Last month, the Department of Social Policy teamed up with the University LGBTQ Association to host an LGBTQ focussed interfaith event as part of LGBTQ History Month. The event was designed as a networking event to create debate in smaller groups and to let speakers and traditional audience members discuss with one another the issues of faith and sexuality.
LGBTQ and faith issues are important in our society of growing multiculturalism. Yet despite this growing diversity and growing public acceptance for gay rights, religion and faith is still an issue today. In general, Anti-LGBT sentiments in religion can both cause personal anxiety over sexual orientation and gender for LGBTQ people, and lead them to being isolated from their culture and community. Stonewall surveys found that 75% of young gay people attending faith schools have experienced homophobic bullying. This isolation can be alleviated through finding more supportive branches of faiths.
The event had speakers included Rabbi Leah Jordan from liberal Judaism, Rose Neelam from the Muslim Women’s Charity the Safra Project, Rev Dr Catherine Shelley from the Anglican Church, Rev Andrew Braizer from the Methodist Church , Fr Patrick Mileham from the Catholic church, and speakers from the University of Birmingham Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Society. Unfortunately, Sikh and Hindu Associations were unable to attend.
However, that did not stop over 40 people from coming to the event from the general and LGBTQ communities, as well as from outside the university population, and not just for the falafel either. Olivia Dyke, a first year PPE student and organiser of the event, said “It is important to try to engage people who may find it difficult to come out because of religious backgrounds. The social exclusion of LGBTQ in these communities can be very damaging, and so it can give us as PPE students the chance to see how faith and sexuality interact to be more inclusive. The event is also important in understanding the evolution of long standing customs like marriage and the effect this can have on society”.
Ben Whale, a second year PPE student, also commented “It links across with discrimination. Bringing together faith groups to talk about LGBTQ stuff builds bridges. They’re groups to work with when tackling the ‘policy outcome’ of discrimination”.
Finally, just to show how important it is to build bridges, one student, who wished to remain anonymous, told us “To see the head of Christian Union here as a Christian myself is really reassuring. The event has done a lot for me and my confidence.”
LGBTQ History Month is held throughout February to campaign on LGBTQ issues as well as showcase the contributions of LGBTQ individuals throughout history.