Council gets LGBT lessons

Council members with young people from the BYOU group
Council members with young people from the BYOU group

A group of young people have been advising councillors on the best ways to support people in their ward who might be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.

The members of Wigan Council’s BYOU group, a project which offers activities and advice for local LGBTQ people aged under 19, devised and led the training event.

They showed short films which told their personal stories and ran workshops which covered everything from key points in LGBT history, appropriate terminology and how to avoid stereotypes, and the issues a young transgender person might face in a local community with ideas on how to address these.

Coun Jo Platt, portfolio holder for young people, arranged the training with councillors after hearing about the success of a training event the young people had arranged for teachers. She said: “It’s perfect timing for this training as Wigan has our first ever Pride festival coming up in August and we’ll soon be launching the next phase of the Believe campaign, which will encourage equality, understanding and tolerance. It’s really important that our elected members, who represent the local community, understand the issues and learn from our young people.”

The 2011 census found that 22,000 people in the borough identified as LGBT.

Alex Butler, 17, from Hindley, and Katie, 15, from Wigan, ran some of the workshops at the event. Alex said: “We want to raise awareness about our community and educate everyone as when people have more understanding they are more accepting. We wanted to run the training for councillors because they’re here to represent people in local communities so can help to get messages out locally and regionally.’

Katie added: “I enjoyed sharing our knowledge about LGBTQ communities. I want everyone to be more informed. Councillors are influential in the community and they can reach a much wider audience than we can.”

Coun John Harding, who attended the training, said: “This was a superb event which has given us a wider perspective.”

Coun Martyn Smethurst added: “We’ve all learned something. We’ve learned not to assume.”