New year honours for Brighton and Hove LGBT supporters

Posted On 31 Dec 2011 at 5:10 am

Two women who support the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) community in Brighton and Hove have been included in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

Alice Purnell, 68, from Hove, was made an OBE. The psychologist, counsellor and author was honoured for services to transgender people.

She worked as a geriatric nurse for many years until her retirement eight years ago and has helped set up numerous support groups for transgender people.

She organised conferences and training for professionals and those involved in the care of transpeople.

Alice Purnell

She said of her honour: “It took me by surprise. I’ve done the work because it needed to be done. It’s nice to get a pat on the back.”

Alice has written several books including Transexed and Transgendered People a Guide and edited Trans in the 21st Century. She is also a published poet.

She said: “We’ve set up various bodies for the children and parents and I help link professionals in the field.

“There’s a lot of confusion between gender and sexuality.

“All sorts of help is now available for people which wasn’t available 40 years ago.”

She said that she had worked as a volunteer for the Samaritans in the 1960s and handled many calls about gender problems.

In the past the police, she said, had even sometimes beat up gay or trans people.

“I had to deal with a little boy who had hung himself in his sister’s clothes.

“Even as recently as last week I was dealing with someone who was suicidal.

“There are still horrible things going on. Trans people are bullied. There are still hate crimes.”

She said that the attitude of the police had improved greatly but added: “Things have moved on but there are still large areas where work is needed.

“There’s a tremendous amount of ignorance around too. Transphobia and homophobia still exist.”

Alice Purnell’s honour recognises her role in tackling that ignorance.

Jess Wood

Jess Wood, the founder and director of the Allsorts Youth Project in Ship Street, Brighton, was made an MBE for services to LGBT and young people.

She said: “I feel very honoured to receive such an award especially when I think of all the wonderful volunteers and workers in the community and voluntary sector in Brighton and Hove whose incredible achievements also deserve recognition.

“I know I am only one of many people out there fighting for a better and more just society.

“What pleases me most is that an MBE for any LGBT individual tells us that the state recognises that the LGBT communities matter and need specific services which the state values and honours.

“The letter you receive mentions the Prime Minister and the Queen – I think this shows that LGBT people really are included now in the heart of the British establishment.

“Let’s hope one day, the state church finds itself able to follow liberal faith groups in the UK and acknowledge us too.”

Before Jess set up Allsorts in 1999 she was the secretary and a volunteer with Brighton Switchboard in the 1980s.

She was on the founding executive of Spectrum.

And until recently, she taught Judaism to teenagers at Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue, where she also raised funds and managed their older people’s project.

She was included in the 2011 international list: “100 Women: The Unseen Powerful Women Who Change the World” for her human rights work.

She is both the LGBT and one of the young people’s representatives for the Community and Voluntary Sector Forum in Brighton and Hove and an equalities trainer and spokesperson.

She is married to Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah.

Michael Casey, a long-standing trustee and treasurer of the charity, said: “Jess is known for her endless hard work, enthusiasm and optimism.

“She is an inspiration to everyone who works at or with Allsorts.

“Every year she helps dozens of young people to turn their lives around and realise their potential.

“Many young people come to Allsorts at a very difficult time in their lives – feeling alone, misunderstood and often suicidal.

“The services Jess has arranged and built up over the years helps them to be happy in themselves and understand their worth.

“Each year at Allsorts I see young people speak movingly about how the project has changed their lives for the better.

“None of this would have happened without Jess.”

Earlier this year Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “She drives Allsorts forward and makes a real difference to the lives of those involved – many of whom are vulnerable, alienated or marginalised.

“Jess and the work she does makes it a little easier for all young people to come to a clearer and more positive understanding of their sexuality, not just here in Brighton – which has one of the most vibrant LGBT communities in the world – but in every country across the globe.

“Jess is an example of the many powerful women who, unseen, are building a better world and I applaud her and those like her.”

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