When you’re straight, pretty much anywhere you go to hang out with your mates is a safe place, designed to make you feel welcome and comfortable. It could be down the park, at the pub or at a bowling alley (Do straight people bowl? *Shrugs*)
But if you’re queer, these sorts of places, where you can feel like a part of a community, are much harder to come by.
One project hoping to change this is the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre, a start-up organisation raising funds to transform the way LGBT+ people in the capital meet up and get advice.
Building on the work of other LGBT+ groups such as the Albert Kennedy Trust, this new project “will be a completely accessible, multi-purpose space, run by and for LGBTQ+ people.”
The centre, which will be the city’s first dedicated community venue for LGBT+ people since 1991 - when the London Lesbian and Gay Centre was closed down - will be open from morning until night and can be used by individuals or campaigning groups.
There’ll also be a cafe employing LGBT+ people looking for work, a meeting point, a workspace and a social centre.
According to the project’s crowdfunder page: “We aim to create an information hub with research capabilities and a sign-posting service for those seeking support to discover the brilliant charities and organisations who specialise in LGBTQ+ specific service provision. Each year, three full-time positions will be created, for a programmer, fundraiser and marketing lead for the Centre - providing invaluable training and opportunities to LGBTQ+ people.”
And it’s so far got the backing of the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander.
Writer and news editor Michael Segalov has been involved with the project from the start and told ShortList about the importance of creating a space for LGBT+ Londoners that isn’t primarily focussed on alcohol.
“Something I’ve been reflecting on since this project started is how for any other marginalised group in our society, the idea that we’d send them to a pub or a club to learn about their history or to get advice and support on their problems is outlandish,” he said.
“And yet for LGBTQ+ people, who make up a huge proportion on London’s population, that’s what we tell them to do.
“Now bars, pubs and clubs play an incredibly important role in providing for the community but that shouldn’t be the only space where you can access advice, especially for children and teenagers, older people or people who can’t afford to go and spend money in a bar.
“The LGBTQ+ community also has a disproportionately high proportion of people with alcohol and drug addiction, for example, or Muslim LGBTQ+ people so that’s an incredibly important part of what we’re trying to achieve here.”
And Michael added that marginalised groups, including people of colour and transgender people, have been at the heart of the project’s planning.
“That’s been a key part of this project – to not just create a space that looks like other LGBTQ+ spaces in the capital. We were always really keen to ensure we created a space that was open for inter-generational contact, for instance, and for people from different parts of our community.
“It’s fundamentally not just a space for the L or the G or the B or the T or the Q or the +, it’s a space for everyone and we’re really desperate to make sure that happens.”
The London LGBTQ+ Community Centre is incredibly close to reaching its initial fundraising goal of £50,000 so any amount you can donate will make a huge amount of difference. Click here to donate.
(Images: Egle Trezzi)