Meet the LGBT campaigner who has been awarded a British Empire Medal

A volunteer who has spent more than 20 years supporting families with lesbian, gay and bisexual children come to terms with their child's sexuality has been recognised in the New Year Honour list.

Friday, 28th December 2018, 9:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 9:00 pm
Thelma Joan Small has been awarded a British Empire Medal for her work with Parents Enquiry North East (PENE).

Joan Small has awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for her work with Parents Enquiry North East (PENE).

Mrs Small, 77, from South Shields, joined the organisation in 1995 - shortly after her own son Richard Small came out aged 19.

She began to run PENE that same year and is known as the driving for behind it for the last 23 years.

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In that time Mrs Small has supported hundreds of families, building a culture of acceptance, and now has a network of parents who share their experiences to help others.

The support work is entirely voluntary.

Mrs Small also runs PENE’s helpline, hosts the PENE support group, offers one-to-one sessions to parents, and chairs the PENE committee.

The grandmother-of two is widely known in both the LGBT community and by local health professionals, who have signposted people to her services.

Mrs Small said: “I was absolutely shocked. It’s just absolutely wonderful and very emotional. When I got the letter I was so surprised.

“I feel so pleased because it when I started this, LGBT was very hidden away but now people are getting on living their lives - which is what I wanted right from the start, so it is wonderful.

“Our aim is keeping families together.”

Mrs Small, who also has son David Small, thanked her husband Laurie Small, 78, for his help an support with PENE, saying: “I couldn’t have done it without him.”