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LGBT Confidence Conference with Claudia Carvell

Following the LGBT Confidence Conference held by the LGBT Foundation, Ellie Tivey talks to women’s officer Claudia Carvell to highlight why coming out can be so difficult for members of the community and how the foundation seeks to make the intrinsically political and social LGBT experience that bit safer, brighter and more powerful

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Situated in the centre of Manchester’s Gay Village is 5 Richmond Street. Inside lies the bustling hub of the local charity, The LGBT Foundation (LGBT-F). Sitting in the waiting room, it was impossible to not notice the sense of inclusion, kindness, and passion surrounding LGBT people and issues. This week, I spoke with the LGBT-F Women’s Officer, Claudia Carvell.

Having recently held The Confidence Conference, whilst spearheading the Women’s Department’s reformation within the charity, I was keen to ask what Claudia had to say about the work that the charity had done for women in Manchester.

As Carvell stipulated, the LGBT-F is a “local charity with a national reach”. It’s core services focus on a range of health and well-being issues, with separate departments focusing explicitly on issues facing trans, bisexual, gay, and lesbian people, to name but a few.

Having been working at the charity during its name change from The Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF), to the LGBT Foundation, I wanted to ask Carvell what effects this has had on the charity’s reach and work.

“It’s made a massive difference to the visibility and representation of trans people across our organisation,” she said, “It’s not that we didn’t support these people before, it’s that this was our first visible step towards increased inclusion.”

Photo: Claudia Carvell

Photo: Claudia Carvell

Such inclusion was evident also from her recent event, The Confidence Conference. The website of which explicitly expressed how all women were welcome to attend, such as:

“Women of colour, older women, disabled and neurodivergent women, trans women and non-binary people.” I asked her how important it was that these women were specifically named.

“The Women’s programme here had its funding stopped in November last year,” she replied.

They needed to assess what had been missing from their events and work and rectify it in order to regain support. After research, Carvell found that three demographics were under-represented at the previous women’s events: trans women, older women and women of colour.

“One of the tricks that a lot of people miss is it’s not enough to say LGBT, you see LGBT and your mind will always go to the most privileged, visible groups within that. If you say explicitly, this service is inclusive of trans women, bi women, women of colour, they will start to see themselves in that space.”

The event itself was a launch for what Carvell called “The Confidence Movement of  2017/2018”. Its focus was encouraging lesbian, bi, and trans women to “access social networks that were already there and form new ones”.

Beginning with a fair featuring local groups and clubs who are open and welcoming to LGBT women, the event went on to feature talks from comedian Kerry Hall and drag queen Lydia ‘Dick Slick’. The event culminated in workshops on how to make friends, aimed at more neurodivergent, socially anxious people, and how to set up social groups. All of which in aid of encouraging women to “get out there and be your best self”.

“Confidence doesn’t sound like an urgent issue,” Carvell said, “but it’s something that everybody deals with, and it can impact lesbian, trans, and bisexual women in ways that it don’t affect others.”

In previous campaigns, the LGBT-F has headed straight for more ‘urgent’ issues such as mental and sexual health etc. “Now those resources exist,” she informs me, “we can focus on the confidence issue that encompasses them all.”

An example she referenced was the act of coming out to friends and family. “That’s something that can impact your access to healthcare and social networks,” the Women’s branch of the LGBT-F is focusing on confidence to ensure this process is as easy as possible for each woman undertaking it. This work is visible in their LGBT-F YouTube vlog series.

Named: ‘Coming Out Where We Want, When We Want’, it provides “an empowering platform for lesbian and bi women to talk about their experiences and be heard.” Just as her Confidence Conference focused on including all of the wide range of peoples you can find within the category of LGBT women, the series aims to display how coming out is different for everyone, making women feel more comfortable in their own narrative and highlighting that they are not alone.

The future of the Confidence Movement looks bright. Featuring radio takeovers on local stations over the next few months, a monthly skills workshop provided for LGBT women, and their thriving meetup.com account which has already helped hundreds of LGBT women gain friends and confidence in social situations.

Check out their website at lgbt.foundation, email them at women@lgbtfoundation.com and, as Carvell emphasized, if you want to get involved then get in touch and volunteer!