Every year, in the spirit of practicing what I preach, I write something looking back over the past 12 months. It is so easy to get caught up in the difficult things, whether personal or political, that life can feel very bleak at times. As a daily exercise, take the time to celebrate your victories, however big or small. Recognising and celebrating these can be very beneficial. In that spirit, lets take a look at 2019!
Last spring was, appropriately enough, a time of new beginnings. I was very excited to attend both the inaugural meeting of United With Pride – the NUFC supporters group for LGBTQ people, and to be elected their Diversity and Safeguarding representative. I also saw my Walking Therapy practice really begin to take off. It is so rewarding to be able to offer something which not only is effective, but which is especially useful for those people who have had previous negative experiences of therapy. Getting out of the office can make such a difference, freeing the constraints of two people and a packet of tissues (as I once described it) and allowing the growth and healing needed to occur.
Spring was also busy with travel, and attending some incredible events. March saw me helping at the Pink Therapy Intersecting Identities conference, which helped crystallise my thoughts around anti oppressive practice and the eventual formation of the anti oppressive practice group later in the year.
Then, in what really was a dream come true, in April I spoke at the Academic Archers conference – on Queering Shula. I am so pleased to be speaking again this year, this time on the barriers to accessing counselling people in rural areas face.
If I had to choose one word to sum up this summer it would be celebratory! From attending prides, leading workshops, and speaking on the main stage of Northern Pride, to the intensely proud moment of graduating from my Post Graduate Diploma in GSRD therapy, it was quite a summer.
There was also however a reminder of what a less tolerant world we are moving into. A panel on inclusion organised by Newcastle Cathedral for Pride Month which I was speaking on had to be moved due to complaints by bigots. It is a long time since I have been called a degenerate pervert but it reminded me why for me silence in the face of oppression will never be an option.
There was time for fun too! And no looking back at 2019 would be complete without mentioning the incredible Vogue Ball organised by Curious Arts.
I was also very pleased to have my article on working therapeutically with kink published by the BACP this summer. Writing for a number of different organisations and publications not only allows me to make my voice heard, but I hope represent so many people whose voices are so rarely heard in discussions of therapy. My writing is in many ways at the core of who I am, I am looking forward to the publication of my book chapter on Non binary identities and sexuality in 2020, and working on my book on Working Therapeutically with Sex Workers for Counsellors.
The Summer also saw me meeting with The Government Equalities Office LGBT team. It is vital that the victories we have won are protected, and the work must continue.
The Autumn began on an incredible high, with the UK’s first ever Bi Pride. I not only had my role as head of Diversity and Inclusion, but was part of the core events team. Given that my background was in D&I, the words “steep learning curve” have never felt more apt! It is impossible to sum up all the different parts of such a huge and successful event, but two moments perhaps give a flavour. One, was being told that the sensory room – which was nicknamed by the team “Kaz’s Den” – was the only reason someone felt able to attend. For me access is about tearing down barriers, and this was access in action. Another moment was hearing too performers say how they had never seen a pride like it for inclusion, and specifically mentioning some of the work had I done, from performer guidelines to the accessibility statement. I may have been on my feet for 17 hours, but I was walking on air!
Autumn also included wonderful moments such as the LGBT Northern Social Group Fundraiser, getting the proofs for my book chapter, and setting up the Anti Oppressive Practice group with Zayna.
Winter for me is always a time of turning inward, of reflection, and restoration. I find myself approaching the turn of the year in a better place mentally and physically than many around me. It gave me some guilt, initially, until I remembered the metaphor of the choir. Some of us carry on singing whilst those who need to can breath. If we have resilience whilst others do not, we should celebrate it, and use it for the benefit of those who are struggling.
Of course the winter is not over, and who knows when I might be the one who needs a moment to rest, and to breathe, and this is why I sing out now, when I can.
As ever the most important people of the past year cannot be named here, those people who give me the incredible gift of their trust and vulnerability, and sit with me as we find a way forward together into a better world. I want to thank each and every one of them.