On the 26th of February 2021, the Institute for Youth Work (IYW) facilitated the first of a new range of membership engagement events, on this occasion bringing together a number of LGBT+ professionals and allies from across the youth work sector.

The event, loosely titled ‘LGBT+ Changing the Narrative’, brought together a cross section of the IYW membership base to explore the importance of visibility within the youth sector and how greater visibility can lead to an increase in inclusion across the workforce and importantly with young people.

As the Vice Chair of the IYW and a self-identifying lesbian, I felt compelled to facilitate an event like this for colleagues, one that can offer a safe space for exploration, a space that nurtured openness, honesty and trust. One that cut across all demographics but that was anchored in sexual identity and gender awareness. This was an area I felt I needed as a youth worker in the field and therefore hedged my bets that there were others out there also, who felt the same way.

Sarah Barley-McMullen, a small celebrity in our field and an acclaimed Stonewall Champion co-hosted the event and brought with her a wealth of experience, enthusiasm, knowledge and humour. After opening with what can only be described as a humbled Hollywood worthy summative autobiography of her queer existence, she warmly welcomed the input of others, myself included, in sharing their experiences.

As expected, much was shared and explored. Topics that warrant more time than the initial one hour allocated could allow for. There was a sense that the participants were leaving with more questions than when they first arrived, but definitely with more desire to continue and develop this new group into something that could be convened on a more regular basis. The themes identified have ignited a passion to produce some more tangible papers that we hope could utilise to help shape our sector into a more inclusive, open and encouraging place to be as a LGBT+ identifying colleague and especially for the young people we all work with. Thank you to all who took part in the event which was part of LGBT+ History Month. I feel positive that this will be the first of many.

We want to hear from you all and ensure that we, as the professional body for youth workers, are meeting the needs of our diverse membership, which by the way is now over 1700+ members strong.