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New LGBT 'safe space' could be created in Barking and Dagenham

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 April 2016 | UPDATED: 08:13 04 April 2016

Barking and Dagenham CVS has organised three LGBT reach-out events. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Images

Barking and Dagenham CVS has organised three LGBT reach-out events. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Images

PA/PA Photos

A new safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to socialise could be created in the borough after people from all walks of life brainstormed ways to tackle intolerance.

Police representatives met with councillors and residents to engage with issues facing the LGBTQ+ community at Chef’s Hat in Barking on Thursday night.

The last of a trio of events by Barking and Dagenham CVS was triggered by the realisation that more needs to be done to keep members of the community safe.

“You are pioneers,” Cllr Saima Ashraf, deputy leader of the council, told residents who were taking part in the discussion.

“No matter how much we do, we need to educate those [intolerant] people,” she said.

“We all need to bring a change is to stay positive, and we can bring that change.”

Participants looked at questions compiled at the first event and how the police – represented by Barking and Dagenham Acting Sgt Rob Bills – and the council had answered them.

Accusations of “rigid” and “robotic” wording in the authorities’ responses moved to a proactive brainstorming in how LGBTQI communities can work with authorities to move forward.

Broadway Theatre emerged as a “safe social space to go for a laugh, for a date, to watch a film”, summarised CVS chief excutive Erica Jenkins, who has promised to help make a regular meeting happen.

Promises were also made to youth group FlipSide LGBT+ Youth, who discussed the benefits of a regular police presence at the group and were promised a once monthly visit.

Rita Chadha of the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL) was chairing the discussion.

“The next steps will be critical - we need to keep up the momentum,” she told the Post after the event.

“I think it [these events] needs to be continued but it needs to be done properly.”

FlipSide member Petra Brockman, 17, identifies as bigendered. Along with other teenagers from the group, they are looking for ways to transform sex education in schools.

“For me the teaching is currently more static than gender fluidity is,” explained the Barking and Dagenham College student, who aims to produce a new sex education syllabus with other FlipSide members.

“We would create a template for all schools – at the moment all the syllabuses are different but we could create one.”

What do you think needs to be done for the LGBT+ community in Barking and Dagenham? Email phoebe.cooke@archant.co.uk with suggestions and ideas.

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