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Vote - Safe Haven (Community Organisation Award - LGBT)

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Bio

In June 2015 we, Jackie (aka Pixie) and Paul(aka Paula), held a coffee day for our transgender friends in "The Batcave" at our home near Camborne, Cornwall. This was well attended, and during conversation it became apparent that there was a need for social events in a supportive, welcoming environment. Although Cornwall is a beautiful place to live, it is also very rural and traditional, and not always very tolerant of anything perceived as 'different'. We learnt many transgender people felt it was not wise to go out dressed as the gender opposite to their birth gender, due to fear of being recognised by friends or neighbours, or ridiculed, or worse. Consequently they stayed hidden away, unable to explore who they are or meet anyone else in a similar situation, unable to talk about it. Those who had been referred to the Gender Identity Clinic by their GP were having to wait for 18 months for their 1st appointment, which caused great anxiety for some. Jackie was getting phone calls from transgender people needing someone to talk to, someone who would listen and empathise with their situation, somewhere they would feel safe. Safe Haven was created to meet these needs. It is a non-profit making organisation set up to support people involved with the transgender community, whether they are trans or non-binary, a partner, parent, family member or friend. We provide a safe private venue for people to come and socialise, make friends and be themselves. Every month we hold a party weekend, which is attended by between 30 and 60 people from all over Cornwall and further afield. Many transgender people come here for their first time out of the house, and it is a joy to welcome them, scared, shy and unsure.. and watch them become more confident and self assured, the more they visit. Safe Haven provides a nurturing, supportive environment for people to be able to explore who they are, and where they wish their journey to take them. For some, this is the first step on their journey towards transition, for others, this is the end of their journey as they have found somewhere they can be themselves and find acceptance and friendship. Everyone on the transgender spectrum is welcome here, cross dressers, transvestites, transgendered pre-op, post-op and everything in between. All are treated with kindness, respect and understanding in our Safe Haven family. When we use the word 'transgender' it encompasses the entire spectrum.

As well as our monthly party weekends, we also run two support groups. One group meets weekly and is for all transgender or non-binary people, giving them the opportunity to talk about the things that affect them, and what is going on in their lives with other like-minded people. The other group meets monthly and is for the partners, parents, family members and friends of transgender or non-binary people, many of whom are trying to be supportive and understanding, whilst having lots of unanswered questions and concerns of their own. This group was started on the request of a mother, who just wanted to talk with other people who may understand her perspective. There is a lot of laughter at both groups, and sometimes tears, and always a great sense of togetherness and strength. We have recently started to invite people to join the groups via Skype, as this opens the group to people who cannot actually be here for various reasons so they can also access the support and friendship of others. We have a facebook page and a website (www.safehaven.org.uk) which gives a lot of information about our organisation. For the second year, we have organised a holiday to Gran Canaria and 19 of us will be heading there in March.

According to Paul, Jackie is the wind beneath the wings of Safe Haven. She has a huge capacity for love, empathy and an understanding of trans issues from various perspectives. She cares deeply for every person who comes to Safe Haven; her phone is never switched off and she is always ready to hold together anyone having a 'wobble'. She has been creditted with being a lifeline to many people, something she struggles with a little as she doesn't accept praise very well. Recently, she set about raising money to build a disabled access ramp, so one wheelchair bound transgender woman could attend the events. Within 4 weeks, the money had been raised and she built the ramp, with the help of one of the stalwarts of Safe Haven. Nothing phases her, she sees challenges to overcome not insurmountable problems.

It is very difficult to describe what has been called the "Safe Haven Effect" to someone who has never been. It's more than a venue, events and groups. It's a feeling of belonging, of being accepted and valued. A magic happens here, and we are privileged to be able to witness this repeatedly. We hope Safe Haven will continue to grow, so more people will hear about us and be able to experience it for themselves. Confidence is infectious, come and catch it from us x

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