Last year I wrote a review of the year. If I expect people who come to therapy to evaluate their progress, and achievements, doing so myself only seems fair. So often we can dwell on what did not go the way we intended, tormented by the inner critic which always finds fault. A conscious effort to focus on what we have done is very valuable.
With this in mind, here is my look at 2017, a year of huge changes, and full to the brim of opportunity for me.
Spring saw two new roles which have proved to be fulfilling in ways which were both unexpected, and invigorating. As a director of Be: Trans Support and Development North, I have been able to become directly involved in providing assistance and training which positively impacts on the lives of Trans people in the North East and North West. An exciting developement for 2018 will be presenting with fellow directors at the British Psychologists Conference in mid January.
In February, I spoke at the LGBT History Project NE open day. For someone who grew up with a stammer this was a huge step, and it seems public speaking really does get easier the more you do, as I have applied to speak again! Its taster talks and events are something I would recommend to anyone who wants to know more about queer history in a friendly and welcoming environment.
I also was elected Diversity and Inclusion manager for Bi Pride. This grew from the Stonewall Bi Role Models training which I attended last year. As a brand new organisation, ambition has had to be tempered with what is achievable for volunteers spread across the country, so the date of the first Bi Pride is set for 2019, and I cannot wait! Already it has led to new adventures (more of that later!)
Summer saw highlights both planned and unexpected. I certainly never expected to be marching with the bi pride contingent at Pride in London. I am unsure I can find the words to express the feeling of turning onto Regent Street, cheered on by thousands of people. It was a moment which moved many to tears, the joyous celebration and acceptance. Coming as it did after the terrible events of Manchester, Westminster and Borough Market there was also a proud defiance in so many taking to the streets to declare acceptance of LGBTQ+ people.
This summer I also started my post-graduate diploma in Gender Sexuality and Relationship Diversity with Pink Therapy. It began with an intensive residential, which included aspects of clinical sexology sadly lacking from most counselling training. I knew that in order to keep to my values as a therapist, specialist and in-depth training was vital. What I had not realised was how much personally, and professionally I would benefit. I feel that my work with clients is already benefiting as we cover topics such as mental health, living and working in the same communities, and how to work with clients who want to change their gender identity or sexual orientation. It is true there is always more to learn.
This autumn saw me speaking at Polyday, on the topic of doing poly wrong. It was quite a moment when we had to change rooms because so many people wanted to attend the workshop! I have already been asked to speak at Glasgow Polyday, and hope to make a Newcastle Event a reality. It was also fabulous to be able to hear DK Green and Meg John Barker speak at the event.
Back in the North East I attended, and participated in the LGBT History project NE taster talks. I learnt a lot about our queer kings and queens, it seems Versailles the TV show isn’t that far from the truth. I spoke on the changing use of the word “queer”, a topic which fascinates me and which I hope to learn and write more about.
On a personal level, Autumn also saw a holiday which took me to Melbourne, a city I fell in love with, and where it was a genuine pleasure to see the very vocal support for same-sex marriage.
Autumn brought the launch of the Pink Therapy conference for 2018, Sex Works! I have been concerned with professional attitudes to both sex workers and sex since I was a student. I can never forget my classmate who didn’t think sex was a suitable topic for counselling. I believe the Sex Works! conference will start to fill a fundamental gap in many people’s training.
As the year draws to a close, it always provokes in me a period of reflection. This year I have been very proud of my writing for the Queerness, and my involvement in the local LGBTQ+ community in events such as Trans Day of Remembrance and LGBT history project NE. However my pride in my clients outweighs all of this. To walk alongside people who choose to look with courage at themselves, their own lives, and to make the changes they know need to happen, encourages me to have the same honesty and authenticity in my own life. Indeed it prompted this very post.
Away from reflection, winter also saw me in London for the first ever Bi Pride away day, and our formal “birth” as a charity. Next year is going to bring so much of value for Bi representation in the UK!
As 2018 takes its first stumbling steps, I see a year ahead where all of my selves (as Meg-John Barker wrote here) are working together, which can I hope, only make me a better therapist, activist and human being.