Counselling, support and information for all relationships 
February is LGBTQ+ History Month. First celebrated in 2005, following the abolition of Section 28 in 2003, it is intended to raise awareness of the LGBTQ+ community and combat prejudice. Now ran by LGBT+ History Month and recognised across the UK, this occasion sparked our exploration of Relate Charity and how we have changed to reflect society over the last 20 years. Read on to find out more. 
Relate historically and we understand to a large extent also currently, are known for being a marriage guidance organisation. Indeed, we started life as just that - the ‘Marriage Guidance Council’ in 1938. But great social movements come from humble beginnings! For fifty years, Dr. Herbert Gray and his colleagues researched the impact of the modern day on marriage with the idea of family as the basis for community life. The team delivered counselling from a small London office to thousands of married couples. 
 
However, the 1930’s presented a very different world to those in LGBT relationships. With same sex relationships still being illegal "Very few men dared or had the moral courage to set up home together. Mostly they lived with their parents or got married." - said an 83-year-old Wallace Edge during an interview in 2000. If such a relationship became public knowledge, the prospect of imprisonment loomed. 
 
We spoke to David from Notts LGBT+ Network who spoke of the evolving situation for the LGBTQ+ community over the last eighty years. He told us how Wallace's experiences above were still true in the 1960’s, saying “In Nottingham specifically, 19-year-old John Clarkson was imprisoned for 2 years when the police found that he was living with another man.” 
 
David continues “When the 1967 Sexual Offences Act was passed and gay men were less likely to be imprisoned because of their sexuality, there were still many legal anomalies which meant that it was often a good idea to keep any relationship secret.” In the 1970’s “If a lesbian or a gay man who was outed during a custody battle in a divorce case they would automatically lose custody of their children - no exceptions. Your relationship was not given any legal recognition, which gave arise to many next of kin issues: you could be banned from your partner's funeral, you could be refused access to a serious ill partner in hospital, you would not receive any of those perks offered by companies to opposite sex partners of workers.” 
 
By 1988, change came to the ‘Marriage Guidance Council’ and Relate became our new identity along with a fresh attitude. We re-launched into the world of all types of relationships; working with single people, cohabiting couples, same-sex couples, children, young people and families. As we’ve continued to work with individuals and couples from a variety of backgrounds and identities over the past thirty years, the world of LGBTQ+ plus has continued on its inevitable journey of acceptance. 
 
The introduction of civil partnerships in 2005 was the game changer. There was legal recognition. The "next of kin" issues were swept away at a stroke. Many well-known people were seen to take up civil partnerships. There are now so many out lesbians and gay men in all areas of life, many being people in the public eye, that it is much harder for newspapers to caricature and stigmatise them. This makes it easier for people in same sex relationships to accept that organisations like Relate have relevance for them.” explains David. 
 
Today, Relate counselling is open to everyone and we feel it particularly important to support the LGBTQ+ community in the universalisation of all types of relationships. We celebrate civil partnerships and equal marriage, offering both individuals and couples from the LGBTQ+ community access to our services. 
 
Of course, we’re continuing to learn the from the LGBTQ+ community, so we can better understand the external and internalised pressures of being in a queer relationship. We will maintain the mantra that Relate has no boundaries when working with types of relationships – individuals, couples, thripples – and of course all other classes of relationships going beyond those of romantic and sexual. Family relationships, children and young people, friendships and working relationships as well of course the most important relationship of all – the one with yourself – we are here to help. 
 
Exploring the LGBTQ+ community and specifically during this month, shouldn’t be just a token exercise but a journey of education and development, one which looks to respect and support those involved. Committing to further understanding is a critical area for us as we aim to provide high quality relationship counselling and therapy services across Nottingham. Over the last year alone we have worked with three-way relationships, non-binary identifying individuals and those considering gender reassignment. 
 
Although, new and emerging obstacles, pressures and problems are faced by the LGBTQ+ community daily. David tells us “Trans issues are new to many of the general public and so it is much easier for tabloid newspapers to sensationalise trans people and to distort their concerns.” As this illustrates, there is much to learn and LGBTQ+ history will continue to be written with all its ups and downs, evolutions and triumphs. 
 
If you identify as LGBTQ+, whatever type of relationship you’re in (if at all) and whatever your situation, we are here for you. Give one of our friendly team a call on 01159 584278 or drop us an email on info@relate-nottingham.org.uk. 
 
With special thanks to the team at Notts LGBT+ Network who helped inform this article. They provide information and support to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and associated communities across Nottinghamshire. Follow them on social media - Facebook | Instagram | Twitter 
 
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