A guest blog by Eben Barlow, Support Worker & Oonagh McDonagh, Deputy Manager at Penrose Farm a home near Truro, whose team supports five people with autism and learning disabilities.
2020 has been a year of massive sociological change. This has mainly been in the form of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the black lives matter movement. Both have been instrumental in making 2020 a boiling pot of change that will no doubt be felt for many years down the line in one form or another.
June, Pride Month, a time for LGBTQ+ visibility and celebration had subsequently become entwined with the events of the year. We saw a shift towards the use of the “Progress Flag” more and more, which also represents both Trans and marginalised POC. Yet the normal Pride parades could not take place this year due to obvious reasons, which has led to events such as the virtual Pride which takes place over social media. So in this time of social unrest, separation and isolation, and uncertainty for the future, I celebrated my first ever pride as an out and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community.
We planned for a full day of celebration: a delicious BBQ, music, facepaints, and as many rainbows as one could ever wish for. But the most important things were the sense of family, acceptance and understanding, and love. In a time of 2 meter social distancing and masks galore, I still felt so close to the people around me. Some were members of the LGBTQ+ community, others were allies, yet all shared a level of positivity that was felt throughout the day.
Pride is not simply a rainbow themed party, it is a way of raising awareness for LGBTQ+ issues, as well as being an education tool to help those without much understanding of the LGBTQ+ community to learn. On our Pride day, I had questions from colleagues about various aspects of the community: we spoke about the various groups within the community, trans rights and the difficulties trans individuals face in the south west, the meaning behind the pride flag, young people’s exploration of sexual orientation and the challenges they face, and many more…
In care, we work with difference every day. We find ways to support and uplift those with diverse needs to live their best lives in a person-centred way. This person-centred philosophy can be directly transplanted onto the way we support people with LGBTQ+ issues. The core conditions of the person centered approach as set out by its founder Carl Rogers includes: Empathy (walking in someone else’s shoes), Congruence (to be genuine and real), and Unconditional Positive Regard (to accept others for who they are). Support workers do their best to apply these principles everyday for the people we support, so applying those skills to not only people we support but also our colleagues, friends, and family who are in the LGBTQ+ community makes sense. We see how much applying these simple principles can improve the lives of an individual everyday, so perhaps a wider adoption of the approach into wider society would lead to the social change we are desperate for.
Understanding can be hard to achieve… There are deep divides in the LGBTQ+ community and many differences of opinion so gaining a full working knowledge of all the issues is nearly impossible. However, having acceptance of difference and being supportive and loving of people is perhaps the best way you can help .
In a time of division, Pride reminds all of us that we are loved and that no matter who we are.
On Friday June 26th I woke up for my shift excited and looking forward to our day as a team.... today was PENROSE PRIDE! Hannah, our registered manager, had organised the day the week before for us all and the people we support. We couldn’t wait! I quickly got my PRIDE top on. I soon saw Nat (or heard her infamous giggle!) and Jess walking through the car park. They looked incredible! Jess has her homemade PRIDE top on that she had hand stitched hearts on the night before. Nat had a vibrant yellow heart top on and some amazing bright blue trousers….Face paint already applied (tactically done so still visible over PPE) and excitedly told me she had been up until 4am doing her nails in rainbow colours!
I walked into the main house kitchen and Jess (aka queen of BBQ’s) was already on the prep! Radio on, singing and excited for the day. Dayna arrived and asked straight away if she could have some rainbow face paint too - Jess was immediately on hand to provide! Throughout the morning assisting the people we support with their morning routines, each time I saw Jess she had magically found another area of skin to add more rainbows. She asked ‘guys? Is this too much?’ To which we all said no of course!
With my PRIDE top, wrist band and face paint on I went to support ‘Kenneth’ with his morning routine. When he saw me he immediately grinned and asked if he could have some face paint too. He then asked me when the ‘relationship party’ was starting today. I explained to Kenneth what Pride was about and if he’d like to know more. Hannah had printed and provided the team and people we support with easy read versions of the government's LGBT action plan for the day, so I gave a copy of this to Kenneth. He was very interested and told me a story about a friend of his years back who had been bullied due to his sexual orientation. I explained to Kenneth that’s what PRIDE is about! Celebrating everyone and making everyone feel loved and accepted. Kenneth said ‘ I like that, mate.’
Later I went back over to the main house and Jess and Dayna had already decorated our lovely Penrose garden with all the banners, table cloths and flags that Hannah had ordered for us. Nat was busy in the corner starting a military cupcake decorating operation. Lots of rainbow colour icing-filled bowls were spread out and cupcake pride flags to decorate. I asked if she needed any help, however Nat said she preferred if I didn’t! which reminded me of a very tense episode of Zumbos Just Desserts I had seen. I backed away but let her know if she needed a taste tester later I’d be back.
|Nat, Penrose's Zumbo|
By the time ‘Nick ‘ and ‘Lily’ were back from their morning walk we were all ready to party! Kenneth, who also has experience DJing at Penrose parties had set the music up in the garden. Eben had arrived with his camera and had come in on his day off like other team members to join the celebrations, as well as providing us with his amazing photography skills... all with the help of his trusty Noo- Noo robotic vacuum (who had put her balloons on for the occasion) following him around. ‘Carlos’ and ‘Tim’ who also live at Penrose made their way to the garden ready to party along with Lily and Nick and Kenneth all dressed up in the brightest outfits they could find. Other team members had joined us now too.. Rhoswen, Sue, Jon, Ade, Andrea , Matt and Ryan all brightly dressed in honour of the day. However, Ryan our registered manager hadn’t spray painted his quiff rainbow shades as we had all hoped! Hannah couldn’t join us for the first part of the day sadly, due to needing to support elsewhere. However, we knew when she could join us in the afternoon she would have her rainbows at the ready to match her trademark pink sequin converse!
Penrose PRIDE was such an incredible day, and you could really feel the team’s and people we support’s happiness and appreciation for one another. So much laughter and fun and celebration. I wish I could share all the photos of that day, but unable to due to respecting those that live at Penrose not able to consent. Nick, Kenneth, Tim and Carlos all loved face painting. Nick even painted my face after I did his. Kenneth and Nick asked for a rainbow similar to what I had on, along with other requests. Nick went for his favourite animal, a bright green duck. Kenneth (as a loyal arsenal fan) asked for the Arsenal logo. I said to Kenneth my painting skills were not that great.. to which he replied ‘what do you mean mate, Oonagh the Gooner I call you!’ We negotiated with a football icon drawing instead.
|Oonagh (bottom left)|
My favourite part of the day was later in the afternoon. Where we as a team were discussing PRIDE, LGBQT +, rights , binary and non binary. We all learnt so much. I for one did not know until Eben told me that each colour of the pride rainbow had a meaning. Look it up, it’s beautiful! While discussing this I noticed Nick smile while listening to our discussions. I asked Nick if he would like to learn more about PRIDE and he signed yes with his hand. Nick then came and sat next to me and we read the easy read together. It was lovely to have the people we support included in learning with us and genuinely wanting to learn.
Hannah arrived in the afternoon and we sliced the cake we had saved in honour of her arrival...a few days after the event Jabe, Penrose Operations Manager, sent Hannah some lovely cupcakes for helping out at another home on the day of PRIDE festival.
I personally can’t wait until Penrose PRIDE 2021... bigger and better and hopefully all the staff and people we support at Greenlight can attend after social distancing has ceased. I’ve seen Hannah researching bouncy castles for hire for the big day already...
Sue, Matt, Hannah, Nat, Rhos and Eben
Photography by Eben Barlow