Each year, as we approach the end of one year and the begininging of the next, I take a moment to look over the past 12 months. It is in part about practicing what I preach, as I encourage others to celebrate their successes and have pride in their own journey. It is also a good reminder to myself that no matter what imposter syndrome might say I have reasons to feel pride.
The year began with my first ever visit to Cardiff, a city I fell instantly in love with, to attend and speak at the BPS conference. I co led a workshop on working therapeutically with gender diversity, as well as attending a number of excellent workshops, lectures and panels. This year it will take me to Manchester, where I hope my workshop on multisexual (bi, pan and queer) identities will challenge and educate clinical psychologists from across the UK.
Spring was busy, as hot on the heels of Cardiff I was at the Bi Pride UK away day, preparing for an unimaginable summer (more of that later). I did spend some time in the North East though, and presented at the LGBT History Project North East Day, on the pathologisation of Queer Identities. Then, in March it was the Pink Therapy Sex Works! conference, almost 2 years in the planning, and a truly transformative and groundbreaking event. Presenting the myth busting session was, I will confess, nerve-wracking, but it overturned many of the things which people believed about sex work and in doing so set the tone for the whole two days.
2018 was for many a very difficult year, as attacks on Trans people went mainstream, and the language we were used to seeing in the worst parts of social media was given prominence by the broadsheets and tabloids. The reform of the Gender Recognition Act, a minor piece of legislation which predates the Equality Act, was presented as an attack on the very foundations of our society. I was therefore so glad to help, in some small way, by Chairing Gender Recognition; The Facts. A much needed riposte to some of the wild claims thrown around.
Summer also marked the end of my first year on my Post Graduate Diploma in Gender, Sexuality and Relationship Diversity. There has been tears, laughter, and so much learning. Part of me looks forward to my graduation, whilst another part wonders what it will be like not to have my amazing classmates in my life.
I mentioned the unexpected, and unimaginable highs of the summer. When, in a Bi Pride UK meeting we decided to try to attend as many Prides as possible, I had no idea quite how the summer would unfold! From speaking on the main stage at Warwickshire Pride to marching with 100 bi, pan and queer people and their allies at Pride in London I attended 6 very different Prides. I made new friends, met incredible people, but perhaps most importantly, met person after person, who in dfferent ways, told me how they had not expected to see bi representation, that a simple stall, saying you belong to, meant so much. Many of these people hugged us with tears in their eyes, unable to express quite how much it meant.
I shared this feeling when I was able to organise Newcastle’s first ever Bi event (outside of Student Union events). It was a moment which reminded all who attended of what Pride means. This was a topic I explored in a long read for the LGBT History Project.
The summer also saw an exciting collaboration with one of the most innovative Town Councils in the country, Berwick Upon Tweed, who I worked with as a consultant. Many smaller councils ignore their LGBT residents, or even worse claim they do not exist, leading to a lack of services. So it was also so heartening to work with Outreach Cumbria in training counsellors to work with gender, sexuality and relationship diversity in an intensive two day training.
Summer also saw me giving evidence in an immigration hearing, to try to prevent the deportation of an LGBTQI refugee. It was, even for a white person with no fear of deportation, a frightening experience which crystallized how the hostile environment has no concern for the human beings harmed in the pursuit of an ideological ideal.
September saw me writing about kink, as my thoughts turned to the second Pink Therapy Conference of the year, From the Bottom to the Top – Emerging Trends in BDSM. I was able to hear one of my absolute academic heroes, Darren Langdridge, speak in a day jam packed with thought provoking content.
The early Autumn was dominated by one of those life events which we can only measure the impact of as we experience them. Empathy does not demand we have experienced everything someone else might (that would of course be impossible) but the departure of my eldest child to university was a moment which many will have shared in.
Autumn also saw the realisation of two long term goals, finding a peer supervision group was the first. Good supervision is as the heart of private practice and finding the right supervisors matters a lot to me. Currently I feel blessed to have monthly supervision one to one, and fortnightly peer supervision with other GSRD therapists. My second ambition achieved was to start providing walking therapy, making use of the healing and very powerful effects of nature.
November also saw the Second Trans Lives North East conference. Alongside hearing excellent speakers I delivered workshops on mental health. In a climate of anti LGBT campaigning working with employers and service providers from all sectors on “opening doors” for gender diverse people felt so important.
Winter is a season for reflection, for taking stock, looking forward and looking back. This review of my year cannot of course be anything but selected highlights, and of necessity must exclude the most important part, my clients. Daily they inspire me, educate me, fill me with awe at their strength and determination. As I look towards 2019 the one thing I know for sure is that I will continue to grow, nurtured by each person I work with.