St Mary’s Church, Reading

Support U has been working with St Mary’s Church for a couple of years. In that time we have got to know each other quite well.

We can see your eyes rolling right now: why would we would we even bother? For anyone who is LGBT+, the feelings of horror in that anyone who identifies as LGBT+ would want to enter any religious environment/establishment. We could burst into flames for just walking near a church, let alone go in and pray.

For Support U, it’s about change, and supporting people and organisations alike. To help them with the change and create an environment that is inclusive. Our CEO, Lorna, has been supporting the church in engaging with the LGBT+ community with the added support of Reading Pride and My Umbrella.

For Lorna there has been a shift this week from feeling embarrassment and shame for wanting to enter the church and also that she could be letting the LGBT+ community down by engaging with them. Let’s be honest, the church isn’t the most welcoming place to be when you’re trying to access compassion and understanding as an LGBT+ person.

Luckily, Lorna isn’t shy when it comes to engaging with those who have been known to persecute our community. She wants the engagement so that we break down the barriers and try and understand each other. She is hoping that, over time, it will break down the barriers of hate towards us and start a conversation and a real understanding of their own religion. Which should always be about supporting their fellow human and letting them be their whole self. Love people for who they are not what you would want them to be.

So it came as a surprise for Lorna when, for the first time in many years, it didn’t cross her mind that she was entering a place that may not want her there and that God may be displeased with her. As LGBT+ people we feel that nearly all of the time, wherever we go. This is testament to St Mary’s Church and how it has chipped away at Lorna’s past experiences and feelings towards entering a church.

If you are religious and wish you could go back, we recommend St Mary’s Church as a starting point. On the Tuesday 25th Feb at 7pm, there is a dedicated LGBT+ service, where the LGBT+ community has had an input in the service.

Don’t be alone at Christmas

Christmas for LGBT+ People can be a lonely and sad time for us. But you don’t have to be alone, check out the link from RVA where you can meet other people during December.

There’s lots happening around town during December, so if you know anyone who could do with some company or a free Christmas Day meal, or who may need to know where their nearest open chemist is, please pass this information onto them:

LGBT+ employee and allies programmes – sharing best practice – 7th November 2019

In Bracknell at 3M, UK, we was delighted to host a seminar on how to develop successful LGBT+ employee and allies programmes on 3M Global Inclusion Day, 7 November 2019. The session was organised by Support U and included speakers from 3M, Procter & Gamble, Thames Water, Reading University and Royal Mail.   

The speakers shared best practices and where their organisations are with their LGBT+  Diversity and Inclusion journey; some are just starting, while others like Procter and Gamble have a 25-year history. The event was designed to help employers share best practice and ideas to help others create and grow diversity programmes. 

Tina Monk, Diversity and Inclusion Champion, North Europe, who spoke at the event, said: “It was an honour to host this and very interesting to hear what other organisations are doing; we can all benchmark and learn.

 “There were some common themes from all of the speakers that go beyond just ticking a box, namely: support from senior management; a culture of respect; the belief that people should be able to go to work and be themselves; that unacceptable behaviour will be called out; and a diverse workforce is good for employee engagement and ultimately business. 

“It is early days for us, but we have a great foundation on which to build through our Employee Experience programme, commitment from senior leaders and Diversity and Inclusion reps in each country. We are going to scale up activities and build a plan for 2020.”

Here’s a round-up of some of the things other organisations are doing: 

Thames Water has a large LGBT+ network with roles allocated for areas such as mentoring, fundraising, a manager’s toolkit, Stonewall submission and organising Pride events. Reverse mentoring also takes place, where LGBT+ employees pair up with managers to share their experience. 

The University of Reading has an LGBT+ allies programme and has introduced initiatives such as pronoun badges and making the ‘No Bystander’ pledge – committing to never being a bystander to hateful language and abuse.  It is a Stonewall Diversity Champion and assesses itself in the Stonewall workplace equality index, where it ranks in the top 100.  

Royal Mail Group embraces Diversity and Inclusion and has several programmes in place such as ‘Delivery with Pride’ and rainbow post boxes.  In 2015, 15 employees took part in Leicester Pride; in 2019 this had risen to 17 Pride events involving more than 500 employees and two Pride branded carnival vehicles. It is now launching an allies programme.  

Procter & Gamble has a long-established GABLE (Gay, Ally, Bisexual, Lesbian Employee) forum. It has run many campaigns including films with CNN and celebrates Diversity and Inclusion with Diva awards. Fairy was also the first product brand to promote LGBT+, rebranding ‘Fairy’ to ‘Fair’ to encourage open and positive discussion.

Lorna McArdle, Chief Executive Officer of Support U thanked 3M for hosting the event: “Bringing together such high profile organisations to share best practice is a first for us. Thank you to all of our speakers and to 3M for hosting us at its outstanding facility in Bracknell. People must be able to be their authentic selves at work and not feel they have to hide their life outside of work. People need to feel included, whatever their sexual orientation, race or religion. For employers this means happier employees and better integrated teams. The risk of not doing it is losing valuable, knowledgeable people.” 

National HIV Testing Week

Reading is a HIV hot spot. If you are having unprotected sex. Or even if your not, we recommend that everyone should get tested. 

The event is a Walk in, no appointment necessary.

30 minute consultation and test

In the interest of confidentiality, no information regarding test results will be disclosed to any Support U staff members. 

Using a Point of Care Test (POCT) which is a finger prick test, patients can receive their HIV test results in 60 seconds. Should this result be “Reactive”, Florey Clinic staff will make arrangements with the client to attend the Florey Clinic soon after testing for follow up tests.

At this point all HIV related care will be managed by the Florey Team.