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Kit’s Mission: Creating new safe spaces for the trans and LGBTQ+ community in Oxford

“Finding people who understand your struggles and who you can be yourself around should be easily accessible to everyone.”

Kit MacCrindle is a young trans person with disabilities from Oxford who discovered Ikkaido in 2021 when they joined our inclusive martial arts classes. Since then, Kit has travelled to Greece and Sweden with Ikkaido to participate in projects that empower young disabled and disadvantaged people. During one of the projects, VOYCE, Kit worked with other young people from across Europe to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and find solutions to the challenges their community face today. It was during VOYCE and with the support of Ikkaido that Kit had the idea of creating new spaces for LGBTQ+ people in their local community. Below, Kit talks about their experience as a disabled trans person, the barriers trans people face, and their plans to make a positive change by setting up a LGBTQ+ space in Oxford.

Above: Kit MacCrindle.

Tell us a bit about your experience...

“In December 2020, I moved back home shortly before the UK was put into a second lockdown. I didn’t know anyone, I was living in a very unstable home environment, I was struggling with severe mental illness, and I was living with people who weren’t understanding or respectful of my identity. I couldn’t even go anywhere to escape all of this because of the pandemic. My therapist suggested I look for LGBTQ+ organisations or support groups to get involved with. This was a moment of excitement for me.

I realised I was trans a few years ago while living in Birmingham and quickly found a community that saved my life and supported me through the hardest year of my life. The thought of having this lifeline in Oxford gave me hope. However, I soon realised that there were very few of these organisations here, and that none of them could provide me with the meaningful support I needed.”

What are some of the challenges you face as a trans person?

“Having a lack of shared community in Oxford was very hard for me, and still is. The UK is not a great place to be an LGBTQ+ person, especially if you’re a trans or non-binary person. In the past six years in the UK, homophobic and transphobic hate crimes have risen by 210% and 332% respectively. Last month, the Council of Europe adopted a resolution which listed the UK as one of the most hostile places in Europe to be an LGBTI person. It also came to light last month that the Equality and Human Rights Commission - a public sector organisation set up to enforce equality laws based on protected characteristics including gender reassignment - have been holding private meetings with anti-trans lobbyists. They have been involved with court cases seeking to oppose trans equality that set legal precedents worldwide. Those two stories broke between the 25th and 2nd of January 2022, in a space of 8 days. Unfortunately, this is a normal part of life in the UK as an LGBTQ+ person. Being constantly bombarded with information about how the people in charge of this country want us to suffer only scratches the surface of the issues we face. Mental illness, homelessness and housing insecurity, addiction, waiting times for gender affirming healthcare, and difficulties accessing sexual healthcare are but a few of the other issues our community struggles with on a daily basis. Although I have online friends who I can talk to about these issues, it doesn’t make up for meeting with people in person who understand what it’s like and who understand me. Not having that here in Oxford has often left me feeling very lonely and isolated.”

What is available in terms of LGBTQ+ spaces and support in Oxford?

“The problem with a lack of LGBTQ+ spaces in Oxford was certainly exacerbated by the pandemic. However, as we’ve come out of lockdown and restrictions have eased I’ve noticed that the problem still very much exists. It’s only after a year of living in Oxford that I’ve finally started to discover the LGBTQ+ community here, and it took a lot of effort and digging to be able to find it. It shouldn’t be like this; finding people who understand your struggles and who you can be yourself around should be easily accessible to everyone. I’ve discovered that a lot of Oxford’s LGBTQ+ organisations have shut down or been disbanded, and of those that still exist, many members meet online instead of in person. Most of the people that are meeting in person meet in non-sober spaces, such as pubs. There is a significant lack of any resources, LGBTQ+ specific safe spaces, or opportunities to communicate or connect with each other properly. None of what is currently available in Oxford provides any LGBTQ+ specific support services such as sexual healthcare, housing support, or mental health support. The LGBTQ+ community in Oxford is in dire need of resources like these. As a trans person, I am deeply passionate about changing this for me and people similar to me.”

What are you doing to help change things in Oxford?

“I went on a trip with Ikkaido in September where I was invited onto the VOYCE project. Ray, the CEO of Ikkaido, asked me if there were any LGBTQ+ organisations in Oxford that Ikkaido could reach out to for participants so their voices could be heard. I laughed and said, ‘there aren’t really any.’ He replied ‘well, why don’t we make one?’

This was the starting point of our project to set up an LGBTQ+ space in Oxford. We want to create a safe space for trans people in the form of an accessible café (on the ground floor). The idea is for it to be self-sustained and run events such as potlucks, drag nights, clothes swaps and open mic nights. We also want offices to be available where people can go for support on issues such as mental health, addiction, housing, and sexual health. We aim for the space to provide awareness training and education to non-LGBTQ+ people in the Oxford community in addition to direct support for Oxford's LGBTQ+ people.”

Above: Kit presenting during the VOYCE project.

How has Ikkaido helped you on your journey to creating change in your community?

"Before I came to Ikkaido, it didn’t even occur to me that this was something I could do, or that this was an issue where I could affect change. Despite not necessarily understanding my experiences as an LGBTQ+ person, everyone at Ikkaido has been incredibly supportive and understanding. They have helped me grow this idea every step of the way, both by helping me make a plan and putting that plan into action. I never thought this was something I was capable of and having people support me and believe in me has really boosted my confidence and self-esteem.”

Is there anything you would say to someone in a similar position to you?

“To anyone else who is going through this, I would say that you will find your people eventually. It might take a lot of effort and digging but it will be worth it. Finding your LGBTQ+ community can be incredibly powerful and healing, and I hope you get to experience this like I have.”

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