Tuesday, 4 April 2017

LGBTQ+ - setting up a new Powys group



This week's guest author introduces himself:

My name is Shaun and I am a volunteer at Mid Powys Mind.

I should start by saying that LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questing) is not a mental health condition although it has a huge impact on mental health. Before we decided to have a LGBTQ+ peer support group I read an article that said 70% of people who identify as trans will contemplate suicide, members of the LGBTQ+ community are twice as likely to developed a mental health condition and LGBTQ+ youths are twice as likely to attempt suicide. The reasons for this are isolation, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and ignorance.


As an openly gay man, who has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, this didn't shock me as much as as it should have. What shocked me was how little support there is in Powys; although Powys is the largest county in Wales it doesn't even have a sexual health clinic.

Mid Powys Mind's Wellbeing Coordinator asked me if I wanted to organise and run a LGBTQ+ peer support group and I jumped at the chance. I started by researching and soon found that there were far more sexuality and gender identities than I was aware of. I think it must be so confusing these days for LGBTQ+ youths, coming to terms with their sexuality/gender. We spoke about whether we need to add the Q. Some places will say that Q stands for queer, but I'm now aware that some find this offensive - for a long time queer was used as an insult and although a lot of LGBTQ+ have reclaimed the word queer, if asked I say the Q is for questioning. I have also been taken back how many times I have had to explain what LGBTQ+ stood for, I assumed everyone knew, maybe that is because I am the G in LGBTQ+.



Other things came up that I hadn't thought of since being a teenager. Mainly “coming out” and how we come out as a teenager and think that is it, but the truth is we “come out” through out our lives, friendships, work, socially... there is always that moment when someone says: "Do you have a girlfriend?"

Going around Llandrindod and asking strangers if they would put up a poster to advertise the LGBTQ+ group I was more or less “coming out” in every place I visited. In the back of my mind the same insecurities that plagued me as a teenager came back.... Is this the time I will have to face a negative reaction? And a certain amount of shame. If I feel this way as a confident middle-aged gay man, imagine how a teenager or someone who has low self-confidence may feel?

The group meets on the last Tuesday of each month (5pm - 7pm) in the basement at Mid Powys Mind's Wellbeing Centre in Llandrindod Wells. It is a small, diverse and friendly group. We have guest speakers: so far we have had someone from the Terence Higgins Trust and the Dyfed Powys Police LGBTQ+ Liaison Officer. Future plans for the group include arranging a social evening, a session to raise awareness, trips to the Pride festival and discussions to secure funding.


Anne Woods, one of the PAVO mental health team’s Participation Officers, has been attending the group.

Anne says, “I think it’s very important to be able to get together with people who share similar experiences, especially when we have something in common that can set us apart from others. Although I’ve not experienced much overt prejudice since moving to Powys, I have noticed some and I think it’s vital to have a safe place where we can explore issues around gender and sexuality with people who understand.

As part of the Comic Relief funded project I’m running, we have an opportunity to link up with the Iris Prize community outreach team to produce a short film about issues affecting people from the LGBTQ+ community in Powys and members of the group will be taking part. I would encourage anyone to contact me if they would be interested in taking part.”

For more information about the LGBTQ+ monthly group call Mid Powys Mind on 01597 824411, or email: vo@midpowysmind.org.uk

You might be interested in these links...

Anne Woods wrote about taking part in the 2016 Pride event in London in Taking Pride in Diversity.

At the start of LGBT History Month in February 2017, Sarah Carr, Associate Professor of Mental Health Research at Middlesex University, wrote "Queer in the head"? Do LGB people in the UK have poorer mental health?