Tag Archives: LGBT

Chosen family – making sure loved ones are respected

The loss of a close friend, the death of a life partner, even a long standing neighbour can hit us all hard. The processing of the loss along with the recollection of times well spent can be emotionally draining.

Yet for many as well as being emotional in and of itself, a friend or partner dying can also be a time when people can demonstrate harsh and unremitting cruelty. And unspoken truths about sexuality and identity are used against those mourning.

I am naming no-one but I’m sure many of us know stories of a person dying, their life partner is upset and processing the news. A relative arrives, reveals that they are the next of kin, take over control of the situation and exclude that same sex partner – the denial that the family member was LGBT+. There are too many cases that document the exclusion of the life partner – “you’re not married and I’m the sister/nephew/next of kin”. The power of the standing of “next of kin” has been used to whitewash over a truth about a same sex relationship that due to historical context or lack of legal protection has never been protected through a marriage or civil partnership.

That is why I have written to my local hospice to open a dialogue with them about people’s “chosen family”. Who do they wish to have decision over their effects and their send off? How do we, as a society, give some humane protection to those who have for years stood alongside, helped, cared and laughed and make sure that they are not cast aside in the sadness of the situation.

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Bristol supports trans rights

On Tuesday evening, I proposed a motion to Bristol City Council entitled “Trans Rights are Human Rights”.

This had been put together locally by Councillors and activists from Lib Dems, Labour, and the Green Party as well as non-party people – and was seconded by a Green Party member of council. I am indebted to them for their hard work, and to the Councillors who supported it on the night: bar some abstentions, and Tory votes against, the motion was overwhelmingly passed.

The motion can be found here, and my speech was as follows:

This is the week of Bristol’s Pride march, and I couldn’t be prouder to bring this motion to Full Council. Why?

First, it has been put together by a cross- and non- party group of Councillors and Activists, including those with lived experience of being trans and non-binary in our society.

Second, allowing people to live their lives with freedom from conformity is one of the core principles enshrined in the Lib Dem constitution – and support for trans people is fundamental to living out that value.

Third, as a gay man, I know what it is like to not conform to society’s expectations – and for the state to make life difficult for people like. That spurs me on to work to make lives easier for others.

Finally, attacks on trans people are, when traced to source, orchestrated and encouraged by those who would seek to turn the clock back on the human rights of others – LGB people, women, ethnic minorities.

So, turning to the motion, what is being proposed? Well, it is fundamentally about three things: Solidarity, Support, and Advocacy.

Solidarity – this is about us, as a Council, standing with some of the most marginalised people in our city and communities. Trans people are amongst our residents and deserve to know that their elected representatives have their backs.

Affirming that we recognise that they are part of our community, flying the trans pride flag on appropriate days, and training our staff all have a part to play in reassuring our trans residents that the Council values them and their contribution to the city as much as any other group.

Support – there are a number of ways in which the Council can make life easier for trans people through the way it delivers services, the choices it makes about who to contracts with, and the way issues of sexuality and gender identity are approached in schools.

This last is of particular importance. One of the lessons of Section 28 is that the suppression of age-appropriate education on sexuality damaged the lives of a generation of gay people, we should be avoiding doing the same for the those who are trans.

Advocacy – to use our influence and position to lobby national government and parliament to implement measures that make accessing trans health services easier, tackle LGBT+ hate crimes, and enact a full ban on conversion therapies, as originally promised.

It is often said that Pride is a Protest not a Party – true equality has not yet been achieved for people like me, far less so for trans people. So, this Pride week, don’t just enjoy the party or pay lip service to LGBT+ rights: vote for this motion, stand with trans people, and commit to making their lives easier.

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Pride in the Lib Dems

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of London Pride and Liberal Democrats were right there marching with all the pride we could muster -both as Liberal Democrats and throughout the parade Liberal Democrats were marching with other groups and organisations from the Armed forces to NHS trusts to Sports Groups. It was amazing to be part of this piece of history with 1.5 million people involved! Thanks to every Lib Dem who came yesterday, whether you were marching with the group or elsewhere or supporting from the crowd – and many thanks to our fabulous GLA Assembly Members – Caroline, Hina and Luisa for sharing the day with us.


Thanks to Luisa, Caroline, Hina and all the other Lib Dems
who helped give us an amazing presence yesterday.

Pride has always meant a lot to me – it’s the first place I felt I could be unashamed of myself when I was 16 and had just come out as bi. I’ve seen some of the best moments of solidarity there – adults taking it upon themselves to hide hateful banners from teenagers going past, cis people passionately defending trans people, thousands of people screaming support for LGBT+ refugee groups to give a very few examples I’ve seen over the years.

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LGBT+ Allies need to step up

On March 31 2022, Boris Johnson announced he was U-turning on the government’s pledge to ban conversion “therapy”; a form of abuse that seeks to undermine someone’s gender and/or sexual identity, and gaslight them into believing how they view themselves is wrong and must be “corrected”.

Due to backlash from politicians across the House; including a number of Tory MPs, and LGBT+ pressure groups Johnson acquiesced – to a point. He has promised to uphold the ban on gay and bisexual conversion therapy but has failed to do the same regarding trans conversion therapy. What has been made very clear is that the LGBT+ community is viewed as nothing more than a vehicle to gain votes for Boris Johnson. The way he is willing to make such rash, disgusting decisions that compromise the rights and safety of individuals serve to highlight that now, more than ever, LGBT+ allies need to rally around the community and bolster our support.

We cannot expect trans people to shoulder the burden of standing against societal, and now state-sanctioned oppression alone. If we want to see real change, we must create platforms that amplify trans voices. We need to contact MPs, MSPs, MSs, MLAs, Councillors, Mayors, anyone and everyone that is integral to our political system and encourage them to speak up against such prejudice. We must listen, not to respond, but to understand and learn from trans people, the negative experiences they face and what we can do to mitigate them. It is our moral responsibility to defend and uphold the individual freedoms of all people – a responsibility that our government has abandoned.

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Blood donation gets more equal and inclusive

I was smiling a lot on Monday. On World Blood Donation Day, in the middle of Pride Month, the blood donation rules changed so that they were the same whatever your sexuality.

A decade ago, men who had ever had sex with men were completely banned from giving blood. The rules have been gradually relaxed since then but we now have a more equal system based on a level playing field.

This means that many gay and bisexual men can now give blood, whereas before we lost out on their donations.

This applies over England, Scotland and Wales.

My friend Euan was one of them.

Euan was involved with the then Liberal Youth Scotland’s Freshers campaign to end the blood ban in 2010. The year before, LYS had brought a motion to Scottish Conference calling for an evidence based, scientific approach to this issue.

They kept pushing on this. Euan and his co-President Hannah Bettsworth led a campaign on the issue when they were co-Presidents of LYS a few years later.

It made me really happy that their campaigning over years worked. These things are now decided on the basis of scientific evidence because people campaigned and took up the issue.

The Liberal Democrats have been working to bring this about for 15 years.

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Delivering a Rainbow Crossing in Sutton

Since I was elected in 2018, as one of 33 Lib Dems on Sutton Council, I’ve been working with our local LGBTQ Forum to advocate for and promote the LGBTQ Community across our borough.

I’m extremely pleased of the close working we’ve been doing as local community champions on the Council to draw attention to and support minorities in our borough, from supporting our faith communities in the aftermath of the horrific attack in Christchurch and working with local Black Lives Matter groups to address racial inequality in Sutton to supporting organisations like the Sutton LGBTQ Forum.

Parts of this work have included attending their events, promoting their activities and most visibly, working with them to install two Pride crossings in the borough, with the first being installed in June 2020.

One, most recently installed in May 2021 is the UK’s first ever permanent trans pride crossing, unveiled to mark IDAHOBIT this year.

In both cases, the projects undoubtedly benefited from the fact Sutton has one of the longest-running Lib Dem council administrations in the UK: it didn’t take much convincing to get colleagues on board! I’m very grateful for the support the ideas have received from Cllr Manuel Abellan in his capacity as Chair of our Environment & Sustainable Transport Committee, and Cllr Steve Cook as the Arts lead for the Council. Together we brought officers – both from cultural services and Highways – and the community together to work on technical details to get these projects implemented. As ever, to get the ball rolling the first step was simply to ask!

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Time for acceptance and respect: Trans Rights at Conference

I am trans and about as out as it gets. I’m not ashamed to be trans and I’m not ashamed to be out.

But I am afraid to be out.

Perhaps there are trans or non-binary people in the UK who are not afraid to be out at the moment, but I don’t know any. Being trans or non-binary and out in the UK is a scary thing as attacks on who we are (as well as attacks on us for who we are) have skyrocketed.

Trans and non-binary people in the UK live in a country where the media is, for the greater part, hostile to us—hostile to the very idea that trans and non-binary people should exist without being questioned about our right to simply be ourselves.

The older LGBTQ+ community in the UK have seen this all before, of course. Hit pieces that depicted queer people as being dangerous to “normal” people. For the most part such attack lines in the mainstream press have all but gone.

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A love that dare not speak its name

On a quiet evening recently I watched the 2015 film “Carol” which is set in the 1950s and based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith.

The “Carol” of the title is a wealthy middle aged woman in a marriage that is breaking up, who has a four year-old daughter she adores. On a pre-Christmas shopping trip she meets a young shop assistant, Therese, and they have a connection. Carol’s husband, who she is divorcing, knows that she has had same sex relationships in the past and uses this as part of a custody battle – citing her ‘immoral behaviour’ to secure sole custody of their daughter.

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Liberal Democrats mark IDAHOBIT

Today is the annual International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

During lockdown, many LGBT people will be stuck at home with families that don’t accept who they are.

Imagine what that does to your mental health. If you know a young person in these circumstances, reach out to them today, and every day.

And if you leave home because of it, it can be very difficult to get help. Rejection on this basis is not classed as domestic abuse.

I was moved by these stories on the BBC website. Lucy talks about her family not accepting her transgender identity while Matt was thrown out of home by parents who rejected him for being gay.

Layla Moran talks about this is as Honorary President of LGBT+ Lib Dems:

And interim co-leader Ed Davey looks at how far we have come:

Over on the Lib Dem website, Christine Jardine writes that we need to be aware of these sorts of experiences:

As Liberals we should be aware of the danger of assuming that everybody feels equally respected and protected in the current crisis. These past two months have posed problems for us all that we never thought we would have to face, and demanded strength we did not know that we had.

But we are not there yet.

In striving to reach that moment we would do well to remember the words of US politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society.
The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

That is the task we must set ourselves.

Former MEP, now Chair of the Lib Dems Federal People Development Committee tweeted:

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Lib Dem Councillor calls for gay and bi men to be allowed to participate in Covid-19 trials

“Discriminatory, arbitrary and regressive.” Those are the words used by Liberal Democrat Councillor Victor Chamberlain to describe the decision to exclude the plasma of gay and bi men being used in the trial to try to find a treatment for Covid-19.

Victor has written to the Health Secretary to ask him to reverse this ban. He cites a similar trial in the Netherlands which doesn’t mention sexuality at all.

It’s great to see a Liberal Democrat councillor taking a leading role in this.

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Layla Moran “in love with a wonderful woman”

A lovely tweet from Lib Dem MP Layla Moran tonight:

She talked to Pink News about her relationship with former Lib Dem Press Officer Rosy Cobb:

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Jardine: Lib Dems’ brighter future for transgender people

The Liberal Democrat manifesto will include a commitment to reforming the Gender Recognition Act, to make it easier for transgender people to get new birth certificate by;

  • Removing the requirement for medical reports.
  • Scrapping the fee.
  • Recognising non-binary gender identities.

The Conservatives have been less than proactive in pursuing this reform, a year after the consultation ended. During this time hate crimes on transgender people have increased due to a toxic media environment.

Speaking during Transgender Awareness Week, our Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Christine Jardine said:

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Our #BollocksToHate campaign is for everyone

One question we have to address as a party, locally and nationally, is how to allow grassroots energy to contribute to coherent and effective campaigns.

Energised by the EU election result, the Islington LibDems are in top form. We did extremely well last May and there is a palpable sense of optimism and determination in the borough. Local activists led by chair Pierre Delarue and deputy chair Katherine Pollard have been holding lots of events, drinks, brainstorms and sessions to discuss next steps. How do we harness this power and start to get on a general election footing?

One of their first ideas was to do something about a series of pernicious stickers that had started to pop up around the borough, North and South, promoting racism and Hate. We spotted them and decided to print up some stickers to stick over them, with the simple message Bollocks to Hate. To be honest they looked very strong…and they covered over the vicious messages others had put there.

It sparked an idea. Why don’t we do an Islington values campaign on Hate…and Pride 2019 would be a perfect place to launch it.

We felt we needed buy-in from HQ, and we got Lord Tim Clement-Jones and Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter on board. They loved the idea and got very enthused over tea at the House of Lords. We showed them some sample graphics and they said go for it. Then we met with LibDem Creatives Charles Brand who advised us on the right imprint for the materials and crucially that we should ask everyone who appeared in the photos to sign consent release forms, giving us permission to use their photos in our campaign online. Lib Dem deputy CEO Emma Cherniavsky gave us her blessing and advised we focus it as an Islington campaign, and if it worked, HQ would consider taking it wider. She agreed this is a values campaign.

As this was Pride weekend in London, we decided in the first instance to focus on LGBTQ+ rights even though Hate and hate crimes are much wider than this. More of that later.

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Being “tolerated’ is not enough

So, this past weekend I was reminded that there are still spaces where you’re vulnerable as an LGBT+ person and there are still people who believe that to be a gay man as I am, indeed to be any member of the Queer community, makes you somehow ‘wrong,’ somehow ‘broken,’ somehow not ‘normal.’This past weekend I was on a panel debating people who, because of their interpretation of their religion’s code, cannot ever accept, affirm and celebrate me for who I am and who I love.

I got told that I was to be ‘tolerated.’

I don’t wish to be ‘tolerated.’

‘Tolerated’ means that you’re not accepted or wanted, but people will put up with you if they have to.

I challenged these views robustly. ..and other tropes which I won’t repeat here, because of how offensive they are…but it reminded me that being publicly LGBT+, especially as an activist, can leave you in a very vulnerable position.

Now, other people at the event couldn’t have been more supportive, more gracious, more accepting.

I’m not sorry I took part.

Because if there’s no one there to challenge prejudiced views, how are they ever overcome?

But, I did come home and have a bit of a weep.

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Homophobia today

One of the genuine achievements of the Coalition government was the introduction of the Marriage Equality Act, the piece of legislation that made same sex marriage legal in the UK. It is a law that is heralded as the culmination of decades of campaigning by the LGBT community, a symbol of the progress we have made as a society in regards to sexuality and sexual rights.

But has progress truly been made? All over the world and, indeed, in Britain, individuals are still discriminated against in their day to day lives, they are still subject to harm, and their existing rights, so hard won over so many years, are under threat.

Recently, the country was exposed to the image of a lesbian couple who had been beaten by a gang of youths. It was a taste of what lies underneath the tolerant and accepting facade that has been built. The great, sweeping reforms of the past twenty years have still not broken through into parts of our culture. Indeed, incidents of “queer bashing” and other such crimes have been rising for the past few years. The London attack needs to be analysed – who did the attacking and why did they do it? It was a gang of youths, male (at the time of writing), the motive being that the couple would not engage in the group’s fantasies concerning lesbians. There is something deeply insidious in this attack, that these men believed that all they had to do was throw money at these women and they would do as they were told.

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Jo condemns barbaric and inhumane anti LGBT laws in Brunei

I suspect most readers of this site will have been absolutely horrified by the introduction of brutal new laws today  in the tiny nation of Brunei which make gay sex and adultery punishable by stoning to death and theft punishable by amputation.

Situated on the island of Borneo, Brunei is a former British protectorate, and became a member of the Commonwealth in 1984 when it gained independence. Last year there was a UK ministerial visit to Brunei in August and a trade envoy visited in November.

Today in the Commons, Jo Swinson asked the Foreign Office Minister to intervene to stop this:

Afterwards she said:

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For Transgender Day of Visibility – Scottish Lib Dems stand up for trans people’s rights

Today is the annual Transgender Day of Visibility. It comes at a time when trans people and particularly trans women face daily attacks in the media just for being who they are.

Last month, Scottish Lib Dems passed a motion calling for reform of the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for trans people to get new birth certificates, for all Lib Dem politicians to be robust in their support of trans people and for the media to be more responsible in their reporting. After all, there is a certain irony in the biggest media outlets in the land regularly carrying articles or broadcasts from people complaining that their voices had been silenced and they weren’t allowed to question trans rights.

An amendment repeated many of the false claims in the media that somehow women’s rights were under threat from trans rights.

It was defeated by some margin. I summated that motion. Here is my speech:

As Liberals, we have a duty to stand with any group of people under attack. Trans people in this country are constantly marginalised and are the target of well-funded misinformation. Last Autumn, a transphobic group took out a full page advertisement in a daily newspaper. These groups use the same tactics as the likes of Nigel Farage. He demonised immigrants, they demonise transgender people.  We can’t stand for that.

By passing this motion, unamended, we show that we will not stand for it.

And we should remember that when the claims made about transgender people and the organisations that support them are tested in the light of day, they are found wanting. Anti trans groups were successful in getting a review of a proposed grant to the brilliant charity Mermaids, which supports gender diverse children. This week, that review concluded that Mermaids should get their money. It’s worth mentioning that Mermaids have also benefited from an additional £270,000 from a DonkeyKongathon (I didn’t know what Donkey Kong was either, don’t worry) by a YouTuber who had been incensed by the attacks on the organisation. Celebrities and politicians including Alexandria Ocasio Cortez took part.

My highlight of Federal Conference in Brighton last year was a meeting that Lib Dem Voice hosted with the aim of putting some light and kindness into an atmosphere that had become toxic south of the border. In Scotland, it is much less so. Feminist and LGBT organisations worth together to advance rights for all. They see women’s rights and trans rights as entirely complementary.Neither has anything to fear from the other.

So I invited Emma Ritch, the Director of Engender and James Morton, the Director of the Scottish Transgender Alliance to talk about how their joint work.

Emma spoke about how a comparatively well-funded voluntary sector and a Government determined to make sure services were trans-inclusive helped. She said that there had been some difficult conversations and questions, but that what she called the “institutional kindness” of the Scottish Transgender Alliance had done so much to foster knowledge and understanding. She said that “radical kindness” was a key element in bringing people together.

Conference, there is no kindness in this amendment. Even though the people who submitted it I know to be kind people.

It seeks to solve a problem that does not exist and to pit feminists and lgbt activists against each other.

Women are women. And trying to draw divisions between cis and trans over who gets women’s rights is exactly the divide and conquer tactics used by the people who want to diminish *all* women’s rights.

Who want to diminish all human rights.

Anything that takes rights away from a woman just because she is trans, takes rights away from me and you.

The struggle for equality is one where we should all be fighting shoulder to shoulder.

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Some familiar faces amongst the LGBT icons

ITV has produced a list of ten LGBT icons in the East of England. 

There are some familiar faces in there.

Zoe O’Connell

Championing transgender and LGBT issues across Cambridgeshire is Zoe O’Connell’s passion.

The transgender Liberal Democrat councillor, has spoken out about her own experience of homophobia and transphobia while on the campaign trail in Trumpington.

Zoe has co-authored Liberal Democrat policy papers on equality and security. She has also written for prominent titles like The Guardian and The Huffington Post.

and

Sarah Brown

For several years Sarah Brown, a Cambridge city councillor between 2010 and 2014, was the only transgender politician in the UK.

In 2011. 2012 and 2013, she featured on the Independent’s “Pink List” – a collation of the most influential LGBT people in the UK.

She now works closely to improve conditions for transgender people in the NHS as well as taking an active role at the Kite Trust and Stonewall‘s Trans Advisory Group

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“A more inclusive party which empowers the voice of people who are both BAME and LGBT”

Today’s video from the Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality shows secretary Nadiya Phoenix talk about the need for the party to look at the needs of people who are both LGBT and BAME.

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MP slams Government for failure to improve health services for trans people

Maria Miller, the Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, has slammed the Government for failing to improve health services for transgender people. And there’s a particular Liberal Democrat dimension to this as senior Liberal Democrats actually helped to collect the evidence on this in the first place.

Ms Miller said yesterday that basic healthcare taken for granted by the general public is “out of reach” for trans people.

From The Independent:

The committee is due to publish a new report on the care of LGBT+ people in the coming weeks but Ms Miller has already warned services are “going backwards quickly” – with trans people among the worst affected.

“Many trans people simply don’t have access to the basic healthcare that the rest of us take for granted – things like cervical smears are often things that trans men are not able to access,” Ms Miller told the Press Association.Theresa May did commit to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to remove intrusive red tape for those legally changing gender, and launched a £1m LGBT+ health and social care fund in November.

However, Ms Miller said the focus on legal reforms has “eclipsed” efforts to improve trans people’s experiences.

“As a result there has been a debate focusing in on things that really are not as important as making sure that trans people have access to public services, and the debate has been focused in on issues that are much less important to trans people’s lives,” she said.


And that Liberal Democrat dimension? Well, almost three years ago, Ms Miller’s Committee published a report  on transgender equality. A fair bit of the evidence for the health section of that report was gathered thanks to our Sarah Brown and Zoe O’Connell, who asked for it using #transdocfail on Twitter. Zoe wrote about it on her blog in 2013:

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Why the National Autistic Society were right to reverse their decision on award winning charity Mermaids

This week, in a move described as “worrying” by LGBT+ Lib Dems, the National Autistic Society removed all links to the trans youth charity Mermaids from their Gender page. Yesterday they reversed their decision and apologised. As a trans person with autism myself, I know it’s crucial that signposting to proper support is essential.

I was diagnosed with autism at 4 years old. It’s a diagnosis that has been constantly rechecked throughout my life.

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WATCH: “I feel as though the media portrays us like we’re not human beings”

In many newspapers, on many radio and tv programmes at the moment, transgender people are attacked and marginalised. So called “gender critical feminists” take to the biggest media outlets in the land to complain that “debate” is being shut down and their “legitimate concerns” are not being listened to.

The thing is, these actions are not consequence free. A report earlier this year by Stonewall found that 41% of transgender people had experienced a hate crime in the last year. That is not far off being half.

I often hear parents of transgender children say that there are two things that scare them most when their children come out to them. The first is the hate crime figures. The second is the suicide rate. Another Stonewall report found that over a quarter of young trans people have attempted suicide and almost nine out of ten had contemplated it. In a climate where over 4 in 5 young trans people experience verbal assault and 3 in 10 are actually physically assaulted, you might say that this is hardly surprising.

Equally not rocket science is the evidence that where trans people are supprted and called by their chosen name, they do a lot better.

So irresponsible media coverage actively harms trans people by fuelling hostility towards them. Stop Funding Hate, an organisation which aims to encourage suppliers not to advertise in newspapers which exacerbate hatred towards particular groups of people has done something to try to counteract this hostile environment for trans people.

Working with Mermaids, an award winning charity which supports transgender young people and their families, Stop Funding Hate has produced this video which illustrates the harm that media coverage can do.

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Lib Dems welcome mixed sex civil partnerships news

News that  the Government will legislate for mixed sex civil partnerships in England and Wales was welcomed by various Liberal Democrats. It makes sense that people should have the choice of what form of ceremony to have.

Our Lynne Featherstone was the Minister who instigated same sex marriage in England.

She welcomed the news on Twitter.

Lynne has always acknowledged the support of Theresa May, who, as Home Secretary, gave her Bill crucial backing. However, the Tories would never allow Lynne to introduce mixed sex civil partnerships. Even now they haven’t done it entirely voluntarily. They were forced to either scrap civil partnerships for same sex couples or introduce them for everyone.

It was therefore sad that the Prime Minister didn’t acknowledge Lynne’s role.

LGBT+ Lib Dems chair Jennie Rigg welcomed the move and said that this was just one of the things that needs to happen to achieve proper partnership equality. I did love the very on message inclusion of “demand better.”

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Brian Paddick’s tells of death of former boyfriend in heartbreaking and personal interview

Lib Dem peer and Home Affairs spokesperson has talked to Buzzfeed about the death of his former boyfriend from an accidental overdose of the drug GHB.

In an emotional and candid interview, he described how he and Michael had been in a relationship, which, after they split up, became a very close and enduring friendship.

In 2013, Brian received a call from Michael’s brother with the horrific news that Michael was on life support. He rushed to the Intensive Care Unit to say goodbye.

At the inquest into Michael’s death, the Coroner pointed out the key sign that he had been in …

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Why bi-visibility day is important

Today is Bisexual Visibility Day. Even now, bisexuals come in for a fair bit of prejudice even from other parts of the LGBT community. LGBT+ Lib Dems have put out a statement to mark the day:

Today we are marking the twentieth annual Bi Visibility day, which aims to raise the profile and visibility of bisexual people within our society – a society which so often overlooks them. Whilst great progress has been made in advancing rights and acceptance for gay and lesbian people (although of course, there is more to be done), bisexual people often suffer from assumptions based on the gender of their current (or last) partner and the prejudices of their peers. Media portrayals can trivialise their experiences, treat them as curiosities, or suggest that their sexual appetites are greedy and promiscuous. In such a climate, young bisexuals can feel pressured to “pick a side” and this is part of the reason why bi people suffer from far worse rates of mental illness than either gay or straight people. On top of this, the needs of bisexuals are often overlooked in the provision of health and social services.

Their chair Jennie Rigg added:

As Liberals, we stand against conformity and judging people based on their gender or the gender of their sexual or romantic partners. As a bisexual woman, I refuse to be put into a box by others because of the gender of the person, or people, I form relationships with. Today I celebrate Bi Visibility day by being even more visible than I normally am, and stand up for my bi siblings who do not yet feel able to be as visible as I am. My fellow bis are valuable and valid whether they are out or closeted, and I will continue to fight for their rights.

Follow the LGBT+ Lib Dems Twitter account for useful resources throughout the day. Here are some other Lib Dems marking the occasion on Twitter:

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Checking my underwear

Dateline: Brighton, September 2018

Wandering into Conference a leaflet is thrust into my hands. It touches on current Government consultation on the Gender Recognition Act.

One paragraph of the leaflet sets the tone “sex self-ID that would allow any man to get his birth certificate reissues in the opposite sex. Just like that. On demand. With no change to his body and no medical supervision.”

The rest of the leaflet is a list of scenarios each more prurient than the last. None of these scenarios are evidenced as ever having happened, no evidence that a trans woman has ever abused the trust of other women in these sensationalist and inflammatory ways. Just a list of “what if”.

Leaving aside the paucity of the author’s hypothesis there is another consideration, if not sex self-ID then what?

The author suggests “changes to his body” and “medical supervision”.

While this article is not a treatise on the NHS most people recognise that for anything beyond measles that means triage, waiting times, a postcode lottery, financial limits and gatekeepers.

In the context of the current gender recognition process (leading to a Gender Recognition Certificate and a new Birth Certificate) that means two medical practitioners from suitable disciplines with experience in treating gender dysphoria.

Let me tell you about my gatekeepers.

My third psychiatrist was a sincere doctor from Iran. They cared about their patients, understood the genuine and immediate health care implications of gender dysphoria – depression, stress, frustration, anger, self-harm, self-loathing and suicide. They wanted to help not just by treating the symptoms, but the root cause as well. Everything a good doctor should be.

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Should I jump into a debate with transphobic “feminists”? No.

Imagine for a moment that a group started up in your local area wanting to ban you – just you, personally –  from the local post office. You would probably find it odd, a bit unnerving, but you would probably shrug it off. The campaign grows and now they’re banning you from the local supermarket, then the pubs, then the town centre as a whole – except for one hour a week when you’re permitted to enter. You start to get hate mail and threatening messages on your phone from the campaign group. Then your local Lib Dem Executive starts talking to this campaign group, to get to the bottom of the problem. Your local party Chair says that the campaigners seem to be sincerely worried about your presence in town, and the local party are going to debate the issue.

How would this make you feel?

Something similar is happening.

The Government has begun its consultation to amend the Gender Recognition Act. The proposed changes would allow transgender people to amend the details on their birth certificates more easily. This would probably be done by a process involving a statutory declaration like the ones that exist already in countries like Ireland, Norway and Malta. At the moment, if you want to change your gender on your birth certificate you enter a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare where a panel that you don’t even meet decides whether to allow your application, with no right of appeal. 

This consultation has kicked off a wave of controversy that is deeply unpleasant.

Of course there are the normal bigots and hate-filled rants filling the internet. That’s sad, but hardly out of the ordinary. What’s new this time is the much more seductive approach of the “feminists”. (I’m putting that word in quote marks because I do not buy into the idea that these people are feminists at all.)

These faux-feminist campaign groups say they are concerned about the unintended consequences of changing the Act. They are worried that non-transgender men will somehow abuse the new legislation to argue their way into women-only spaces. They say that they are concerned about how the needs of cis women and trans women intersect. (Cis meaning that your gender identity matches the gender you were assigned at birth.) And some of these groups add on other concerns about gender roles and protecting children from misguided gender confusion or hormone therapy.

A fundamental belief of Liberal Democrat philosophy is the right to free speech and the right to question things. But our belief here needs to go hand in hand with some common sense, sensitivity and caution. Because this is one area where engaging with people’s concerns can actually cause harm and hurt.

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WATCH: Layla on the need for inclusive sex and relationships education

This week the Government started consulting on relationships and sex education. For years, Liberal Democrats have argued that it is vital that every child has access to information that includes everyone, where LGBT+ people are included and which covers issues of consent and life-saving information about safe sex and contraception. Education spokesperson Layla Moran encourages responses and highlights how Lib Dem Education secretary Kirsty Williams has done this in Wales.

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Lib Dem, Green and Labour LGBT organisations condemn transphobic protest at Pride

This morning I said I was excited about Pride in London today. Unfortunately, it has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons after a small number of transphobic protesters were allowed to march at the front and hand out transphobic literature to the people lining the streets. From the Huffington Post:

Organisers of the most “diverse” Pride event in London have hit back at accusations it allowed a group of anti-transgender activists to lead the parade through the capital on Saturday.

The small group, which reportedly only consisted of about 10 people, are believed to have carried signs with slogans such as “trans activists erase lesbians” and distributed leaflets stating “a male can never be lesbian”.

And here’s some more reports from Twitter:

The idea that someone’s rights must be the expense of someone else’s comes straight from the divisive rhetoric of the likes of Nigel Farage. And like Nigel Farage, a relatively small group of trans-exclusionary radical feminists are getting a disproportionate amount of air time, much of it complaining that they are being cut out of the “debate.” There’s a lot of their rhetoric which puts me in mind of the horrid homophobia I came across in the 80s.

A recent Stonewall report into trans people’s lives found that 40% had suffered hate crime in the last year and a third had suffered discrimination in their daily lives. These figures should worry liberals and we should be doing our best to stand up against it.

There is no conflict between women’s rights and transgender rights for the very obvious reason that women can be any combination of cis, trans, lesbian, heterosexual, of all races and religions (or none of the latter). Most women just work together for the good of everyone but there are a few who want to spread hate and there should be no place for that in any organisation which advocates equality.

LGBT+ Liberal Democrats condemned the protest and Pride in London’s reaction to it:

And there was a bit of cross-party consensus:

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How transgender people are treated in prison

One of the questions that has been voiced on Twitter recently in the debate about trans women has been the case of the Soham murderer, who in 2002 as Ian Huntley murdered two ten year old school girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman and was jailed for 40 years. A number of tabloid newspapers have reported that Huntley is transitioning, and wishes to be called Lian. Incidentally, the prison service has said several times that Huntley is not planning transition.

There are those who say that giving any trans prisoner with a violent past the rights to move to a woman’s prison and mix with women puts women prisoners at risk. They have even tried to say that the Liberal Democrats in supporting trans rights, do not care about women’s rights in prison.

I see that Sal Brinton has written about the Liberal Democrat policies on trans matters, and I wanted to write about the formal process that the National Offender Management Service insists on for the care and management of transgender offenders, designed to both recognise the rights of trans people in prison, but also ensuring the safety of other prisoners and staff. Their policy can be found here,

Pages 12-13 sets out the protocol relating to sentenced prisoners. It says that there will be an initial Local Transgender Case Board after a prisoner declares, and can provide evidence, that they are living in the gender the offender identifies with, and will, as appropriate, make arrangements for transfers to other parts of the prison estate.

With prisoners who might also be deemed a risk to other prisoners, there then has to be a Complex Case Board called for Transgender Offenders, which will look at the complexity and specifically assess the risk of harm prior to making decisions about prison location. The views of the offender must be presented to the Board, but there are a number of healthcare and psychology leads there to ensure that any move to a women’s prison would be safe.

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