Actress Victoria Atkin, who plays Jasmine/Jason Costello a young female to male transsexual character in Hollyoaks, will be in Hull on Sunday 5th September at 2.00pm to open an innovative new support centre for trans and gender variant people. Funded by a £262,000 grant from the Social Investment Business, the GenderShift Centre is the UK’s first single point of access support centre for people facing gender identity and sexual orientation issues.
GenderShift successfully applied to the Social Enterprise Investment Fund in December 2009 and was awarded the money in June this year, beating off competition from thousands of organisations from around the country. "This is an exciting time for us" says Rikki Arundel, founder and director of GenderShift. "Many support services for lesbian, gay and bisexual people focus on sexual health, while support for trans people is often about gender reassignment surgery. We will provide a much broader service."
“We are delighted that Victoria has agreed to open the new centre on Sunday,” says Rikki. “She is playing a very challenging role in Hollyoaks which is bringing much needed public attention to the difficulties faced by people with gender identity issues.” The GenderShift Centre is located at 44 Portland Street in Hull will offer services including in-house counselling, social care, education, befriending, advice, advocacy, sexual health support, volunteering, work placements, social events, movie nights, internet cafe, campaigning, training and meeting space.
The centre will be available to everyone, but especially those needing help and support with gender and sexuality issues, including family, friends, employers and other support agencies. "People will be able to drop in or phone our national help line on 08000 193 195," explains Rikki. "We want to make our facilities as accessible as possible."
The Department of Health who funded the scheme, awarded the grant as part of a £25m budget to fund new and innovative approaches to tackling health issues. They were particularly impressed with the idea of creating a single point of access centre which provides support and advice to anyone dealing with gender identity or sexual orientation issues.
Founded in 2001, GenderShift began tackling atypical gender issues when founding director Rikki Arundel, also founder of the Professional Speakers Association, changed her gender and became 'unemployable'. She set up the organisation to deliver trans awareness training aimed primarily at public sector organisations and now has over 100 leading organisations as clients.
As GenderShift has become more widely known, a growing number of trans people and their friends, families and other support agencies have sought advice support. "We realised that as well as changing attitudes we needed to help people to cope with living with gender and sexuality issues," says Michelle Pindar, also a Director at GenderShift. "We do what we can to change attitudes so that we are more accepted, but trans people are often very isolated. Now we can help to tackle the isolation as well."