There are almost 100 Pride Festival events around the UK in 2017 celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) culture. How many people with learning disabilities will be taking part in these celebrations?
At our most recent ‘Supported Loving’ Network meeting we were pleased to have The Mingle Group from Guideposts in Oxfordshire, a social/dating group for people with learning disabilities. The group offers members a safe space and a gay space where they are accepted and valued for being themselves. The group shared examples of how some peoples’ support staff have helped them to explore their sexuality and to live the life they want:
"Support staff have helped me to be the person I want to be, and to live my life as I choose. They have given me courage and made me more confident. My life is happy!"
"My family are not aware of my sexuality, so my support staff are very important to me. One day I will be brave enough to tell my family members."
In 2017, I hope that everyone receives good support regarding sexuality and relationships, however I know this is not always the case. Each meeting, the Network offers ‘Solution Circles’, where anyone can share a problem and other members offer practical support and advice.
One member shared an issue he faced where family members were unhappy about how staff supported their family member, who identifies as a gay man, in expressing his sexuality. The staff and managers were in a difficult situation, wanting to maintain a good relationship with the person’s family, while also wanting to support the person to live the life he wanted.
The person’s rights became lost among the discussions with professionals. The Network felt strongly that the person needed an independent advocate to ensure his human rights to a relationship and to explore his sexuality are upheld.
Our discussion also highlighted regional differences in the UK in terms of the availability of advocacy and community groups. There were members with better access to advocacy and to local advocacy groups, who explored issues such as rights to sexuality. People from these groups are excellent self-advocates around sex and relationships.
There were also differing levels of ability from support staff regarding advocating on people’s behalf around sex and relationships.
At Supported Loving, we want to keep having these discussions and to help everyone to feel confident in supporting people around relationships of any kind. We want to offer advice and support to people and staff facing challenges around sex and relationships.
No person should be an island, together we are stronger and we can help each other to find solutions. Join us on Facebook and Twitter and come to the next meeting- join the movement 😊