Pride hats

The union's LGBT school

For me, the highlight of the FBU LGBT school is always the guest speakers that attend. Relevant, informative and often moving, the talks demonstrate the past present and future importance of our section and the work it does.

This year’s school opened with Jezza Donovan from the charity Gendered Intelligence, speaking about transgender identity and gender fluidity. In their spare time, Jezza does stand-up comedy, which made for an engaging presence and entertaining presentation. Whilst talking to an already largely informed audience, Jezza’s approach was accessible and clear, explaining what appear to be complex issues in a simple way. Just one of the great things about the school, is that it gives us the knowledge and tools to take back to our workplace and educate our members and colleagues. Jezza’s witty delivery of a lesser understood subject would be a fantastic resource to be shared across all fire stations.

Mermaids is a charity set up to help support young people who are transgender or gender diverse. Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids, told the moving personal account of her daughter’s transition and the difficulties faced. The charity aims to educate, campaign, support and advise, working closely with doctors, social workers and other professionals to teach them about gender diversity.

The talk gave a real insight into the difficulties faced by members of our community. Learning about Mermaids has given me an invaluable resource to which I can sign post anyone who may benefit from their fantastic work. This charity really does save lives and has won numerous awards for its work.

An upbeat talk from FBU national officer Tam Macfarlane, about equalities and intersectional work preceded the closed group session. This is a confidential safe space where small groups of attendees can share their own experiences of being LGBT+. It’s good to get an insight into individuals personal experiences so we can support, advise or simply listen. I also find it beneficial to see how different fire and rescue services deal with any difficulties members encounter at work.

The final morning guest speaker was Helen Jones from Mind Out, a mental health charity for LGBT+ people. Some quite sobering statistics on the high rates of mental health problems and suicide rates in the LGBT+ community and for emergency service workers, reminding us all of the need to look after ourselves and one another. Group work involved sharing self-care strategies and discussions on how we can as individuals, and as a fire and rescue service, improve the ways in which we support those with poor mental health.

In amidst these inspiring talks, we learnt about the structure of the FBU, the fantastic work past, present and future of the LGBT+ section, and how we can play an active role in our union.

I am often asked why we need an LGBT+ section, and every year the school is a stark reminder as to why. In my mind, it’s three fold; to provide an accessible and strong network of support to members in minority groups; to educate ourselves and others; to overcome the challenges faced in the past, present and future.

I’d encourage everyone to support all of the FBU equality sections; Women, BEMM, LGBT+. By acknowledging and supporting minority groups, the sections help us to ensure that we have a progressive fire service, with a diverse workforce that better reflects modern society. By supporting one another and championing equality, everyone has the opportunity to thrive. We are stronger together.

FBU LGBT school 2019
Gemma Wright
London firefighter 

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