Your Stories

 

Read the stories of some of our Staff, Volunteers and Service Users

We had a cup of tea and a chat to find out what some of our community members are up to and to find out a bit more about them.

 

Lucy bulletin Gino Rachel Cruz profile photo Jay Crawford profile

Lucy

Gino

Rachel

Jay

Jenny-Anne community profile Amy for Your Stories Jojo Louie

Jenny-Anne

Amy

Jojo

Louie

Catherine Poulton Charli jake pauline150

Catherine

Charli

Jake

Pauline

Aimee Linfield

Aimee

click here to share your story with us.

Lucy's Story

We met with Lucy to talk about her experiences of volunteering with both LGBT Foundation's Women's and Trans Programmes, and how Connect was established.

Lucy bulletin

Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about yourself?
Hi, I'm Lucy! I'm a software engineer and a regular volunteer at the LGBT Foundation.

How did you find out about LGBT Foundation?
I first heard about the LGBT Foundation whilst attending a local LGBT group in my area. They informed me of the Butterflies group at the foundation, and while attending this group I was given a leaflet for the TransMission bulletin which also had a volunteer shout-out on the other side. The rest is, as they say, history!

You’re been involved in in a lot of LGBT Foundation’s Trans Programme events. What have you enjoyed the most so far?
I very much enjoyed the voice coaching, it was brilliantly informative and a great way to meet others from the community.

You’re one of the founders of Connect. Can you tell us how the group came about?
Connect came about after Peter, the Trans Programme Assistant, had received significant interest in a trans group for young adults. Realising there was a need for such a group Peter sent a shout-out to those interested asking if we'd like to get together and discuss setting up the group. From there we arranged our own meetings to organise what was needed, and before long we saw Connect come to life!

How has volunteering affected your health and wellbeing?
I've found volunteering has helped boost my confidence whilst being a great way to get in touch with the LGBT community and to give back.

What advice would you offer someone questioning their gender identity or newly out as trans?
There are going to be hard times, but you have to be true to yourself; it'll all work out eventually, and you'll be so much happier for doing it!
 

Gino's Story

We met with Gino to talk about diversity and visibility in the trans community and his experiences of volunteering at LGBT Foundation.

Gino Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about yourself?
Hi, my name is Gino Barnes and I’m a trans man originally from South Africa. I came to England in 2008 leaving for safety as my family was actively too much into politics, so fearing to be killed after my father was shot to death by opposition political party ANC whom as well murdered my mother in 1994. I grew up knowing my father as my only parent along with my older sister who’s also here in England. While living in South Africa my family attended a Jewish place of worship and no LGBT topics came up within my family so I never knew that the LGBT community existed.

Moreover, coming to England in 2008, I was a teenager and my interest towards females was already clear in my mind but didn’t have anybody to share it with and too much had already happened in my life so didn’t want to scare my sister even more. I seeked asylum and got looked after by social services in London and my sister was sent away to live with other adult asylum seekers in Liverpool, so this separation as hard and painful it wa,s it made me stronger in order to get to know myself and learn about other people around me from different backgrounds.

I became involved with LGBT groups in London UKLGIG for a short time and went more involved with Movement for Justice by any means necessary, Albert Kennedy Trust and NUS Black student campaign LGBT rep elected in Leeds 2013, so becoming active and connecting myself with my community has worked out for the best. I have been living openly as a butch lesbian and always dominate as man in the relationships I have had in the past and currently, I have never felt like a female or live as one, I have male friends and they see me as guy and even my LGBT mates we see each other as brothers not sisters Nope! My relationship with my sister is completely failed and we don’t see each other, we are just two worlds apart because now even I identify myself as transman and she doesn’t want her daughter to grow up with a person like me she says, as she looks at my life to be toxic.

I moved from London to the Midlands to complete my education as I couldn’t get into university after I finished BTEC National Dip Science level 3, so I continued onto another course Access to Nursing until I found a scholarship that helps asylum seekers with tuition fees but I didn’t get the scholarship until having to do my 5th course in 2014 Access to Science, thanks to university of Salford for seeing my handworks in wanting to achieve good education regardless of the hold Home office has towards asylum seekers. However, my transition started a while ago to live my life as a man I just needed to start the procedures with medical sector to start hormonal replacement therapy, also thanks to many YouTube videos and LGBT foundation groups that are available for trans such as Morf that I started attending while I live and study at university of Salford.

Lastly, I love studying science and I enjoy being a DJ because I love music. I thank God every day for creating me with an LGBT rainbow around me.

How did you find out about LGBT Foundation?
I heard about LGBT foundation during pride I once attended with my friends and university of Salford gave me information that LGBT foundation has many groups which are held regarding immigration and on how to go about my transitioning.

How has volunteering affected your health and wellbeing?
I began volunteering at the LGBT Foundation since June this year at #TransMCR and I’m looking forward to volunteering over Sparkle weekend and at Manchester Pride. I thank LGBT foundation for giving me the opportunity and I hope one day I can open my group to educate and to articulate more LGBT people from other countries and asylum seekers. My health and wellbeing has improved as I enjoy the spaces LGBT Foundation provides for its community.

What does trans visibility and trans awareness mean to you?
Its an important time to amplify voices across the diverse trans community and honour who we are as people, to embrace our diversity and to raise awareness of the challenges we still face.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Don’t look at what you do in time but look at what you will achieve in time, the more we live the more we learn we are nothing but the pencil in the hands of the creator.

What advice would you offer someone questioning their gender identity or newly out as trans?
I will encourage them, make them comfortable and listen to what they are going through as every trans story is different and difficult on its own. I will let them know they are not alone and they should never think negative about themselves because being positive in hard times determines the courage in you to handle a situation. No amount of pain or situation is permanent, trouble today and tomorrow is a problem solved because stamina is a quality.
 

Rachel's Story

We met with Rachel, LGBT Foundation's Volunteer of the Year 2016 to talk about her involvement with the community safety iniatives, and both the Women's and Trans Programmes at LGBT Foundation.

Rachel Cruz profile photo

Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about yourself?
Hi my name’s Rachel, and I’m a tarns woman. 2016 is such a big year for me. I have my first of three GIC assessments in September/October at Northampton GIC for my transitioning from male to female. I’ve changed all of my ID, and in April, started my new job in a call centre as me, Rachel. Yey! Since January 16 I’ve been doing various volunteering roles at LGBT Foundation and I also volunteer for #TransMCR every 2nd Saturday of each month. As part of this monthly trans community event, I have run two workshops, one a self-defense class and this month’s was a dance class. I’ve also been featured on Gaydio’s Breakfast Show with Emma to promote #TransMCR – yey!

Growing up I was very shy, got bullied by bothers, schoolmates and gangs in the street. I also had no confidence when at discos or around parties. At 14 I decided enough was enough. How can I go through life being so withdrawn, vulnerable and shy?! I went to a local jujitsu club and after 3 dedicated years became a Black Belt 2nd Dan, and was no longer bullied by anyone! This though, was a two piece jigsaw, and the other piece was to be able to dance.

I joined a ballroom dancing school nearby, which taught disco classes and went along with a friend to learn some routines. We liked it so much, we started ballroom and Latin American and soon I passed each media and trophy to advanced level. I was addicted to rhythm, it was the 80’s and street dancing was on the TV but nowhere in the UK was teaching it, so I taught myself how to ‘body pop’, break dance, and robotics. I was soon being paid and dancing around the world, in New York, at Studio 54, Ibiza, Ayia Napa and eventually Ministry of Sound in London!

How did you find out about LGBT Foundation?
I heard about LGBT Foundation online and wanted to access many of the services it offers to the LGBT community. I’ve been volunteering for the Trans Programme every month in a variety of roles, from meeting and greeting people, to running workshops myself.

Congratulations on your ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award at the LGBT Foundation Volunteer Awards. How did it feel to win the award?
It felt so surreal. Just to get voted alone in one category would of been amazing, but to get voted for in every category, then to win THE BIG AWARD of the night, I was just speechless (I know this doesn't often happen !!!) It made me realise that I can make a positive difference in life of others, simply by just being me. My Award is not just for me, it's for everyone, EVERY single person associated with the LGBT Foundation, whether a permanent member of LGBT or a Volunteer, we won this award collectively. That wonderful night and experience will stay in my heart forever. Thank you all so so much.

How has volunteering affected your health and wellbeing?
I started Volunteering at the LGBT Foundation just 6 months ago, and now volunteer in a Variety of roles, including the Women’s Programme, Trans MCR, Village Haven, Sparkle, Pride Manchester, various administrative roles. Also, I recently added volunteering for GAYDIO to my Volunteering portfolio! People come up to me now, who first seen me for the first time months ago, and say how well I look now. Volunteering keeps my feet on the ground, gives me purpose, focus and such satisfaction that I do feel it's therapy in itself! Live each day, like it's your last, you'll be Amazed at what you can achieve. Thank you LGBT Foundation.

If you’re interested in volunteering, no matter how little time you can give, I would say do it! It’s so fulfilling and gives you such satisfaction to be helping other people. But beware… it’s addictive!

What does trans visibility and trans awareness mean to you?
Society needs to catch up quick and accept that people are unique, individual and should be accepted for who they are.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
The Best piece of advice I was given, was to Love myself first and unconditionally. By doing this, I have protected my wellbeing, physically, and mentally. I’ve gone on to exceed my Expectations. There's only one of you, you're incredible, and the sooner you realise it, the better!

What advice would you offer someone questioning their gender identity or newly out as trans?
If you are questioning your identity or have newly come out as trans I would recommend going online to find your local ‘LGBT Foundation’- type resource, as the help and understanding they can offer is priceless. You will gain more confidence and become more comfortable in who you really are.

Jay's Story

We met with Jay to talk about his involvement with trans social and support groups in Manchester and his experience at the launch of #TransMCR.

Jay Crawford profile

Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about yourself?
Hello! I’m Jay Crawford; I am a queer transman in my mid 20's and I am happily married to my wife Stephenie, we live together in a quiet suburb of Manchester with our Jack Russell Terrier and we’re also hoping to have a child in the not too distant future.  I am currently a volunteer for 2 Trans Organisations and I also work with another non LGBT charity helping people with learning difficulties and disabilities engage in horse riding sessions in South Manchester.

You are on the board of trustees for Sparkle, can you tell us a bit about your history and how you came to be part of Sparkle?
Having first attended Sparkle in 2008, I left the weekend having really loved the atmosphere. The celebration had an air of “whoever you are, whatever you are – you are welcome” which at that time I had been craving rather than a protest. In 2012 I became a moderator in an online group called Trans Masculine Support and Advice (TMSA-UK), we help lead a peer support group and offer mentoring, advocacy and signposting to over 1600 trans masculine people in the UK. Fast forward to 2015, when the opportunity came up to become a trustee with Sparkle and I jumped at it. It is a massive challenge, but the rest of the Charity Trustee's are fantastic to work with and we are incredibly lucky to have such wonderfully talented, committed people onboard. 2016 has been a fantastic year so far as we launched the first “National Transgender Awards” ceremony and we are looking forward to the Sparkle weekend in July. We hope everyone will join us for the Sparkle fringe 6th-13th July and the Sparkle weekend on the 8th/9th/10th July.

You modelled for Amy’s Life drawing class at our #TransMCR event on 9th April. Can you tell us how you became involved?
I did a foundation degree in Art and Design in my late teens and I really enjoyed being a life drawing model back then, I saw a shout out on social media for a life drawing model for the #TransMCR event and I thought “hey! Why not!”. It was as much about being useful to others as it was, just a good experience for me too.

The class was really well-received and I think many attendees were particularly pleased to see a trans model. What does trans visibility mean to you?
Trans visibility is something I have the privilege of making a choice about. I am visible when I need to be, but I often assume everyone knows I was female identified at birth when that isn’t always the case. I think now is the time for trans people in the UK. We are slowly moving forward in a direction that in my opinion is guided by us, and so many organisations are doing their very best to fight for the rights of trans people. I am committed to improving the lives of other trans people by being visible myself wherever possible. We still need to fight for rights of every trans, non binary and gender variant person across the globe, TDOR highlights the importance of this every year.

What did you think of #TransMCR and what would you like to see from future events?
I was so proud to see so many young trans people at the event, There wasn’t an event like this when I was first coming out, just a monthly support group MORF and TREC (which ceased in 2014). The atmosphere was very positive and engaging, everyone was very upbeat and sharing knowledge. Pockets of conversation were across a broad range of subject and getting people to talk about being trans, our experiences and sharing those with our SOFFAs (significant others, family, friends and allies) is an incredibly valuable experience. I think it will be great for so many in the community.

May 17th marks ‘International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia’ (IDAHOBIT). How do you think we can challenge transphobia?
I think for me the importance of May 17th is that ALL areas of the LGBT spectrum come together for one single agenda, the end of stigma and at the same time gain the attention of the media and the general public in order to create a better space for everyone without fear of persecution. Millions of people across the world come together, to show support to their LGBT friends, families and allies and that's incredibly valuable. I think the biggest fights are still to come from Bisexual people who are very much the invisible acronym in many parts of the community and those who identify as gender variant. The only way to fight transphobia is by standing up for injustice around transphobia, engaging with policy makers, what is left of the NHS and by challenging those who are given a soap box in the media.

What advice would you offer someone questioning their gender identity or newly out as trans?
Every single tear, moment of fear, panic and stress is so worth it. Family can be tough, friends can struggle but you will also find so many allies that you never knew you could. There is a vast sense of community out there for trans people so no matter where you live, study or work, there will be people like you. Reach out to the internet for safe spaces and advice if you feel more comfortable with that. Whether or not you choose to take hormone treatment, move on to have one, two or more surgeries or none at all, makes absolutely no difference as long as you are working towards a place where you are happy. I love art, music and enjoy the company of horses; I also enjoy dying my partner's hair and I chose a wonderful pink flamingo wallpaper for our bedroom – I don’t see those as female or male traits, I just see them as part of my personality. There is no need to feel as though you must fit into a ‘heteronomative’ view of female and male or masculine and feminine as long as you are true to yourself.

Jenny-Anne's Story

We met with Jenny-Anne to talk about her involvement with trans social and support groups in Manchester and Wales. 

Jenny-Anne community profile

Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about your story?
I'm Jenny-Anne Bishop, an older married trans woman (69), living with my trans partner Elen in Rhyl, North Wales. I've been out as a trans* person for over 45 years, but family and work pressure restrained me from full time transitioning until about 9 years ago.

I was born on the outskirts of West London and grew up in Surrey and Kent, knowing from about 4 years old that my sense of who I was did not match my physical body. I first saw a psychiatrist about “gender non-conforming behaviour” at six years old in 1952. All through my childhood and early adult life I dressed in secret as my true self, having learnt it was greatly discouraged by my parents, school and my church. While exploring gender diversity and possible transitioning at University, I was strongly encouraged to get married and have a family as a “cure” to my “deviant” behaviour.

In reality, living with another woman and bringing up a young family just intensified my need to be myself, and after my wife gave me the opportunity to explain my feelings, we agreed that in return for not transitioning to full and permanent living as my true self, not taking cross gender hormones or having surgery, I would go to the support group once a week, have a night out in the clubs as myself once a month and go to a trans weekend 2 or 3 times a year. Although I always wanted more time as myself; I used this as my “coping” strategy for over 35 years (1970-2007).

I felt suicidal many times, but support from my wife; my trans friends and my hope of eventually becoming myself got me through the tough times. I lost my job in Industrial Chemistry sales many times for being trans in my private life, and temporarily separated from my wife and family in 1979 when I was “outed” by the police. In spite of all the strain, my marriage lasted over 30 years and we successfully raised our family

Having retired in 2008, I now concentrate full time on voluntary work for the trans and LGBT+ communities. This includes giving regular Trans Awareness and Equality training courses; being a member of the Westminster Parliamentary Forum on Gender Identity, The Welsh Government Strategic Equality Plan Board, a trustee for several LGBT organisations and a lay Trans Pastoral leader and Committee member of the Manchester Metropolitan Congregation in Chorlton. I am also a member of many organisations and steering groups on reporting and reducing hate crime, trans health care and on Equality and Diversity standards. (NHS / WHSSC, BCUHB, Flint Council, GMP etc.)

I was recently awarded the Homo Heroes Volunteer of the year Award 2014 and invested with an OBE in HM the Queen’s 2015 New Year’s honours list for services to the trans community in Wales.

Can you tell us about the social and support groups that you’ve been a part of?
I was lucky to find my first trans support group in 1971 and became a member of The Beaumont society in 1972. When I moved to Cheshire for work purposes in 1974, I soon found the Manchester TV/TS group or “Wednesday group” (so called to camouflage it’s real purpose) that had just been founded by Stephen Whittle in the Chaplaincy of Manchester University.

I was still associated with this group when it moved to the Gay Village and became Northern Concord (1986), eventually changing to Manchester Concord in 2008. Over the years I got involved in helping run weekends, acting as group photographer, helping others etc. I also become a regular volunteer for the Beaumont Society National Helpline in 1998 and joined the Sibyls group for transgender Christians in the same year, also helping them to organise their retreat weekends.

One of my close friends moved to North Wales in 2000 leading to my association with the Unique Transgender Network which serves North Wales and West Cheshire. I went to support their first meeting in February 2002 and have been a committee member ever since. Attending this first meeting also started my association with North Wales Police where I and other members of Unique have provided regular trans awareness and equality training for the last 14 years. I’m also a member of the North Wales Police Liaison LGBT, Trans and Equality steering groups, the IAG and the CPS Scrutiny Panel.

Working with North Wales Police brought many request for trans awareness and equality training, over the years; together with our sister organisation TransForum Manchester - we have given over 500 courses to more than 100 different organisations and developed almost 40 different courses and workshops for the great diversity of organisations we work with.

The experience of working with Unique and The Sibyls led to the founding of TransForum Manchester in February 2004. This is a discussion group and peer support forum for all transgender people and those in any way questioning their gender. It also acts as a Focus group and assists in Policy documentation. The group meets regularly at the Foundation on the fourth Saturday afternoon.

How did you find out about LGBT Foundation?
I initially found out about the then Lesbian & Gay Foundation (now LGBT Foundation) in the early 2000’s through attending Manchester Pride and other community LGB(T) events. I started going to events at the LGF in 2008, and worked with others to start running the TREC (Trans Resources and Empowerment Centre) Trans Saturdays that were hosted by the Foundation from November 2009 to May 2013.

Can you tell us about your involvement with LGBT Foundation’s Trans Programme?
Back in 2008 I had a conversation with Paul Martin (CEO of the Foundation) about making the LGF more trans inclusive, and this helped inspire the ideas leading to TREC being founded in 2009. When TREC stopped operating in 2013, members of TransForum approached the LGF about becoming more trans Inclusive. The first community discussion meeting was held in March 2014 and led to the founding of Trans Advisory group, which helped the foundation change to the LGBT Foundation in 2015 and set up the Trans Programme. I’ve been a member of this group since its inception in March 2014.

What does trans visibility and trans awareness mean to you?
For me trans awareness and visibility means being completely out as a trans person at all times, raising awareness and doing awareness and equality training whenever the opportunity arises. Also seeking out opportunities to raise awareness at conferences and public events, by attending and where appropriate making trans focused presentations or workshops.

What advice would you offer someone questioning their gender identity or newly out as Trans?
Firstly, not to worry or be ashamed about being trans. It’s a natural diversity, and hiding, supressing or ignoring it causes much more harm. Don’t try to ignore it; eventually it will come out!

Secondly, to search out good internet resources such as GIRES and the LGBT Foundation's Trans Resources. Tranzwiki lists most of the UK’s support groups by region and with detail of the services they provide.

Also make contact with any local support groups, who will be able to signpost resources and provide peer to peer support and networking. They can also direct you to good counselling and sympathetic GP’s and health services if you feel you need such services. 

*Trans is an umbrella and inclusive term used to describe people whose gender identity differs in some way from that which they were assigned at birth; including non-binary people, cross dressers and those who partially or incompletely identify with their sex assigned at birth.’ 

Amy's Story

We met with Amy to hear about what she thinks of the Trans Programme.

Amy

Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about your story?
I'm 35, I came out as transgender in my early thirties after a lifetime of gender dysphoria. I've been lucky enough to have the full support of my family, friends and employers throughout. The process is tough and I did find it difficult to find people going through the same journey as me, especially at the start, so I'm really interested in being able to help people at the stage I was at a few years ago.

I am the lead artist at a VFX studio in Manchester called Flipbook. I am responsible for concept artwork and design, story boarding, 3D modelling and animation. I really love my job and it's a great industry to work in for LGBT people. Whilst a lot of my work is done digitally nowadays my degree course focuses on natural media eg watercolours, life drawing etc. I still go to life drawing classes whenever I'm able to.

Aside from all of that I'm hugely into film and animation and have an interest in any kind of visual creativity, I ride motorbikes (slowly!) and I love the countryside and nature. Weekends will usually be spent either at the cinema, a gallery or national trust property, on a hill somewhere or of course the Molly House. I live on my own in Didsbury.

How did you find out about LGBT Foundation?
I first visited what was then the LG Foundation to attend a TREC meeting, and have been to some of the talks there during the Sparkle weekend. TREC came to an end pretty much as soon as I discovered it, but I've kept an eye on the LGBT Foundation's website since. 

Can you tell us your hopes for the new LGBT Foundation trans programme?
I'm hugely excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. The support network and events catering to the trans community in Manchester currently suffer from a bit of an image problem, and this has caused some inspiring and passionate people to stay away, and for the attendance of some of the groups to be quite narrow in terms of age and diversity.
I am not a hugely confident person but I see getting involved in supporting other trans people as part of my own growth, and I think it will help build my confidence. I do pride myself on being a good listener and I always try to consider all viewpoints. I hope that this new programme can attract a wider range of people and provide a positive and inspiring community for all trans people. For my own part, I would like to have the opportunity of using my experience of transitioning through the NHS to help those at the beginning of that journey.

What does trans awareness mean to you?
There will hopefully come a day when being trans has no effect on employment opportunities, access to healthcare, basic rights, or ability to have a night out or even just walk down a street without harassment. And those are just the problems trans people face in this country; in others it's far, far worse. I think we need to continue to highlight these inequalities whilst supporting positive representations of trans people. I want a world where a teenager doesn't have to hide who they are, and can come out as trans without fear.

What advice would you offer someone questioning their gender identity or newly out as trans?
Reach out to others, and make sure you have a good support network, whether that be family, friends or a support group. Be proud of who you are and be true to yourself; society can sometimes pressure people to transition from one box to another. And look for positive role models, either locally or in the media, it will really help!

Amy has since become a Community Creative volunteer at LGBT Foundation.

If you would like any further information about the Trans Programme, Community Creatives or just want to chat about what we do then drop an email to trans@lgbt.foundation

Jake's Story

We met with Jake to have a chat about the many groups and projects he has been involved with.

jake

Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about your story?
I’m a trans man. I got involved firstly by going along to a MORF meeting, which is a support group for transmasculine people. After the first meeting I got so terrified I didn’t go back for 12 months! Once I worked up the courage to go back, it took me a couple of months to actually speak in the meetings. I then went to a SOFFAS (Significant Others Family Friends and Allies) meetup with my Mum, they were looking for committee members, and of course my Mum put me forward and volunteered me! I am so glad she did though, because I’ve met so many people who are all amazing. It’s built my confidence up so much and the support from the community has been great. I was involved with MORF (a support group for transmasculine people in Manchester) for 3 and half years and became chair for 12 months. I did so much with MORF, we did loads of good stuff; film nights over Pride, a couple of pub quizzes to raise money and many socials. This then made way to start things with BUFF which is the transmasculine event that runs alongside Sparkle, the national trans Pride event that happens here in Manchester. We saw a massive gap in Sparkle because it was only really catering for the transfeminine people, so a group of us got together and started something new. We raised 800 pounds for the MORF binder scheme during the BUFF weekend. I am also involved in other work within the trans community too! I am part of Trans Bare All (TBA), which is a national organization working with individuals to increase self-confidence and self-esteem. I help organise the retreats we do and take care of general admin bits and bobs. We recently celebrated TBA’s 5th Birthday!

How did you find out about LGBT Foundation?
I am part of the Trans Advisory Panel, when I first got involved with the consultations LGF (as it was known then) held with the trans community, I was skeptical about how it was going to go, I think a lot of people were, but I went in with an open mind because they have always approached it by asking the community what they wanted to see happen, they weren’t just pressing ahead and doing their own thing. I was keen for the name to be changed to LGBT Foundation to reflect the organisation being totally inclusive of the trans community. I have really enjoyed being part of the Advisory Group, mainly because I am quite nosey! You get to see the background work being done; it’s also nice to be part of something that’s a clear and positive change for the LGBT community in Manchester as a whole. The meetings are really great and always positive.

Can you tell us your hopes for the new LGBT Foundation trans programme?
I think what is lacking for the trans community in Manchester is what TREC (Trans Resource Empowerment Centre) offered, but that no longer exists. TREC brought the whole spectrum of the trans community together under one roof, that doesn’t really happen anymore. There are still divides within the trans community, and I hope the programme will mean lots of opportunities to come together regardless of backgrounds and experience.

What does trans awareness mean to you?
I think it’s so important so that people know we exist! The stuff we see in the media is so sensationalised, it’s important that people know we are just regular people going about our lives. I am personally quite proud of being trans, I am proud of the work I have done for the community and what the community continues to do. I recently wrote an article for a gay men’s online magazine and I was in two minds if I should do it or not but then I thought to myself “why shouldn’t I?” Being a trans guy, being gay and disabled has been hard, I think the more people who are out there talking about these things, the more it breaks down barriers so it’s not seen as something to be ashamed of.

What advice would you offer someone questioning their gender identity or newly out as trans?
I would confide in someone that you trust, and find the community! I say this to everyone, we are a big community, and there are lots of people out there going through what you are. You might have to travel to find it but it’s worth it! If you have recently come out, or are thinking about it you need to know that there are people ahead of you who want to look after you. That is the best think about the trans community, once you get to know people, they want to look after you and make sure you are safe. Without sounding cheesy, to me it’s like a big family!

Jake has since become a Befriender at LGBT Foundation.

If you would like any further information about the Trans Programme, Befriending or just want to chat about what we do then drop an email to trans@lgbt.foundation

Catherine's Story

We met with Catherine to have a chat about her life so far, involvement in TREC and what it means to be a Trustee here at LGBT Foundation.

Catherine Poulton

Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you who you are and what you do?
My name is Catherine Poulton and I’m a Trustee of LGBT Foundation. I’m a trans woman. I didn’t start my transition process until I was nearly 60 years of age and it took me nearly 10 years to complete it. Now I’m fully transitioned and I’ve been living as a female for the last 6 years. I think I’ve been able to establish a successful life for myself. I find I can mix freely in society. I have a circle of friends, not exclusively within the trans community. I regard my transition as being successful.

You were involved in TREC. Can you tell us what TREC was and what your role was there?
I was involved in TREC almost from the initial creation, which from memory was round about 2009. I was asked to join it because I had some experience of the trans community and also because I had a project management background. TREC stands to the Trans Resource and Empowerment Centre. It was really designed, as it says, to be a resource centre for the trans community – a source of information, which people could go to and access. We did used to have a regular monthly meeting, which were held here on a Saturday at the LGF as it was known then. We offered a range of facilities or events for the trans community to take part in, for example there were acting classes and still drawing classes. The idea was to enable the trans community, who may be at various stages in their lives and may not all fully transition, to engage in some activities, which would benefit them in terms of personal growth, satisfaction and fulfillment in a space that was safe.

One of the things that we did was to look at the position of GP practices in the area and the sort of experiences that people were having, in order that we provide information and guidance both for members of the trans community and the GPs as to what is both good and bad practice. We also provided training on trans related matters.

TREC continued for about 5 years. The reason it eventually wound up wasn’t because it failed, it was successful right to the very end. Some of the key players in it, and by that I mean the people that were for example doing the research work and the people organising the events, moved on in their respective careers and they weren’t able to devote their time to it. We felt that perhaps TREC had come to natural conclusion in what it had achieved.

How did you find out about LGBT Foundation?
I first became aware of the LGF in 2003 or 2004, which was at the very start of my transition experience. Before I had made the transition, I’d sought medical advice and support and I was under the care of the Charing Cross Gender Clinic. It was a very difficult time; I needed some help and support and the LGF(as it was called then) gave me that. I was very grateful. I’m loath to say it was a ‘lifesaver’ but it certainly helped me negotiate a difficult period in my life because there was somebody there I could go and talk to on a regular basis about the things that I was experiencing. That was wonderful.

Whereas most people was thought the Lesbian & Gay Foundation, as it was known then, had no connection with the trans community at all. That wasn’t the case. They clearly did, as I found out.

You got involved with the LGBT Foundation as a Trustee. Can you tell us what that role involves?
I’ve worked as a Trustee in other organisations and I found it a very satisfying role. Trustees are really the people who oversee the organisation and help direct its progress and development. The idea is that the professional management team go to its board of trustees, who have a degree of independence and can help the professional management team formulate its plans. It provides a degree of independent scrutiny and guidance but, essentially, its role is to help and support the management team.

What are your hopes for the new Trans programme and how do you see it fitting in to the climate of trans activism and trans work that has been going on in Manchester over the last decade?
Well, most importantly, I want the Trans Programme to be successful. We’re still in the process of fully defining what it is that we want to achieve and in order to do that we’re engaging with our Trans Advisory Group. In a more general sense we want to raise the profile and the status of the trans community. We’re looking at the issues affecting the trans community - whether they be social, medical, legal or employment. We’re also, as an organisation, looking both locally and nationally, at what we can do to help to enhance the standing of the trans community and help it address any problems or issues that are causing it any particular difficulty. I think it’s very important that we do this.

What does trans awareness mean to you?
At its most basic level, treating members of the trans community as individuals, and as members of society in just the same way as everybody else expects to be treated. Members of the trans community have hopes, aspirations, abilities, and skills. They want to integrate in society in the same way that anybody else does, and not to be isolated or marginalised as a distinct group defined solely by their gender identity. Speaking personally and from my own experiences of trans people, I believe that is it’s what they want to do – they want to get on with their lives just like everybody else.

What advice would offer someone questioning their gender identity or someone who has newly come out as trans?
I can only base my answer on my own experience, though I don’t think this would be so unusual or different to others. I personally found it very difficult to come to terms with the fact that I was a trans person. I was approaching 60 years of age before I did so came to terms with it. When I eventually acknowledged to myself that there was something I had to address, I repositioned realised that I simply couldn’t carry on as I was. , as it This was causing me such distress. In my case, the first thing I did was go and seek some counseling and I found that very helpful in the sense that it helped me get some perspective. The mere fact that I had shared my ‘guilty secret’, - I shouldn’t have felt guilty but that’s how it felt to me, - with somebody else and to allowed was able to discuss it with someone in a rational, objective and impartial way that allowed me to think about what I was going to do. I then went to see my own doctor and found that I was very fortunate, - bearing in mind this was 12 years ago, - in that I had a doctor, who though although she had never dealt with a trans person personally, she was positive, helpful and supportive. The third step, next thing I realised was that I couldn’t live and spend a life in isolation, I needed some help. I did join a trans support group and that engaged me with members of the trans community. At that stage I found that being able to spend time with people, who had similar experiences and feelings about who they were as I did, I felt that tremendously helpful. I think if you try to do it spent transition in isolation, you’re setting yourself up for a fall.

If you would like more information about our Trans Programme or the Trans Advisory Panel please email trans@lgbt.foundation. Also, you can find out about our other Trustees here

Charli's Story

We caught up with Charli to talk about her life and experiences as a intersex woman and what trans awareness means to her. Charli lives in Manchester and is in the process of becoming a volunteer with LGBT Foundation, we are so happy to meet her and welcome her to the team.

Charli

Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about your background?
My name is Charli Darling, I live in Manchester. I was born intersex, the medical term for what I have is Klinefelters Syndrome, I have XXY chromosomes. I was one of the contestants of Miss Transgender UK last year. Coming out as intersex was tough, growing up my parents never accepted me. I hid and blocked and what I was going through and put this shield up. On the outside I was the happiest person but on the inside I was going through hell. Up until the age of 11 I was a boy, when I was 12 my breasts started growing and I knew there was something wrong and I started to get attracted to boys, it was a very confusing time. But as I was growing up I looked at my friends and saw they were growing beards, their voices were breaking and they didn’t have tits! I decided to get a girlfriend to try and fit in. But I was getting more depressed. I couldn’t tell anyone. Finally when I was 17 my Mum finally agreed to take me to the doctor. I went to the hospital and they took x-rays and blood tests. The doctors were just talking at me; I didn’t understand what was happening. My mum said just don’t say anything just nod your head. My mum and the doctors were there talking about me and my body was there but I wasn’t involved or allowed to say anything. My parents put pressure on me and I had a breast reduction but shortly after my breasts started growing back again. They tried to put me on male testosterone, I think I was on it for a week, maybe two. I hated it all and stopped the process. This caused many arguments with my parents, and I moved out. I think I was about 19 or 20 then. That is when I started being Charli. For a few years when I went back to my parents I would dress in masculine clothes and go back to being Charles, not that I was very convincing.

The turning point was when I started to be independent. It’s taken nearly 20 years for everyone in my family to be cool with me. I never believed my Mum would be ok with me but when I was in the Miss Trans UK Competition, she said she would have come and supported me; I couldn’t believe that . There is nothing they can say now because I dress how I want to and I won’t dress up and pretend to be someone I’m not.

Growing up intersex was really tough, I was suicidal growing up, but I never wanted to go back to that place again. I thank God I never succeeded in trying to take my own life. I did it all on my own, and my friends were always there for me, it was my support network of friends and self-belief that got me here and made me stronger.

How did you find out about the LGBT Foundation? How do you hope to be involved in our work? I met Louie, the Trans Programme Coordinator, I was on That’s Manchester TV with him talking about trans and intersex people. I want to help out with the new Trans Programme and be involved as much as I can. I have never done anything like this before. I really want to help people who are coming out and transitioning. I am praying and hoping there are other intersex people in the Northwest and I hope we can connect with each other because I don’t know any!

Can you tell us about what your interests are?
I really love hair and make-up, my hairstyle is different every day. I love getting dressed up and going out. I think hair and make-up are important to me because it makes me feel amazing, when I dress up my friends call me HRH (Her Royal Highness) I think wearing make-up makes me feel a lot better, even though people tell me I don’t need make up, it makes me feel nicer. People come to me and ask for me to do their make-up and I like helping my friends and people feel good about themselves.

This week is Trans Awareness Week, what does trans awareness mean to you? I think it’s trying to remember all the trans people who have committed suicide and the people we’ve lost because of transphobia who should still be here with us and still living our lives. I keep reading stories from around the world about trans people who have been murdered and it upsets me so much. At the end of the day we just want to live our lives; to live happy, healthy and normal lives. We aren’t hurting anyone. We need to make people aware that trans people are humans like everyone else.

What advice would you offer someone who went through what you went through and Is dealing with realizing they are Intersex? Speak up. I did not speak, I shut everything away and stayed silent for too long. Once you speak you feel a lot better. I think that is the main reason I felt depressed because I held everything inside and did not speak out. It was eating away at me. At one point everyone knew me as ‘smiley Charli’ but on the inside I was in hell. By speaking out you are breaking free. For me, when I did that everything changed.

If you would like more information about our Trans Programme and volunteering opportunities please email trans@lgbt.foundation

JoJo's Story

We caught up with JoJo McClay who is a valued volunteer here at LGBT Foundation with our Befriending scheme. This service seeks to combat isolation through providing individuals with regular one to one contact with a supportive person. It helps individuals build confidence, self-esteem and motivation while offering support in finding social networks through local groups and organisations.

Jojo

Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about your background?
My name's Joanne, JoJo for short.  I was born in Canada, raised in Scotland and I’m 44 years old. I am a post op' male-to-female transsexual now living in Salford. I didn't know I was female inside until I was 28 but at the age of 6, all I knew is that I wanted to be someone else. School was a washout and my lack of attendance in the last 2 years of secondary school could've been an entry in the Guinness Book of Records! I didn’t attend because all the boys were going through puberty around me, I didn't know that then. I hit puberty around 16 and things were pretty shitty for a spell but it was at the age of 20 when my facial hair kicked in and I started shaving that all hell broke loose inside of me. As soon as I came out at 28, I gave up smoking straight away and lost interest in drinking so problematically (this killed my belief in chemical addiction). I started the long process of realigning my body with my psyche. I'm at the tail end of the transition with just a small percentage of facial hair left to kill with electrolysis.

How did you find out about LGBT Foundation?
I was looking to do something with my time whilst I finished the electrolysis and the name came up in a Google search!

As a LGBT Foundation befriender, what does your role involve?
It varies from person to person depending on their needs. In my experience, some people just needed helping back into voluntary work or making friends, and other people had a particular interest and wanted some help finding relevant groups.

Can you tell us your hopes for the new LGBT Foundation Trans Programme?
That ultimately, there will be a transgendered Bill & Ted and they will rock the world so that the world gets comfortable with transgender people and stops throwing rocks at it.

What advice would you offer someone questioning their gender identity or recently out as trans?
Some of your loved ones will grieve for your old persona and they can't let go whilst the ‘physical ghost’ of the person is still around. Your eyes are the same. People might not be able to be around you while they’re grieving for you and you might lose some loved ones along the way. If they can't face you, take it as a compliment about how they feel about you. They love you.

If you REALLY want to blend in with women then wear what they usually wear...Hoodies, jeans and trainers (but not at a funeral unless it's all black and you're an Emo!).

Hair and beauty departments in colleges always need people to practice on for electrolysis students. It'll save you a fortune and I advise you to get it underway from the get-go because facial hair removal takes the longest.

Remember, in some cultures around the world there is documentation of trans people being revered as spiritual leaders. In those places, it's not YOU who's wrong; it's the world around you.

If you would like to know more about Befriending or volunteering opportunities with the Trans Programme please email trans@lgbt.foundation

Louie's Story

We spoke to LGBT Foundation’s Trans Programme Co-ordinator, Louie Stafford, about our exciting new programme and what we can expect to see happening in the future.

Louie

Can you tell us about yourself and your new role at LGBT Foundation?
In my role, I oversee and the programme and make sure we hit all our aims and objectives. It’s a very exciting role for me personally, I am very lucky to be one of the few paid workers in the country doing this important work.  I come from a youth work background and have been doing work with the trans community in Leeds for nearly four years. I’m also studying Sociology and Social Policy in my spare time. I am a bisexual trans man and I am still transitioning. I view my own personal transition to be ongoing and inclusive of me working towards being the best version of myself, so I’m not sure when, or if I will ever be finished! My work, my family and friends all play a huge part in my life. My Mam especially is my biggest supporter and fan, and I wouldn’t be here without her!

What other work have you done for the trans community?
I ran support groups in Leeds and supported many individuals though Yorkshire Trans Support Network, which is a charity I started. I have also delivered trans awareness training to organisations and charities across Yorkshire, focusing on trans inclusion. Also within my studies, I am always involved in different streams of research and have a particular interest in the needs of the trans community.

Can you tell us your hopes for the new LGBT Foundation trans programme?
I am so happy to be part of the programme and the wider team here at the LGBT Foundation. There is a real willingness from everyone here to adapt and embrace the new Trans Programme. Behind the scenes of the organisation there has been lots of work done and thought put in to how groups and members of the trans community have a voice and inform the work we do. It is my hope that the Trans Programme delivers exactly what it aims to, meets (and exceeds) expectations and supports the valuable and tireless work already being done by and for the trans community across Greater Manchester.

What does trans awareness mean to you?
To me, it’s all about raising the profile of trans people, highlighting the problems that effect trans people, and moving towards a fairer and more equal society where trans people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Trans people often live in absolute isolation, it’s about reaching those who feel alone and helping them feel included and valued, while making sure wider society know we exist and that we matter!

What advice would you offer someone questioning their gender identity or newly out as trans?
Talk to a friend, reach out to a support group or organisation, find people who won’t judge you. You are not alone, you matter and you are loved.

How can people get involved with the new Trans Programme?
Because the new Trans Programme is brand new, there are so many ways to get involved and we have a blank canvas! If you have a unique or useful skill that you would like to offer the trans community then we want to hear from you. In 2016 we have loads of plans for events that we are looking for volunteers for. We will always be looking for members of the trans community to be at the forefront of this work but everyone is welcome to get involved.
 

If you would like any further information about the programme or just want to chat about what we do then drop an email to trans@lgbt.foundation

Pauline's Story

Pauline is one of our volunteers who regularly attends #TransMCR and uses her experiences to help other trans people reach their full potential.


Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about yourself?

A warm and friendly mature transwoman, of 68, who still feels like a young woman inside. These days I live most of my time as Pauline, but sometimes I choose to be a man - my own halfway house suits me and it fits in with the parts of my life that have nothing to do with the trans community. My birth sign is Pisces...two fishes swimming in different direction is rather apt.

pauline150

Having worked and lived for over 30 years in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, I have been very fortunate to experience other cultures and languages. In the late 90s I came out as Pauline in the Netherlands in Dutch, and became an active member of the trans community there. Now it’s called transgender vereniging (or transgender association), back in the 90s and noughties when I was living in Holland it was called LKGt&T, a Dutch national group of transgender people which met and still meets in different cities. I used to go to meetings in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam and sometimes Eindhoven; in 1998 a group of us “Dutchies” came to England for a Trans Essex weekend which was like being giants in Lilliput. Some of my fellow Dutch trans women were 6’5” (I am a mere 5’10”)!

Since my return to the UK I have worked on a transgender website (Transtastic) as a site administrator and moderator for over 6 years, trying to help other trans people on their journey with articles, blogs and advice. In March 2016 I joined the LGBT Foundation as a volunteer. My life experiences and ups and downs are, in my view, very common for many transgender people and they have helped me to be empathetic and to help other trans people on their journey. As with selling it’s all about listening to others and not making snap judgements.

You have quite an impressive history in terms of the professional work you have done; are there any lessons you have learnt from this that you want to share?

Probably the main lesson for me is that in the industrial and technological world of chemicals and plastics in 2016 there is still not a positive attitude towards trans people. It’s like being gay in any time period between 1950 and 2010. These attitudes take time to change. And change is slow.

I was very fortunate to work in international marketing and sales of technical plastics for 45 years. However it is a technical and male dominated industry, and whilst it was never transphobic it was not and still is not positive in its attitudes to the LGBT community. Some companies in engineering and chemicals do practise equal opportunities for trans people, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

This month we mark Trans Day of Remembrance; could you tell us what this occasion means to you?

Trans Day of RemembranceTrans Day of RemembranceIt means a lot to me personally, not as part of any group. It could have been me who was killed for being trans; luckily I have lived in relatively tolerant societies and communities and I have only ever had to face verbal abuse or name calling, the kind of things that women accept as an everyday occurrence from men. And it’s almost always men who are intolerant and aggressive towards our community. I have been attending TDOR for 6 years now; in the early days we used the LGBT stainless steel memorial to gather around as the centre point of the memorial. After 2013, when the trans community had its own statue in Sackville Gardens, the event has become more special and the attendances have grown.

TDOR gives me the time to reflect on those who have died because of bigotry and hatred towards my community; sadly most of those who have been murdered were living in countries where attitudes are much less tolerant than here in the UK.

How did you become involved with the LGBT Foundation?

It all happened earlier this year, because I wanted to do more to help the trans community, and a friend of mine was a befriender. I approached the LGBT Foundation directly in March 2016 about volunteering and then was interviewed and had training as a volunteer. Since the #TransMCR programme started in April I have volunteered at most of the monthly events, and hope to be able to become a befriender in the near future. My personal goal is to help others in the transgender community with advice and help.

What advice would you offer someone questioning their gender identity or newly out as trans?

Read as much as you can about being transgender and gender dysphoria on the internet. These days it is so much easier than it was pre-internet and many of the negative attitudes in society at large have changed. There is a lot of help online and lots of details about trans support groups.

Join a transgender website where you can meet others like you, and check out Facebook where there are several transgender groups.

And most importantly join local trans groups and go to local trans events - scour the internet for details of these. These are the opportunities to meet people like you. The LGBT Foundation is a great example of one of these places!


If you would like information about volunteering or if you are affected by any of the issues in Pauline's story please contact us via phone 0345 330 30 30 or email us at trans@lgbt.foundation

Aimee's Experience

Aimee, now a staff member at #TransMCR and once an attendee, shares with us the story of her involvement with our trans community events.

 

I first came to #TransMCR just after Easter, 2016. I was going through some difficult stuff at the time and being around other people with similar experiences seemed to make sense. Getting away from my little town and vanishing into the big city for a day also seemed like a good idea.

Aimee Linfield

 

I turned up by myself, feeling a bit nervous, but found my way to the café where a whole bunch of strangers sat milling around. I picked a table that didn’t look too scary and asked if the people on it minded if I sat down. They didn’t mind of course, whether they knew each other or not, I think we’d all come for similar reasons and were likely there because we wanted to talk to others.

There were a few other things going on that day, and it was cool to have options for workshops and things. I thought about going to a few but in the end I just sat around chatting with other people. What I needed on that day was just to talk to others in a space where I knew I could be accepted and where other people had some idea about the things I was going through. That’s what I got and when I left the world didn’t seem quite as bleak.

I didn’t make my second #TransMCR until February 2017. Much had changed in my own life by then, but the space was as welcoming as ever and the event had much the same vibe. #TransMCR is very much whatever type of event people need it to be. For some it’s a place they can be themselves, for others it’ll be something else; a chance to catch up with friends, something to do on a Saturday, an opportunity to do a workshop or activity or a chance to ask questions about things they’re not sure about.

The other difference was that I was a member of staff now (like I said, a lot had changed in my own life!) and it was nice to be able to make sure others felt as welcome, comfortable and accepted as I had when I’d first turned up. I’m really proud to be able to be involved with an event that means so much to so many people and has the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives and experiences. 


If you are interested in volunteering at #TransMCR or would like to find out more please drop us an email at trans@LGBT.foundation and see the website page for #TransMCR here.