Leeds’ LGBT+ Book Community: ‘Not everybody finds online sessions comfortable or accessible’

Leeds Town HallLeeds Town Hall in support of the LGBT+ community

Restrictions have taken a controversial hit on the LGBT+ community, with some support groups having no choice but to cancel and go virtual

The Leeds LGBT+ book club holds monthly meet-ups, and also runs other events including Leeds LGBT+ Literature Festival which they have had to postpone or move online.

Kirsty Smith, secretary of the committee said “We have had a mixed response, not everybody finds online meetings accessible or comfortable, it does not suit everybody”.

The book committee is available on Zoom on each Wednesday at the beginning of every month

While Kirsty explains the downside to the pandemic restrictions, she explains the online meetings have been more applicable to people who do not just live a short distance away.

The group offers a closed Facebook group to provide a level of protection for the members and also create a safe space where the community can have discussions and share their thoughts.

“It is essential to us that we create a safe space for the community, and we also have a forum for people to have discussions,” she said.

They will be holding a week-long event which will be showcasing a range of authors, poets, performers, and activists – family orientation section for their larger events.

The group welcomes anyone who identifies as LGBT+ and allies aged 18 years and over whom has an interest in reading and discussing LGBT+ themed books. 

Bodhi Eira Jones, Founder of Kaiflow & Rebel Majesty explains the LGBTQ+ community heavily relies on the physical spaces and these are their safe haven away from the heteronormative lens.

Rebel Majesty create a safe space to have conversations, creative studios, and coaching sessions for LGBTQ+ people to connect to their value and power

“In our own physical spaces, we don’t have to explain how we identify. We are not being misgendered every five minutes. We are with people like us.”

Bodhi explains how they realised they are subconsciously vigilant / on guard, even if that is by being just slightly more aware and not totally sure of the space they are in and of who is in the space.

“During the lockdown, we are not just locked down in our homes but locked away from those physical spaces that are also safe emotional ground. The impact of this loss is immeasurable,” they said.

New data shows one in five people in the community have experienced hate crime or incidents because of their sexual orientation or identity

The experiences of LGBTQ+ people of the Covid-19 pandemic vary immensely, Some have been forced to return to families who don’t accept them.

Steven James Dodd, 18, has experienced discrimination based on his sexual orientation in his own family home during lockdown.

“If there is a gay couple on TV or in public, my dad would shake his head in disgust”

“From when I woke up to go to sleep every day, I feel like I am not being myself, in my head, I feel like I’m allowed to be when I’m at home,” he said.

Steven has since attended FaceTime chats set up by LGBTQ+ Facebook groups which he said have made it able for him to express himself and talk to others who have had similar experiences.

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