Ramadan Mubarak to those of my readers who will be starting the month of Ramadan, fasting and religious observances when the moon rises tonight or tomorrow. In preparation for this mornings blog, and in a follow up to the training sessions I have been attending with Dr Parvin Damani MBE, I have spent a few minutes this morning doing some more research on the Muslim faith, the importance of Ramadan and reflecting on how yet another festival is passing where connection with family and friends is a key aspect and here we still are trying our very best to look after our society as a whole by leaving our spirits a little unfulfilled. For those of you who would have been planning big meals and meet ups I hope that small gatherings in gardens go some way to providing you with that essential sustenance for both your bodies after fasting and for your spirits after such long absence.
These last few blogs have all been connected to faith, it’s no real coincidence that the major world religions have festivals at similar times of the year and the turning of the seasons makes me equally as reflective. This morning my research for this blog started with a check of our social media calendar and I note that we are also in Stress Awareness Month and so I am thinking about how I manage my stress, and how people in Chrysalis and the wider LGBTQ+ communities reach out to manage their stress. I’m thinking about found families and how important it is to find those who accept the whole of you.
LGBTQ+ communities have been highlighted as originally being accepting of those of all faiths but lately one doesn’t have to scratch to far below the surface to hear stories of people of Muslim faith or Black or brown skin tones being discriminated against, of experiencing racism, Islamophobia and bigotry within those places where they hoped to find acceptance. Chrysalis has a culture were we will always call out poor behaviour and at all our groups our members agree to treat each other with respect and compassion. An understanding that whatever your faith or world view, whatever your race or ability you are welcome.
For many people coming out to their families is a moment of empowerment, an affirmation of love and support from those closest to them, a clicking into place of the final pieces in the understanding you jigsaw and yet even for them the hill of coming out had seemed insurmountable, a precipitous drop just over the horizon. At both of the Trans Day of Visibility events I participated on the 31st March (gosh that seems so far away) we were asked about how to come out and how to support someone who was coming out highlighting to me both the challenges and potential risks of opening up an aspect of yourself, all new and shiny, to the view of others and the willingness of those others to respect that vulnerability and to help keep it safe.
When we hide aspects of ourselves we get stressed, when we can’t fulfil our basic need to be authentic, when we’re working hard to hide who we are and worst of all when hiding who we are prevents us connecting with those who think they love us this hurts our mental health. This makes us stressed, and ill and means that we can’t concentrate on the rest of who we are. Everyone on this earth has experienced those feelings of stress this last year, those barriers to authenticity, to completeness, to being a full participating part of society, we can all connect with that feeling.
And so I come back to the concept of the found family. The more open our family, our faith, our world is to our authenticity then the easier our coming out becomes and whilst we are all waiting for that utopia to arrive Chrysalis is here for all those who need to find a few more people who accept them first and foremost. We will provide you with that secure base to give you the confidence to go out and take up your own space in the world, and the friends and found family that you make within the Chrysalis community will always be there to cheer you on, to listen to you work out how your faith and family and hopes and dreams intersect. To help you remove those causes of stress – the denial, the covering, the fear – so that you can find your own authenticity and make informed decisions.
So what are my next actions for our found family? Well clearly we are moving forward out of Lockdown and back to face-to-face groups and I couldn’t be more excited at the thought of leaving this home office and getting back to Chrysalis HQ in Southampton. To actually seeing colleagues in totality again. But slowly, carefully, our edges are perhaps a bit tender having not been out in the light that much this last year. We’re changed by our shared experiences. Some of us would prefer to remain online and we’ve all certainly learnt some great new skills at working and building connections online. Who’d have thought that counsellors, a profession built on face-to-face relationships in controlled environments could make the shift to online working and not only that but we’d find so many advantages to doing so? Who’d have predicted back in February 2020 that we would be bringing online support groups to anyone who can connect. Removing the need to travel, changing the barriers of accessibility? And so we can’t go back to where we were. Indeed we shouldn’t. People have moved on in 12 months and will continue to do so.
I’m meeting tomorrow night with the counsellors and soon with the facilitators to look at the future. To look at Chrysalis post 21st June 2021. To look at providing face-to-face and online services. Those of you who got involved in our Beyond Lockdown events last year will know that we are going to be delivering a blended service. Both online and face-to-face, giving people a smorgasbord of options, to suit each individual taste and need. To build in the strengths of online reach, with the wonderful connectivity of actual people in an actual room.
Watch this space dear reader, great things are coming.