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Hub provides safe place for Islington teens to discuss sexuality as homophobic crime rises

PUBLISHED: 11:26 22 October 2014 | UPDATED: 14:46 22 October 2014

Islington is has the third highest LGBT population in the country and held one of the Britain's first gay marraiges at the Town Hall in March

Islington is has the third highest LGBT population in the country and held one of the Britain's first gay marraiges at the Town Hall in March

Archant

Teenagers in Islington are exploring sexuality at workshops amid rising levels of reported homophobic crimes in the borough.

A new programme at Platform Youth Hub in Hornsey Road uses performance art and group discussion to explore issues of sexuality and is aimed at helping lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens feel safe.

The “Insert Name Here” programme coincides with two high-profile cases of homophobia in recent weeks – one of which allegedly saw a gay couple abused by a bus driver for kissing on a bus in south east London.

Jo Tyabji, youth programme coordinator at Platform, said teenagers often experienced homophobia at schools – even if it was intentional.

She said: “There was an incident in the last year when a young gay person had a particularly bad experience in the borough.

“We were inspired to set up ‘Insert Name Here’ by one of the young people at Platform who ran a workshop exploring gender and sexuality as her final project with us.

“Questions of sexuality do come up and having a safe space to look at these things is really important.”

Islington has the third highest LGBT population of any local authority in the country and Islington Council was in the top 70 of charity Stonewall’s “gay-friendly” employer list this year.

Lowell Black, 30, a youth engagement manager, said: “Stats have shown us that in Islington there is a lot of pressure on young people to act in certain ways because of ideas about what a man is and what a woman is, including how we express ourselves, how we dress and how we speak.

“This is more difficult if you are struggling with your sexuality and identity. The scenario becomes like a pressure cooker.”

Met figures show 309 recorded cases of homophobic assault in Islington between 2010 and 2013, the third highest after Westminster and Lambeth.

Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, said: “These are hate crimes and hate crimes are on the increase.

“We want victims to be confident that they can report these incidents and the police will take them very seriously.”

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