Ramses

Ramses

Ramses is an entrepreneur and the Managing Director of Alternative Care Services, the UK’s first LGBT+ focused care provider. He is a passionate campaigner for LGBT+ rights and a transgender black man who has worked alongside a number of charities.

“As a black person one of the ways I campaign for LGBT+ equality is by being really visible, particularly in the BAME community. There’s still a lot of stigma and prejudice so it’s important for me to be open and present so that people see it’s ok to be themselves.

"I set up Alternative Care Services in 2016. We provide care to adults in their homes in Camden and across London. So many aspects of life, including care, are hetero normative and if someone feels judged or unable to express who they are this has a huge impact on their quality of life. All care providers need to be able to understand LGBT+ experiences.

"I can’t think of any other borough like Camden, it’s such a melting pot. Opening Doors is a fantastic LGBT+ space. Recently I bumped into my neighbour there, we’d lived in the same building for years and never spoken but now we chat all the time.

"I love Pride in London, one of my favourite memories was last year when I marched with FTM London. We were right at the front of the march and there was a bus for everyone in the group with mobility issues. It was our 21st birthday as well so we gave out lots of cakes in the trans colours, it was a fantastic day.

"Although LGBT+ equality has come a long way there’s still more to be done. The care referrals process should be changed to reflect the diversity of our community and therefore shouldn’t assume everyone is heterosexual. People are really suffering with their mental health and I think a lot of this is because they feel different. Society wants people to be ‘standard’ or ‘average’ but we need to realise that people aren’t standard, we’re all individuals and we should embrace everyone’s differences.”

Ollie

Olly

Olly is a Smarter Working Change Lead at Camden Council and plays with the world's first gay inclusive rugby club.

“Camden is the birthplace of a whole global movement in rugby. The world’s first gay inclusive rugby club was established here – and next year we celebrate our 25th anniversary.

"The club was formed in a gay bar just a stone’s throw away from Camden Council's offices in Pancras Square. They’re called the King’s Cross Steelers RFC – a cross between the location and the founder’s favourite NFL teams.

"I joined the club within my first two weeks of moving to London and I’ve played with them for just over six years now. I’ve been on the executive committee as club secretary for a few years helping to develop the club and strength it.

“The club was established to challenge homophobia in sport. Rugby had a terrible reputation 25 years ago, and the club had to challenge a lot of terrible behaviour – such as having a team refusing to play for fear of catching HIV from a blood injury. I’m glad to say that rugby as a sport has over the years challenged this culture, and with the support of the RFU, is now seen as a far more inclusive sport than many others.

“Not only has it existed to help promote inclusion in sport broadly, but also acts as a place for like-minded gay men to come together and socialise. I’ve been lucky enough to meet my partner of six years – Jon. We now live together in Camberwell and still play with the club together on the pitch.

“It’s grown through the years to now be a club of over 250 people from all across London. More importantly however – it kick-started a global movement of clubs – with now 82 gay-inclusive clubs on almost all continents of the globe. They all play in local leagues throughout the year but every two years a world tournament takes place – it’s the largest amateur rugby tournament in the world, with the next one taking place in Toronto, Canada.  

“Unfortunately as the club grew bigger it was forced to relocate further out of London to be within its own rugby clubhouse at West Ham with purpose built rugby facilities, however it continues to draw members from across all of London – including the borough of Camden.”

Jim

Jim

Jim MacSweeney is the manager at Gay’s the Word, Marchmont Street – the oldest LGBT+ bookshop in the UK.


"Gay’s the Word was founded in 1979 by Ernest Hole. Ernest was in New York in 1969 and went to the first Gay Liberation Front meeting after the Stonewall Riots. Inspired by the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore he was determined to open one like it in London. This year is the shop’s 40 year anniversary and I’ve been working here for 30 of those.


"When Gay’s the Word first opened it was half café, half bookshop. Lots of LGBT+ groups met or continue to meet here: Gay Black Group, Lesbian Discussion Group, Trans London and Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners to name a few. For the first 15 years of our existence we put shutters up overnight to protect the windows. The shutters are long gone and while we get the odd broken window, times have moved on. When people stop outside it’s usually to take pictures and celebrate our space.


"When I first came to Camden I used to go to the Scala cinema and The Bell a lot, and also Young Gay London in Cromer Street where I met my first boyfriend. I’ve been on loads of marches over the years but working at Gay’s The Word takes up most of my time.


"Your first Pride march is always the most exciting and mine was in 1984. It was amazing just being able to walk with friends through the streets and be in the majority for once. A lot of rights have been won since then but keeping visibility up is still so important. I went to Pride last year and it was so lovely to see that there was no violence and a real mix of people from across the lesbian, gay, bi and trans communities.


"I’ve seen so much positive change over the last 30 years. Adoption by same sex couples and gay marriage was so far down the line back then and now those rights have been won. I love seeing LGBT+ couples walking through the streets of Camden and claiming their space. It’s a wonderful sight."
 

Helen

Helen

Helen is a Senior Send Adviser at Camden Council

"I moved to Camden in 2015 to my dream job – not just to be doing what I love, but because I could tell from the outset with flexible part time working I could marry parenthood and working perfectly.  

"Being one of two mums (I'm Mama and my wife is Mummy) has been fully embraced here, and I am happily convinced that I have received exactly the same treatment as everyone else – as diversity is embraced here.

"My manager and team know how happy I am as I keep telling them – and as a result there are two children growing up knowing that it's okay to be who you are at work and in the world at large.

"We are marching as a family in this year's Pride in London parade with Camden – to stand together with others who have not had the same experience."

Josh

Chris, Josh and Daxter

Chris Ludlow, Josh Abel and Daxter at Primrose Gardens

Josh’s work is being featured in this year’s Open Open exhibition at Swiss Cottage Gallery - he lives in Belsize Park with his partner Chris


“My partner and I have lived in Belsize Park for nearly four years. Before that we lived in all sorts of places: from Brentwood and Hull to Australia. We’ve had an amazing time moving around together, meeting new people and experiencing new things.


“I’m really excited to reveal the work I’ve produced for the Open Open 2019 Collaborate exhibition. I’ve chosen eight pieces from a personal ongoing project called ‘ZQUARE-01’ which has been in development for five years. I’ve kept the work a secret until now, so I can’t wait to see what people make of it.  


“I try to capture interesting visual elements in the world around me with my camera, and then I work with those elements and expand upon them, pushing and pulling them until the image becomes surreal and dreamlike. Each image is a kind of ‘window’ looking out onto something familiar, but indefinable. I owe the conception and development of this project to my partner Chris – it’s his love and companionship that continues to inspire me to create these images. My artwork is so vibrant and full of energy, but it wasn’t always so. For a long time, my art was really dark and macabre, I guess because I had so much sadness in my life – but finding Chris changed everything. It took time, but he helped me to see things in the world that I just hadn’t before. Every image is a testament to that journey of change.


“I haven’t lived in Camden long but its artistic scene is incredible and my partner and I are exceptionally lucky to be able to live in such a beautiful and accepting area. With Pride here, it’s nice seeing all the rainbow imagery around and you can see it’s having a positive impact. It’s nice to hear people saying how cool it looks and the world could always use a little more colour!


“I love the excitement of Pride – it’s intoxicating! Everyone’s happy and showing the world that this is who they are. Everyday life can become repetitive and tiring for all sorts of reasons, so finding time to celebrate our lives and see the beauty around us is so important.


“Every time there is another step towards equality it’s fantastic but at the same time, I always think: ‘what’s taking people so long?’ We’re all equal and we always have been. I think there is still much progress to be made as we strive towards equality, and there are lots of everyday things people can do here and there to send a small message of love or acceptance. It will take time, and people will need to continue reaching out with open hearts and open minds, but I do think we’ll get there someday.”

David

David

 

David is Acting Executive Director of Supporting Communities at Camden Council

"It is over 20 years since I started my career and I remember a member of my family advising me ‘whatever you do, don’t tell anyone you are gay because it will be the end of your career prospects’.  Fast forward 20 years and I marvel at the way that many organisations are waking up to the fact that being an LGBT friendly employer is not only the right thing to do but it also an important prerequisite for many people (gay or straight) as to whether they are the sort of employer that they would be prepared to work for.
 
"I have personally found this to be transformational – it is great that I don’t need to worry about how someone will react if they find out I have a male partner and most importantly I think that it is critical to not have to hide who you are. In my early career, I remember being asked by a colleague whether I had a girlfriend and mindful of the advice from my well meaning family member I found myself saying ‘yes’! Not being able to bring my whole self to work definitely affected my confidence and inhibited my enjoyment of work. Five years into my career I moved to Barking & Dagenham Council and (very much ahead of its time) the council proudly flew the rainbow flag over its two town halls (one in Barking and one in Dagenham) and this gave me the confidence to come out at work. I was lucky to find colleagues who were not only accepting but positively embracing and I remember one of my colleagues saying to me ‘if you ever have anyone say anything negative to you, I’ll make sure they are challenged’.  He was straight and it was the sort of reaction that I would never have imagined when I was still in the closet. I am proud now to work for an organisation where many Camden employees proudly wear rainbow lanyards (including the beautiful limited edition ones for Pride!) and that there is an equal clamour from LGBT allies as there is from our LGBT staff.  Little things like this can make a big difference!

"In my spare time I am part of an LGBT Badminton Club, Goslings London.  Until recently I was on the committee and I was chairperson of the club for five years.  It is now London’s biggest LGBT+ sports club.  Camden is very significant in the club’s history as in the early 1980s when there was a far more hostile environment to LGBT+ people several London Councils refused the club space because we are an LGBT+ club.  Camden on the other hand welcomed us with open arms and provided space at the Oasis Centre and also Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre. The facts are the club wouldn’t exist today without Camden.  The club has been so important to many LGBT+ people to have confidence in playing sport in a safe environment and also helps build friendship networks. Indeed I even met my partner at the club.

"Thinking back on my career - coming out at work circa 15 years ago certainly hasn’t had the negative impact which my family member predicted. Quite the opposite as I am happier and more confident person for it."