Midland Heart sponsors Birmingham's first LGBTIQ+ conference on Intersectionality and Islam
As part of work to highlight LGBT History Month, Midland Heart is promoting inclusivity in the local community by sponsoring the first LGBTIQ+ Intersectionality and Islam conference in Birmingham this weekend.
Organised by Khakan Qureshi - a support worker at the housing association and founder of Finding A Voice, a social support group for south Asian LGBT men and women - the event is already sold out.
Baljinder Kang, Executive Director of HR & Learning, Midland Heart, said: “Equality, diversity and inclusivity are values at the very heart of this organisation, and something that we strive to improve on continually.
"Put simply, we want Midland Heart to be a place where anyone can succeed regardless of their background. We want colleagues to feel a sense of belonging to our business and to each other.
“To further our work in achieving this we are in the process of launching a series of internal inclusion networks for race and ethnicity, disability, LGBT and women – the benefits of which are evidenced in numerous organisations including PwC and HSBC.
“These networks aim to provide a sense of community, inspire and support and raise awareness of diversity within our business. In return, companies report improved tolerance and respect, recruitment and development of minority groups.
“Khakan’s work on behalf of the LGBT South Asian community is an asset to us and has led to our having greater understanding of the issues and prejudices faced, while his own experiences are invaluable in his job and in his role as one of our diversity champions.
“We are proud to be sponsoring this event, which will provide much needed support and information during LGBT History month. It is important that we continue to talk about LGBT+ issues and work with the organisations that help to promote inclusivity in our local community.”
Khakan Qureshi said: “I founded Finding A Voice, or FAV, in 2014 to try and change the negative attitudes and mindsets of the South Asian community towards those who are not heterosexual and to consider the impact of faith on sexuality.
Khakan, who is from a large Muslim family in Balsall Heath, came out as gay in 1992 at the age of 22 “because for years I had struggled with my sexuality, tried to reconcile my faith with my sexual orientation, had developed severe anxiety and depression and withdrawn from people who questioned my identity.
“Although coming out wasn’t a surprise to my family, it was still an emotional and traumatic experience and was another life event I had to learn to cope with,” he added.
Establishing Finding A Voice led to Khakan becoming a Stonewall LGBT role model and Diversity Role Model for schools and addressing academic institutions and organisations across the UK. He was invited to a LBGT community reception at Number 10, has written on homophobia for major publications and made radio and TV appearances, most notably as the first gay Muslim on Channel 4’s Come Dine with Me.
Award nominations have followed including the National Diversity Award, European Diversity Award and the MSM Campaigner of the Year and Khakan is on the shortlist for the ‘outstanding contribution to LGBT+ Life’ award in the 2019 British LGBT+ Awards, an annual prestigious gala celebrating public figures, activists, allies and organisations for their commitment to equality.
The LGBTIQ+ conference at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham on Saturday includes talks, panel discussion and workshops on topics ranging from ‘Bisexuality, Islam and the immigration system’, ‘How empowering is it to be an LGBTIQ+ Muslim and how can we build ally networks?’ and ‘Showing solidarity: including trans people in our mosques, meetings and minds.’
Saturday's event is already a sell-out with more than 200 delegates attending.