I have never felt pride like the pride I have felt over the past few days, surrounded by the most phenomenal LUSH employees.
By pride, I mean the word in two senses; Proud of the people around me and myself for all we’d achieved; Proud of who I am and who I love.
The theme of the LUSH Summit this year was love. Centric to Valentines and purely about compassion in all senses, this week was the perfect chance.
I was actually at the Summit for work, and I quite possibly had the best job ever; being an ambassador in The Queer Cafe.
What is the Queer Cafe?
The Queer Cafe is a safe space created by Lush, working with LGBT+charities. It was pitched to Lush employees to be a safe space in which all LGBT people could be themselves and get involved with campaigns that resonate in their hearts heavily.
Upon the outcome of my application, I recieved this info on ‘what to expect’:
“Installations from different areas of LGBT+ rights and wrongs across the world including digital rights, blood donation, LGBT+ rights and the law, pronouns, culture etc.
What was my job?
To educate, to empower, to campaign. All as relevant as the other.
I was able to maintain the environment, introduce the spaces and workshops, and assist visitors.
Areas of the Queer Cafe:
- The bathroom installation (Sign Of Love)
- The bathroom installation (Blood donation)
- The Queer Library
- Th Workhop area
- Criminality- Egypt
- Digital Rights – Egypt
- Digital Rights- Jordan
- The Pansy Project- Paul Hartfleet
- Latin American and intersectional LGBT
- Mermaids UK- The importance of pronouns
- LGBT art
What things did I get out of the Queer Cafe?
I left with so, so many lessons. With information I did not know before, with conversations with wholesome people in my heart, with everlasting connections and friends I quickly grew to love.
A main thing I took away was the people. The people I worked with were truly wonderful, but also the people I spoke to made me feel amazing, and I left with so many people in my heart. Speaking to others like myself empowered me. Speaking about personal struggles and worldwide issues filled our hearts to the brim. The feeling was unexplainable.
One thing that really stuck with me was a question I was asked: “What is LGBT? What does that mean?”
As I welcomed a man who’s first Lush Summit it was into the Queer Cafe space and spoke to him about his life, he stopped me mid way and asked me what Queer meant.
Admittedly, I was incredibly shocked. A man in, maybe, his forties (?) did not know of the existence of LGBT folk. I explained to him in detail, and touched on the struggles and rights faced, and I did it with pride. I could tell that when he became informed, he was uncomfortable- I could see it in his body language- but I informed him with a smile and he thanked me.
Though, as I spoke with ‘confidence’, I was more anxious than ever before, and as I mentioned previously, quite frankly in shock, I kept speaking with pride and that’s what got me through. However he felt, he thanked me. However he felt, he walked away educated. However he felt, I was the one who educated him. And there’s no feeling quite like that.
Actually rather frequently, I got emotional. Sometimes, it was hard and the emotion was raw struggle. Sometimes, the tears were of pure joy. I was shaken up, but talking about these things was my job.
I also met some of the most amazing people. A huge thank you goes out to Soph and Jen for overseeing it all and looking after me, and Jessie for looking after me too. Yesterday I took ill in the morning and though I battled through, they did all they could to look after me and help me be in less pain etc. Aside from these lovely people, I made some fab friends too. A huge shout out goes to Hamzah for being a total babe and Matthew for sassing my life. You are both phenomenal. I also have to mention the lovely Ellen from Mermaids UK who I had some wonderful conversations with, Mara Keisling, and Bisi Alimi.
I left my final Queer Cafe shift feeling empowered, inexplainably so. This opportunity has been the biggest honour.
A more detailed post on the areas of the Queer Cafe is coming very soon split into two more sections. Part one wil be about the exhibitions, and part two the workshops and talks. Following this, I will talk about other areas of the LOVE Summit, too.
I hope this has made you feel as much pride as myself.