25th June 2022 will be a day I remember for a very long time.
As a person with anxiety, meeting new people can be a tricky experience for me, but from the moment I walked up to the building and was greeted by volunteers from the conference, I felt at ease. The conference started and immediately the atmosphere of togetherness, love, solidarity and support was evident - I've never felt that way in any kind of professional environment. We were a group of humans under the same umbrella, some allies outside of the umbrella, allies within the umbrella, with differing intersectionalities but we were there, learning from each other, supporting one another. It was one of the most incredible professional moments.
ALL of the speakers were passionate, phenomenal, flawless. ALL of the speakers moved me in some way.
Arlene McDermott from the London Stock Exchange group, as headline sponsor, gave a superb opening speech demonstrating how LGBTQIA+ people are supported in business.
Charlotte Woodhead from KCL told us about the STEP Project - training to help enhance the lives of LGBTQIA+ students. Looking forward to hearing the results.
The fantastic Sue Sanders, who I've looked up to for so long, gave such a passionate speech about language - we must change the language. Usualise rather than normalise because what is normal anyway? (Schools Out)
Organiser and all-round phenomenon, Laíla El-Métoui, talked about her work. I never realised just how much of a phenomenon Laíla is. She IS Pride in Education and I will do everything I can to support her. I take my lead from her and Sue. Inspiring doesn't even come close. (LELM Education, Pride in Education)
The round table discussion with Andreena Leeanne (fantastic poet, speaker and survivor), Denise Henry from NEU, Shaan Knan (multiple projects including Rainbow Pilgrims and Twilight People), Bennie Kara (deputy head and co-founder of DiverseEducators) and Arjan (young person from Mosaic Trust, apologies if name is spelt incorrectly). What a young person Arjan is - they spoke with such eloquence and dignity and truth - the young are OK, they will be fine if there are more Arjans in the world.
It was great to hear Nick Slater and Tamar Moshkovitz talking about Stonewall Young Futures - it's clear to see that the young really are going to be alright. The work they are doing is invaluable. In a similar way, Mayur Gupta and Kevin Lyons on the partnership between Pearson, Career Accelerator and PinkNews Futures also demonstrates how young people are being supported - again, invaluable.
For the first time in my professional life and at any kind of conference, seeing talks on asexuality and being intersex was amazing. Yasmin Benoit and Fliss Goldsmith floored me completely. Talking about her life and coming to the realisation that she's asexual, Yasmin gave a clear account of what it's like and what needs to change to recognise asexuals and fight against aphobia. Fliss was incredible - her delivery, sprinkled with bouts of hilarity, was actually a passionate and serious speech on the challenges and discrimination faced by asexual people. I didn't think that could be beaten, but then Sean Saifa Wall came on the screen. He lead us in a centering exercise - sceptical at first, I found it to be quite moving and emotional. He spoke about the work he's doing and what kind of challenges intersex students may face. This is so important not to forget - intersex people exist.
Hearing from Rodney Wilson, founder of LGBT+ History month in the US was fantastic - seeing him and Sue Sanders in conversation was a real highlight. It also goes to show that there is still so much more to do.
The final session was from The Global Center, with Cody Freeman, Kerri Wilson and Dolly Elay was hugely eye-opening. They talked about the State of Education report and reported on education in the US and Egypt. Massive thanks to Dolly for being there and putting herself at risk to do the activism she does.
The entertainment at the end of the day did not disappoint. PJ Samuels (LGBTI Activist and poet), Trudy Howson (LGBT+ Poet Laureate), Blouse (drag performer) and Ms Kimberley (singer) were all ... well, incredible. The singing was exquisite, the poetry was powerful and the night was complete.
The space at Lumiere London was so comfortable, beautiful and welcoming - such a wonderful space, and the owners were on hand and wonderful. All the volunteers and staff at Lumiere London were fantastic - thank you.
I met some wonderful people including, but not limited to, Kit, Katherine, Lukasz and Paul. It was lovely to see Lottie again. I finally got to meet Saba in person. Wonderful to be able to talk to Sue Sanders. And of course Laíla - well, you are just a phenomenon. Thank you for this day. It will stay with me for a long time.