To celebrate Pride Month 2020, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight a few of the community organisations in the Semble network who are run by and for LGBTQ+ people.
Celebrating community action
Black Country Fusion were formed in 2016 by Skye Stewart as the first LGBT inclusive team in the West Midlands to enter a Sunday league. The goal and ethos of Black Country Fusion FC is equality in sport and Skye believes that by promoting equality she can empower all the club’s members. “This club was built on the values of inclusiveness and we welcome anyone from any background to join”.
What gives Fusion a bigger identity is that all of the heterosexual players believe in equality in football and the club has worked very closely with Just A Ball Game, to promote this message. Fusion played in the Beacon Afternoon League between 2016 to 2018 and finished 7th and 6th in the respective seasons. They have also played in the Staffordshire FA affiliated cups, getting to the semi-finals in the 2017-2018 season.
Following the conclusion of the 17/18 season, Fusion signed a deal with WMRL Premier League side, Black Country Rangers, to create the Black Country Football Club, which led to the development of a ladies, veterans and youth teams.
Fusion play a charity match every pre-season, working with many charities including Awareness For Autism and The Haven, as well as supporting the British Legion and Help for Heroes. In 2017 Fusion played at Molineux working alongside PayCare and Wolves Pride, where they set a record attendance for a charity match. 2017 saw Fusion work closely with Carling on a project which was integral to Carling choosing to sponsor the Black Country FC adult teams for the 2018 -2019 season.
As the coronavirus lockdown begins to ease, Fusion are preparing to get back onto the pitch. You can follow their progress here.
Happy As I Am was set up to fill a gap in provision for LGBTQ+ young people in Bedfordshire. The group works with over 30 young people who attend youth clubs twice a month in Leighton Buzzard and Biggleswade in Central Bedfordshire.
The project seeks to reduce isolation by giving young people a space to support and help each other. The project has seen young people come together and work in partnership with Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire to produce a information booklet for teachers and other staff in schools to inform and educate on issues affecting LGBTQ+ young people.
The groups help young people with their sexuality, transitioning and everyday lives. Young people have commented that they are now better in their mental health due to having a safe space to come to.
Sembler Josie, who visited the group last year, commented: ‘This is one of the happiest, kindest spaces I have ever been to. Happy As I Am which truly feels like a family. If every town had a group like Happy As I Am, we would be living in a better world, where young people felt safer, less ashamed, and fully embraced by a queer community.’
Just Enough is a social enterprise group that runs workshops and creates books and resources on difficult subjects, including challenging homophobia, for children all across the world. They aim to educate every child and empower them to believe they can make a difference in the world, whether it is large or small.
They have made their resources available for free, take a look here.
The Rainbow Bridge Cafe is a community hub located in the Birmingham LGBT Centre. Rainbow Bridge hosts Coffee Morning sessions twice a week as part of the Ageing Better in Birmingham programme. In the words of their chairman, Terry: “the space welcomes any gay or straight person to have some refreshments and a chance to meet and chat with people”. This cafe offers a non commercial space to socialise and find out about other groups or services for the LGBTQIA+ community in Birmingham. The options are endless: reading groups, walking and biking groups, etc.
The coffee mornings have become part of the members’ weekly routines. Here they find a safe space to talk to friends and share ideas and cake. They have tried several ways of connecting and this is the one that has worked best so far.
Members said that they struggle most with engaging new people to join them and organise different activities. “When people are isolated and stay at home because they feel lonely, it is difficult to reach out and invite them to come to our group,” says Terry.
In spite of the COVID-19 lockdown, they continue to support Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ community and have taken the cafe online. You can read more about this project by visiting Ageing With Pride Birmingham.
Whilst the COVID-19 health crisis means that many pride events have been cancelled or postponed this year, there are many online events planned. IGLTA are compiling a list of global pride events and the Independent have published an article on how pride events in the UK have responded.
If you know of a great community group lead by LGBTQ+ people and/or helping the LGBTQ+ community, please ask them to join Semble and share their story! They can sign up for free here.