A student who struggled to find support with her gender identity is closer to setting up her own organisation after clinching a “dream placement” with a Birmingham charity.
Bethanie Browne, who identifies as queer – meaning fluid in both gender and sexuality, is on a mission to launch a training organisation for employers and education providers to help them be more inclusive of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community when she finishes her four-month placement with Birmingham LGBT in May.
The 26-year-old, first year Youth, Community and Families BA (Hons) degree student has already gained a vast amount of experience since she started her placement in January.
So far, she has supported the charity’s women’s sexual health clinic and the team with promotion for their Ageing with Pride campaign. She has also helped at the third Birmingham LGBT History Festival in February and produced a monthly newsletter for the city charity, helping to promote the team and its achievements.
“It’s a dream placement,” said Bethanie, who was inspired to pursue the placement after attending Birmingham LGBT’s SHOUT Festival of Queer Arts and Culture in November.
“Facilitating at the Birmingham LGBT History Festival was something else. The theme was Peace, Reconciliation and Activism and I got to hear a talk from writer, model, and activist Jamie Windust on the histories, lives and futures of non-binary people. We also had a look back over 50 years of the Nightingale, Birmingham’s first gay-bar. It was fascinating.”
Bethanie enrolled on the degree course at UCB to build on the experience and knowledge she gained working with youth and community organisations for three-and-a-half years. These included Bloomin’ Brum, which empowers young people in Birmingham to create positive change through community gardening.
Building up her academic theory and expertise means she will be better armed to launch her own training and support organisation, an organisation which will also help disadvantaged young people from the LGBT community access arts, culture and nature.
If anyone knows the importance of having a solid support network, it’s Bethanie.
While Bethanie was lucky to have an open, accepting and understanding family unit, she said she hadn’t always found things easy. “From a young age, I was labelled a tomboy, but as I got older, I knew that was not the case,” she said. “I didn’t feel physically attracted to people like my friends did. I had to get to know people first and then I’d have feelings for them, irrelevant of gender."
“Luckily, my mom and brother set the standard, I never had to ‘come out’ as such, I just called my mom one day and said I had a girlfriend. They were great. I do, however, have friends who had a really tough time with their families. Since leaving school, I have found an amazing group of friends who are all allies in the LGBTQ+ community and accept me for all of me, but I have also experienced isolation and discrimination since becoming an adult.
“My mission is to change perceptions. Education needs to be more gender neutral, not based around the princess and her Prince Charming stereotype. It’s daft. We can write teaching materials differently to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Tie in Scotland, for example, is doing this brilliantly.
“And as a nation, we think we’ve come far in the workplace, but employers are still not doing enough to be inclusive, especially in leadership, director and influential roles. It’s got to be about more than ticking boxes, but there is still a stigma. I hope to help change that.”
To follow Bethanie’s story, please visit her LinkedIn and Twitter pages.
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