Meeting the MP for Bournemouth East
Beyond Reflections delivers social change through education. In June 2020 Beyond Reflections wrote to Members of Parliament across Hampshire and Dorset. To raise awareness of the charity and offer our support in improving acceptance and understanding for their trans+ constituents. We heard back from a tiny few, and on Friday I finally got to meet with Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East. With the bonus also meeting Bob Lawton, leader of BCP Council and Mayor of Bournemouth and Kelly Reynolds, senior caseworker.
What struck me most was that Kelly reached out to us on Tobias’s behalf. It has been two long years since that introductory letter. Kelly was so warm and welcoming; she already understood the kindness given by sharing pronouns and it was a pleasure dealing with her.
My first task was to look Tobias up. Check out his voting record, debates attended, socials. I’m pleased to report I found evidence of engagement with LGBTQ+ people. Compassion for our experiences. This confirmed the feeling I had when his team reached out to us. In this world of anger and vindictive debate knowing someone is open to understanding is a relief. I also found out about Tobias’ love of history and his passion for supporting veterans.
I love talking about Beyond Reflections and the work we do. The object of this meeting was to introduce our charity. To engage with Tobias so he remembers us if he needs information about trans+ mental wellbeing and authenticity. Supplying a place of referral for his constituents.
I talked about empowering mental wellbeing through skilled support. As well as the needs of our members for our spaces to remain safe. I wanted to make sure the team knew we are not an activist organisation, and why. In a world where most people think society has moved towards greater acceptance and that everyone is free to be themself it was pertinent to talk about the real fears trans+ people have about coming out and being outed.
We explored how the LGBT acronym has grown and why people still feel the need to come out. In sharing the power of Q (Queer or Questioning) with the team I hope I conveyed the movement from rigidity and restrictive labelling. And gave them greater understanding of the breadth of experience and identity of LGBTQIA+ peoples.
Moving online enabled Beyond Reflections to support more people but the pandemic caused us to shut our Bournemouth face-to-face support group. I am excited to be going to Bourne Free next weekend and will be looking to recruit volunteers so we can start delivering our face-to-face support again. We have so many wonderful connections in Bournemouth, and it is great to be able to add the MP and Mayor to that list. I hope that with their support we will get to meet more people. That we can bring our understanding of the experiences of being gender diverse to those whose ears need to hear it most.
Qualifications and competency
Bob asked the pertinent question about qualifications. How do we ensure as an organisation we deliver a world class, ethical service? How important such a question is. All Beyond Reflections counsellors are members of a professional counselling body (the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). We adhere to their Ethical Framework. Our facilitators complete an intensive training program, targeted specifically to our work with trans, non-binary and questioning adults and their family and friends.
It was an absolute pleasure to be able to demonstrate that everything Beyond Reflections do is underpinned by our commitment to the Principle of Non-directivity. We empower our members to understand themselves better so they can make healthy decisions about their future. Knowing everyone’s transition is different and that not every trans+ person will transition. We accept that friends and family have their own experiences and considerations. Our support changes our members through the development of self-confidence and the growth of self-esteem.
Tobias is a keen advocate of mental wellbeing, as he showed when talking about his work with veterans. He is aware of how difficult it is to admit that one needs help and to engage with counselling. We talk about how much harm is done to people through a culture of silence, shame, and stigma.
Kelly is quieter, listening to me talk about the charity and our work. She shares a kindness of spirit and an understanding of the importance of inclusion and acceptance. We talk about section 28 and undoing the damage wrought by years of silence.
What we didn’t talk about
History! I’m sad that I didn’t get a chance to have a good natter with Tobias about history, it would have been good to have found some more common ground.
Carrying on the conversation
I invite Tobias, Bob and Kelly to come along to see us on the Beyond Reflections stall at Bournemouth Pride https://bournefree.co.uk/ on the 8th or 9th July. I’ll be there both days and it would be lovely to be able to introduce them to some of our members and volunteers. Building on our conversation, sharing our expertise and working towards positive social change and mental wellbeing for trans+ people. I hope to see you all too, don’t forget to get your tickets here.