblings in the media and on the streets, homelessness disproportionately impacting our community and the rise the the far right across the globe we need to be proactive in creating the infrastructure and spaces we need to survive. 

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Kennedy Walker is a campaigner, organiser and writer. His commentary tends to focus on class, race, queerness and inequality. To find him on socials-  @kwalkeronline

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