Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum celebrates History Month – and getting vaccinations

Vito

Leading Wandsworth LGBT campaigner Vito Ward has been so impressed with the work of the NHS frontline staff during the pandemic.

Image of Vito Ward on a Pride bus with other campaigners

She said: “They’ve all been just brilliant, and we wanted to show our appreciation.” She has even more reason to be grateful to celebrate the NHS as she has just received her first Covid vaccination.

“I am the type of person who does not normally have flu vaccines or anything. I’m much more into holistic health and I do keep myself very healthy. I’m also, fortunate to have a good genetic makeup and I do a lot of exercise and eat healthily. I spoke to my GP about the vaccination when I received the invitation who answered my questions and I decided to go ahead. When I walked in for the vaccination it was a very friendly, easy situation. And, I walked in, walked out, walked home and I’ve been fine.”

This month is LGBT+ history month and this prompted Vito, a psychotherapist, to reflect on her life.

“I started my working life in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, and I lost my career because they found out my sexual orientation and I got discharged. Having reached the ranks of Chief Petty Officer and had a really good service record, but that meant nothing as coming out as a lesbian was not allowed in the armed forces but just in the last week, we have been given an apology.

“I’ve lived my life with lots of prejudice, lots of having to hide who I am and I won’t ever do that again. And we’ve campaigned and fought for so many changes my generation are enjoying what we have now- Life is golden. We couldn’t get married. We couldn’t have relationships, that was against the law for gay men. Women got their children taken away from them. I could chronicle 1000 things. And now the police have got LGBT people in the force and they enjoy Pride with us. We still have a lot of changes to make, particularly in other countries because many are still persecuting LGBT people. But here we can be out in our workplace. We can be out in many situations. We can get married.

We’ve even had a same sex partnership on Strictly Come Dancing, which was really lovely.

But this is a time for celebration, and please do find out more about the untold history here.”

Vito has also run many fund-raising events for the NHS including a raffle for Christmas hampers for St Georges Hospital staff. David Robson, Chair of Wandsworth LGBT Forum and Vito have set up a coffee morning for 50+ LGBT people at the Furzedown project for older people meeting on Zoom fortnightly.

Graham

For Graham Harris getting the vaccine was another step towards protecting himself – and others, from Covid. After getting a text from the GP: “I thought “yes” this is another tool to protect me. I had no doubts.

“I went to the Clapham Junction health centre; it went so smoothly, and within three minutes I was out. I walked home elated, to think that I had got this vaccination, stage one.”

LGBTQ History Month means a lot to Graham: “I’ve lived through a lot of changes. I think about how things were 50 years ago, when there was a lot of stigma. We had to be cautious. We had another epidemic at that time, HIV was rife and people didn’t know what it was, how to deal with it. It was a killer. Treatment has come on leaps and bounds since then.

“This month is a time to reflect. I reflect on all the wonderful things that have happened throughout my life, and how things have changed since then. Young people really don’t realise what us oldies went through all those years ago – and I’m delighted that they don’t!”

Suzanna Hopwood

Another member of the Wandsworth LGBGT+ Forum Suzanna Hopwood was also delighted to have her vaccination at St Georges:

“It was an incredibly smooth, friendly and engaging experience and I’m looking forward to the second appointment. It was over in seconds. It was rather heartwarming to see all the local volunteers who are giving up their time to make this possible.”

“It was transformative. I said to my wife my mood has lifted. It felt good; it was as if we had walked onto the sunlit uplands now that we had had the jab and had a good level of protection. And there’s more good news about the efficacy of the jab too this last week.”