Members of Leicester LGBT Centre's REACH project march at a previous Pride in London event

This Pride Month we cannot be physically together marching in the streets - celebrating LGBTQ+ people and protesting ongoing inequalities. However we still wanted to take this time highlight the work of LGBTQ+ projects, and celebrate the positive impact they are having in their communities, even during lockdown.

While huge steps towards legal equality have been made in recent decades, the battle for equality overall is far from over. LGBTQ+ people remain at increased risk of mental ill health due to a range of factors including discrimination and isolation. This risk is even greater for people with Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.[1]

At the Trust our overarching aim is addressing health inequalities and create a fairer society for all. A vital part of this is supporting LGBTQ+ people. So far, the Trust has granted over £1 million to LGBTQ+ projects, which have supported over 4,447 people. If you run or would like to start a project, learn more about applying for funding here.

REACH is a project run by the Leicester LGBT Centre, for people who are LGBTQ+ or are questioning their sexuality and/or gender identity in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Although they usually meet in person, during lockdown, they have moved their project online in order to continue connecting with and supporting those who need their services.

Participants are able to keep in touch with other LGBTQ+ people in a supportive and sociable environment. For those who are struggling throughout lockdown and may need help and support around coming out, expressing themselves and other issues during these difficult times, the project are also offering individuals 1:1 sessions with their Centre and Community Support Workers.

One of REACH’s service users said, “It’s wonderful to see The Centre’s services continue to run at this difficult time.”

Pride month is an important time for LGBTQ+ projects and their participants, even during lockdown. However this year there are also increased challenges. The LGBT foundation report that while the ongoing pandemic is affecting everyone, the impact on this community has been particularly profound and wide ranging. Their research identified significant challenges around mental health; isolation; substance misuse; eating disorders; living in unsafe environments; financial impact; homelessness; access to healthcare; and access to support.[2]

Theo McCarthy-Hirst, Centre and Community Support Worker for REACH, said, “People may also find this year’s Pride month particularly difficult as it is usually seen as a time to celebrate and remember history with other LGBT+ people or allies in large events, which have been cancelled due to quarantine.

This year, we’re looking at hosting digital pride sessions via Zoom throughout the month of June, with activities including discussions on the history of Pride, celebrating pride at home, and art projects to commemorate the historic month.”

Another project that is continuing to support their community is Make A Difference Entertainment, and their Trust funded project Rainbow Films. The project delivered weekly workshops, primarily with young LGBTQ+ People of Colour from Hillingdon, Ealing and Hayes. Led by film producer Blaise Singh, the project activities include learning film production skills. It also provides a safe space to discuss challenges faced by participants

The project even had their film Pride and Protest selected for the prestigious BFI Flare film festival, the biggest LGBT film festival in Europe. Although the festival was cancelled this year due to Coronavirus, the project has since been invited to several upcoming festivals. During the lockdown, Rainbow Films participants have kept in touch regularly through social media and video calls, and have been looking ahead to future screenings of their film. They will be hosting discussions and a remote screening of the film for Pride Month. Follow them on Twitter or Instagram to find out more: @lgbtrainbowfilm.

One member of the project, Rico Jacob Chace told us: “When I first joined the Rainbow Films project I was still in recovery from poor mental health, which was a result of enduring transphobia at work. I felt that society was completely oblivious to the poor quality of life that our community face, purely because of our sexuality or gender.

He continued: “The warmth of the team and the people we encountered, and the safe space that has been created, was empowering and inspiring and brought together a chosen family.”

Another project the Trust funds which supports the LGBTQ+ community is Pride in Mind, a social and support group for members of the LGBT+ Communities with mental health challenges living in North East England. The project has responded to lockdown by giving members the opportunity to have regular telephone contact and support with one of their facilitators who is a qualified and practicing counsellor, which has been taken up by a significant proportion of their membership.

Mish Lorraine, from Pride in Mind, said, “Pride is important to us to celebrate our communities and give our membership who are often socially isolated the opportunity to engage with the wider LGBT+ community and celebrate diversity.”

“Sadly the Covid 19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of Northern Pride, but we will be working out how best to observe it this year, if Lockdown is over we may organise a Pride social Meal for our members, or a virtual get together, whilst also engaging with members who don’t have internet access.”

Rainbow Films was funded by People’s Health Trust with money raised through Health Lottery London West, Leicester LGBT Centre is funded by People’s Health Trust with money raised through Health Lottery East Midlands and Pride in Mind is funded by People’s Health Trust with money through Health Lottery North East and Cumbria

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