Thursday, 8th December 2022
I’m excited to join Trade Sexual Health as the charity’s new Chief Executive Officer. I’m not entirely new to Trade, as I was one of the charity’s trustees for a year before moving into this senior staff role. But, I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself to Trade’s service users, volunteers and partners, and to set out some of my vision for Trade’s future.
Most of my working life has been spent in the higher education sector – first in ‘professional services’ roles, running widening participation outreach schemes, and later as an academic. I moved to Leicester in 2008 after starting as a lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Leicester. When I left the University in 2021, I was Professor of Political Geography and Sexualities. Most of my research and teaching over the last 20 years has focused on LGBT+ lives, sexual politics, and sexual health in the UK and internationally. A recurring theme in my research has been examining how LGBT+ people live and find community in rural areas and smaller towns and cities – places just like Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Although the last two decades have seen significant changes in the legal equalities enjoyed by LGBT+ people in the UK (and a growing number of other countries), I am interested in what else matters in our lives, and what else we need to make life ‘liveable’. These are questions that I am sure will continue to crop up and inform my work at Trade.
Outside work, I have been involved in LGBT and queer activism and community building since the 1980s. As a teenager I marched against the introduction of Section 28 and took part in protests organized by ACTUP London. More recently, I have been a member of the University and College Union’s national LGBT+ members committee, helping to develop the union’s work to defend trans and non-binary members.
As the new Chief Executive, I want to build on Trade’s history and successes, as well as to challenge us to think differently and respond to changes around us. Trade was established as a gay and bisexual men’s HIV prevention organization. HIV prevention and sexual health promotion work with gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, will continue to be an important aspect of Trade’s work. Trade has developed a holistic and intersectional approach to thinking about the range of factors that impact on men’s ability to take care of their sexual health. This is one of the things that Trade is respected for in the sexual health and HIV sector nationally. It is crucial to ensuring that no section of the LGBT+ community is left behind.
Here are a few things I hope we can develop over the coming period:
• Working with the local trans community to ensure that our existing services are inclusive, appropriate, and affirming for trans and non-binary people (and to develop new services, if needed).
• Exploring how we can expand our services (on our own and through partnership working) so that they meet the broader health and wellbeing needs of the whole LGBT+ community locally.
• Since the closure of LASS, there has been a significant gap in support services for people living with HIV in Leicester, Leicestershire, and Rutland. We need to work with partner organizations to help people living with HIV to stay engaged in treatment, and address issues that might be a barrier to their continued well-being.
To achieve these ambitions, we will need your help. Early in 2023, we will be relaunching our volunteer programme and we hope you will continue to work with us to deliver and promote our services. Our work is serious, important, and life changing, but we want it to be fun too. We need to continue to expand and diversify our income, and that means developing new forms of fundraising, which we hope you will help with too.
The last few years have been challenging ones for the whole voluntary sector, and the next few years are unlikely to be much better. Despite these challenges, the staff team and trustees at Trade have some exciting ideas for how the charity can not only survive, but thrive. I’m looking forward to helping to focus and implement these plans. But, I also strongly believe that we lead through listening – if you have ideas about how Trade can continue to develop, please get in touch.