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Romford's over-50 LGBT community to gain new social support group

PUBLISHED: 13:56 30 November 2016 | UPDATED: 14:13 30 November 2016

Chryssy Hunter of Opening Doors London, Cllr Alex Donald chair of Havering LGBT+ Forum, Celia Hardill and Tania Banner volunteers.

Chryssy Hunter of Opening Doors London, Cllr Alex Donald chair of Havering LGBT+ Forum, Celia Hardill and Tania Banner volunteers.

Cllr Alex Donald

Older members of the borough's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual (LGBT) community are to benefit from a new social group.

Unlike the freedoms enjoyed by many younger people today, those who are older were once criminalised and isolated.

The Havering LGBT+ Forum, Tapestry Stanton Gate, Mawney Road, Romford, is specifically aimed at those over 50, and will have its first meeting on Tuesday, from 3-5pm.

Alice Wallace, manager of Open Doors London (ODL), an information and support service charity which is partnering the forum, said: “A big challenge is the older age group not having family members around them because families turned their back on them.”

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which decriminalised private acts between two men.

Prior to the law amendment, men received criminal records and were shunned for having same-sex relationships – as was the case with Alan Turing, who played an instrumental role in cracking the Nazis’ Enigma code.

He later committed suicide after being given a choice between imprisonment or probation upon the condition of chemical castration.

In 2012, a bill was introduced to grant Turing a statutory pardon for offences under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, which he was convicted of in 1952.

In 2013 he posthumously received it and in September the bill was extended to exonerate men with similar convictions.

Ms Wallace continued: “The main challenge [people face] is the history and living with the scars of all those experiences.”

According to the charity, older LGBT people are twice as likely to live alone as their heterosexual peers, three times more likely to have suffered mental health problems and more reliant on care services.

ODL’s development co-ordinator Liam O’Driscoll said the forum will be a safe space where people can be themselves.

The forum’s chairman, Cllr Alex Donald (East Havering Residents’ Group, Harold Wood), added: “Our borough’s older LGBT population deserve a place to socialise and be themselves.

“We have a great team of volunteers, a wonderful venue and fantastic support from Tapestry UK, Opening Doors London and Havering Council.”

The group is planning a variety of activities to take place throughout the next year, including trips and meals out.

Cllr Donald continued: “This group is a great opportunity to make new friends in a warm and welcoming environment.”

An anonymous Noak Hill resident, aged 58, added: “My best friend has just moved from London to Newcastle. I need some new friends.

“I’m hoping the group will increase my friend circle.”

For more information, call Cllr Donald on 01708 341106 or email info@haveringlgbtforum.co.uk.

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