Proof of Identity: LGBT+ Intersectionalities

The aim of this Learning Together Event (30 October 2019) was to bring together a wide range of people from across the South West to discuss LGBT+ Intersectionalities and the challenges of 'proving your identity' through a series of interactive group discussions with input on a range of topics.

The day began with Dr Alan Butler, of Pride in Plymouth, talking about Pride’s work with the Plymouth LGBT Archive and how this has directly impacted on Pride in Plymouth’s support of LGBT+ asylum seekers who have been placed in Plymouth, a dispersal city. Alan was joined by three members of the LGBT+ Asylum Seeker group who discussed their personal journeys with people in the room, highlighting the impact of having to ‘prove’ their LGBT+ identity to the Home Office when this was previously hidden due to fear of persecution in their country of origin.  

Lawrence Badman Richards, a Social Work Practice Teacher at Livewell Southwest, presented the latest research into the experiences of LGBT+ people who access health and social care services. Lawrence summarised the theory of intersectionality and how it was developed in response to the oppression experienced by black women.

Lawrence Badman Richards presenting

Sharon Soper, registered Family Therapist, facilitated an interactive exercise exploring ‘How do you prove who you are?’. Asking attendees to sit on colour coded tables at the beginning of the day ensured diversity in discussion and learning, and promoted networking. Each table was set different questions to think about in terms of how you would “prove” an aspect of your identity - such as your religious belief, cultural practice, or being subject to domestic abuse. Participants experienced how challenging a process this can be - demanding proof of something you may keep hidden or something that is an integral part of your identity, your ‘way of being’ which is often complex and deeply personal, when this is being reduced onto pieces of paper within a bureaucratic process. The aim of the exercise was to allow people to explore these issues with open minds and encouragement, increasing learning from each other. This interactive style of learning is very much part of FREDA Learning Together events.

Following on from this exercise Rosie Brennan, Associate Professor of Law at Plymouth University gave a detailed explanation of the legal context regarding proof of identity in asylum claims and the ethical challenges arising from this. Rosie is the Director of Plymouth Law School’s Law Clinic which offers free legal advice and information on specific legal areas, one of which is the Refugee Family Reunion project which runs in partnership with the British Red Cross in Plymouth.

After lunch Debbie Ley, Community Support Worker for the Intercom Trust in Plymouth, gave an overview of the work of the Trust, an LGBT community organisation providing direct support and advocacy via their helpline or Community Support Team, strategic consultancy, training and hate crime support.

Finally Tish Elliott, an Associate of Research in Practice and a social work practice educator, explored how the Human Rights Act 1998 can be applied to support LGBT+ older people and their carers. The presentation included examples from practice in promoting the self-identity of older LGBT+ adults with dementia in residential care settings.

We welcome ongoing analysis and critique of knowledge presented on the FREDA website so please send any feedback along with positive suggestions to support this learning to freda@plymouth.ac.uk

Learning Together Event feedback

At the end of the day participants were asked for feedback starting with an Appreciative Inquiry - ‘What worked?’ question.

Read the full feedback

What worked?

  • Increased awareness of some of the challenges and barriers related to intersectionality that I had not considered.
  • The LGBT history. Greater awareness of the asylum process and importance of LBGT network of support.The mix of speakers gave a very comprehensive range of areas within the topic.

  • Mixed tables so that we can network and meet new people/different perspectives.


What will you do next?

  • Keep the conversation going outside of this room and include others.
  • Encourage my trans son to speak with the Intercom Trust.

What does belonging to FREDA mean to me?

“My involvement with FREDA has kept my continuing professional development up to date with current challenges in social work. I find that institutional oppression and inherent privilege need to be constantly thought about if they are not to disappear from the debate.”

Sharon Soper, Social Work Practitioner/Practice Educator and Lecturer in Social Work