Tag Archives: LGBT

Why Eurovision gives me hope

 Happy Eurovision!

Today is the highest and holiest days of the camp calendar – the grand final of the 68th Eurovision Song Contest from Malmo, Sweden.

Growing up in Thatcher’s dismal 1980s in West Lothian (immediately to the west of Edinburgh but with none of the cosmopolitan colour of Scotland’s capital and getting all of the bust and none of the boom of those Tory years), I never travelled abroad until I left school. Eurovision was a glimpse into another exotic world. Eurovision wasn’t cool in the 1980s (and ABBA were yet to be reborn in Gold) and I often thought I was the only person I knew who was drawn into the spectacle. It never occurred to me that I was one of many queer people for whom Eurovision gave life.

Camp theory teaches that we can often find the most profound truth in the silly and irreverent. Eurovision has been that to my liberal, European heart. Our shared European home has been a place of war and division – and remains so today, with war in Gaza and Ukraine and the spectre of the far right stalking virtually every country (not least this ugly Tory Brexiteer government in the UK). The fact that something as camp and outrageous as my beloved Eurovision Song Contest unites us speaks to me and gives me hope in the way that a speech from Macron never could.

For example, in the 1993 contest in Millstreet in rural Ireland, at the height of the Bosnian war, the Bosnian act had to be flown out, under fire, in a UN helicopter. We had a jury in Sarajevo under siege calmly give their votes over a crackly UN line. The Irish compère thanked Sarajevo and simply told them to take care. Not a dry eye in the house!

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Debunking the “gender critical” myth

“Sex is binary and immutable” is the great myth that underpins “gender critical” ideology.

At first glance, it might appear to be plausible, but anything beyond a cursory inspection shows it to be shallow and incorrect.

Biology is a complex system, and although broad classifications like sex can be useful for a lay understanding, it falls apart at edge cases and under scrutiny. Intersex people exist, other differences of sexual development do happen, and of course there are also transgender people.

Medical science is wonderful and has helped us overcome constraints of biology. Vaccinations help us develop immunity, LASIK corrects poor eyesight, and trans health care helps transgender people transition their biological sex into that which best aligns with their gender identity.

Every morning I wake up and take 5mg of estradiol valerate, and every night before I go to bed, I take 200mg of progesterone. As a result, more of my body is female than male, and this is monitored every 6 months through blood tests at my GP.

Not everyone who is trans undertakes medical intervention that alters their sex, but using hormones to bring about these changes has been done for more than a century. To deny that it exists and is effective is to deny the reality of medical care.

This is not a controversial view. The most recent legal precedent on this was the employment tribunal “Forstater vs CGD” appeal which confirmed that “there is significant scientific evidence that wrong” and called them “profoundly offensive and even distressing”. It is the duty of us as liberals to challenge and call out these beliefs for the lie that it is, especially when they become expressed as justification for transphobia. “Gender critical” beliefs are not protected from challenge, and can not be used as a justification for discrimination or harassment.

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Radio phone-in highlights reality of homophobia

If i’m out and about with my husband and we hold hands, nobody bats an eyelid. If we see something that makes us laugh, we can look at each other and have a hug, we can o so without being hassled.  If he is meeting me off the train, I can rush up and give him a kiss. We can be pretty much as spontaneous as we like.

The stabbing outside The Two Brewers in Clapham on Sunday night, which is being treated as a homophobic incident, shows that not everyone can take the simple act of being out and about with their partner for granted.

In response to this appalling attack, the Young Liberals said:

Our account is run by two LGBTQ+ people who live in south London.

The appalling homophobic attack on two men in Lambeth on Saturday night is an horrific reminder that prejudice is alive and well in our capital.

Our thoughts are with the victims at this incredibly difficult time, and we would like to join @Ben_Curtis_1 and @LambethLibDems in sending our best wishes to the staff at the wonderful @2BrewersClapham for their response.

This incident is a reminder that we need to do so much more to tackle the hatred that our community faces, and we are glad to see the Met Police are treating this with the seriousness it needs.

A Radio 2 phone-in yesterday highlighted the everyday prejudice to which the LGBT+ community is subjected. Gay men described how they wouldn’t dare hold hands for fear of attracting trouble. Lesbians gave horrendous accounts of being sexually assaulted by men who were apparently trying to “turn” them. Even in a country where the majority of people back LGBT rights, too many can’t properly be themselves in public.

A friend told me that he and his partner of almost 10 years hardly ever hold hands in public and if they do, they do a risk assessment first. We also talked about how lesbians face both homophobia and misogyny.

It’s worth listening to the discussion on the programme to understand what LGBT+ people have to put up with.

Earlier this year, the UN’s independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity said that abusive rhetoric from politicians was to blame for a surge in hate crimes against LGBT+ people. In his report, he said:

Bolstered by strong protections of freedom of information in the UK, news media and social media are instruments for advocacy and visualizing violations of the human rights of LGBT persons. On the other hand, government authorities and civil society representatives in the UK informed the Independent Expert that those media channels are also spreading anti-trans discourse and stereotypical imagery of LGBT persons as dangerous, often employing homophobic and transphobic rhetoric.

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Charley Hasted: Why Pride Month is so important to me

Pride Month comes to an end tomorrow.

My LDV colleague, Charley Hasted, has been speaking about how their employer, the London Ambulance Service, works with and supports trans and other LGBT+ employees.

Charley is Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats.

By the way, if you haven’t done so already, Google Pride Month for a fun animation.


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Who should LGBT+ people vote for?

PinkNews have an article asking who LGBT+ people should vote for now that the Conservatives are actively targeting marginalised groups as part of their culture war and Keir Starmer’s commitment to trans rights dilutes every time he opens his mouth. Worryingly, at Easter, for the second time, the Labour leader visited a Church which supports the idea of the inhumane and cruel conversion therapy.  Once might be seen as a mistake, twice is sending a message.

The Lib Dems come out reasonably well. There are a couple of quotes from our own Charley Hasted who is also the Chair of LGBT+ Lib Dems.

In November 2022, the party faced a revolt from LGBTQ+ members when it revised a statement on the definition of transphobia to protect “gender-critical” views.

Charley Hasted, chair of the LGBT+ Lib Dems, says that since then much work has been done at a senior level in the party to win back the LGBTQ+ community’s trust.

“The kickback against that seems to have woken a lot of people up. We’ve had quite a lot of meetings with senior people in the party to try to sort that out and I’m genuinely pleased with how it’s going. At the moment I think we’re the only party with a leader on record saying ‘trans rights are human rights’ and that’s what we need,” they told PinkNews.

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Lib Dems should stand up against EHRC claims on sex and Equality Act

In February, the Women and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch wrote to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to ask them to consider the current definition of “sex” in the Equality Act.

It should not be a surprise that the EHRC replied this week identifying eight areas, ranging from book clubs to sport to access to single sex spaces in which amending the Equality Act so that sex means what they call “biological sex” would bring “greater legal clarity.”

It is not an exaggeration to say that this, if implemented, would have a massive impact on trans people’s ability to live their lives. Not only that, but women who aren’t trans, but who don’t look “feminine enough” could face challenge in single sex spaces. It would essentially make life more miserable and dangerous with no gain for anyone.

Not only that, but part of the requirement for getting a Gender Recognition Certificate is that you do use single sex spaces after you have transitioned. So restricting those to sex on your original birth certificate creates a Catch 22.

The EHRC is led by Kishwer Falkner, who was once a Liberal Democrat Peer but now sits in the Lords as non-affiliated after leaving the Party over our continued opposition to Brexit. She was appointed by the Government to her current role in December 2020 and the organisation has been adding to the anti-trans mood music since.

I have spent my adult life campaigning for women’s rights and I’m far from being done. The Scottish Lib Dem Women constitution cites smashing the patriarchy as an aim and I am here for that.

I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of threatening behaviour from men in a public place and to actually fear for my life.

None of that makes me think it is ok to stop trans women accessing women’s spaces, or fail to do them the most basic courtesy of respecting their identity. Because if you don’t accept them as the women they are,  how on earth are they supposed to go about their lives? What facilities are they supposed to use?

Falkner says in her letter to the Government that she wants to see a more informed and constructive debate on these issues. One way to do that would be to target the misinformation and fear being spread by anti trans groups and to recognise that this is part of a global effort to undermine women’s rights and LGBT rights.

Liz Barker pointed this out in her International Women’s Day speech in the Lords:

Women have different life experiences, different economic circumstances and all sorts of differences between us, yet we have common aspirations for safety, health, autonomy and prosperity. It is important to bear that in mind as we have this debate, because it takes place against the background of a campaign originated and orchestrated by Christian nationalists in the United States, Europe and across Russia, which is very definitely about curbing the aspirations and autonomy of all women.

In the United States and places like Poland and Hungary the focus is on anti-abortion activities. In Africa, the focus is against equality and LGBT rights. In the US and UK, the key focus of this campaign is anti-gender.

The constant drip feed of anti trans stories in the media brings to mind the constant drip feed of anti EU stories over many years. And we know that didn’t end well.

It is therefore hardly surprising that trans people are worried and fearful about their safety in this sort of environment as hate crimes against them soar.

Women are equally understandably worried and fearful about their safety as violence against women and girls increases. The threat to women’s safety is not trans women though – it is predatory men in a society structured in such a way that those men are rarely  held to account for their behaviour.

If we turned our attention to dismantling the power structures and the culture that enables that to happen rather than picking on trans women, the world would be a lot safer for all women.

EHRC officials met LGBT representatives the day after the letter was released. And it is fair assessment, from Jane Fae’s account, that they do not fully understand what they are talking about. I am in awe of our own Helen Belcher for keeping her cool through that meeting and calmly and forensically questioning them on their assertions:

Well, I can understand that might be an aspiration but when your letter talks about reasons for, erm, excluding trans women from women’s spaces, how, how do you expect me to live my life? How do you expect me to be a councillor and represent my constituents? How do you expect me to do my work in Parliament if I cannot use women’s facilities? …

That’s a really basic element of human rights and the proposal seems to me to demand that I am openly identifiable as trans in any interaction with public services. So how does that square with my right to privacy?

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LGBT+ History Month – reviews and recommendations!

As we all know by know February is LGBT+ History Month so here’s some of my favourite LGBT media I think you might be interested in!

Please share your favourites in the comments – Books, TV, Podcasts, Fiction and Non-Fiction. Whether it’s taught you, moved you, made you think, laugh or cry let everyone else know about it!

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Keeping prisoners safe – and discussing these matters responsibly

There has been screaming controversy in the media for days now about a Scottish transgender woman who has been convicted of rape. Many misleading media reports have suggested that she would have to be accommodated within a women’s prison. There was outrage when she was initially taken to Cornton Vale women’s prison where she was held away from other prisoners while initial risk assessments were carried out over a 72 hour period.

Once that risk assessment was completed, unsurprisingly, she was moved away from Cornton Vale to HMP Edinburgh. There are few clearer statements of the obvious  than that anyone convicted of sexual assault, violence or raping women should not be incarcerated alongside women.  It was never going to happen in this case or in any other with such a record. There are procedures in place to protect prisoners from other prisoners who might harm them.

The Scottish Prison Service did its job properly.

In all parts of the UK, every prisoner is risk assessed for all sorts of things when they enter prison. Do they have a history of violence? Is there anyone in custody who might be a danger to them? Are they a danger to anyone on the prison estate? Is it safe to allow them to share a cell? That assessment determines the safest place for them and everyone else.

Unfortunately, the media has not missed an opportunity to print scare stories about trans women and the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill. As this has been unfairly blocked by the UK Government, it clearly has no relevance in this case. But even if the prisoner had a Gender Recognition Certificate under the current system, it would have absolutely no effect on where she will serve her sentence. Conflating the two issues, and suggesting that trans women are a danger to other women is wrong and irresponsible.

Scotland’s Equality Network has a very useful Twitter thread explaining the issues involved in this case.

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Lib Dem Mathew Hulbert says Church of England giving in to its conservatives on same sex marriage

Lib Dem Councillor Mathew Hulbert has been taking to the airwaves to criticise the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury for giving into the Conservative side of the Anglican Communion. Yesterday, the Church announced that, while it would not allow same sex marriages in Church, they would allow blessings. However, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said that he personally would not conduct them. He said:

But because of my pastoral care and responsibility of being a focus of unity for the whole communion I will – while being extremely joyfully celebratory of these new resources – I will not personally use them in order to compromise that pastoral care

The Church is also apologising for not being inclusive to LGBT+ people in the past.

Yesterday, Mathew tweeted:

This led to a few requests for interviews.

Here’s a brief clip from his Talk TV appearance.

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Jardine challenges Scottish Secretary over Gender Reform

Women and Equalities spokesperson Christine Jardine challenged Scottish Secretary Alister Jack to come up with a single clause in Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill which undermined the provisions of the Equality Act. Spoiler, he couldn’t. She accused him of playing fast and loose by the Union by attempting to block the Bill.  Watch her comments here.

Later he issued a flimsy Statement of Reasons for issuing the Section 35 Order. In a later speech, Christine said that to call it weak would be to flatter it. There certainly is much in the way of conjecture within it and absolutely zero evidence to back that up.

At this point it is worth remembering that, not only was a Labour amendment stating the primacy of the Equality Act on the face of the Bill, but even before that every major feminist organisation in Scotland supported it. I can’t see how they would have done if they had thought for a second that it would harm women’s rights. They have certainly not held back in criticising government legislation before. This is one of the most scrutinised pieces of legislation ever, with several consultations, a draft Bill and, finally, the Bill that has been passed.

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Scotland finally passes Gender Recognition Reform Bill

After 6 years of consultations, draft bills, more consultations and, finally, 3 days of debate with over 150 amendments, the Scottish Parliament passed the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill by 86 votes to 39. The Conservatives opposed the Bill, although two of their MSPs voted for it.  There were 9 SNP and 2 Labour rebels opposing it. That must be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, SNP rebellions ever.

Although the debate was often fractious, there was a lot of cross-party working on amendments to develop consensus.

Here’s Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton speaking in the debate:

All Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs voted for the measure which had the backing not just of LGBT+ organisations in Scotland, but also feminist organisations like Engender and organisations which support survivors of rape and domestic abuse. In its briefing to MSPs ahead of Stage 3, they said:

Another feature of the debate we are concerned by relates to the inference that trans inclusion, and as such trans people, pose a threat to women’s safety and experience of services. These claims are not borne out by evidence of women’s experience of services or violence at the hands of men, here in Scotland or internationally. They also risk stigmatisation and associated harm to trans people; a group who are already at increased risk of discrimination and violence.

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The Lib Dems’ Role in the repeal of Section 28 – 19 years on

This week marks 19 years since the repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act in England and Wales, a landmark date for LGBTQ+ equality ensured by the Liberal Democrats.

Introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in 1988, Section 28 (or Clause 2a in Scotland) was a controversial and dangerous legislative amendment to the Local Government Act, which sought to ‘prohibit the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities.’

The introduction of Section 28 was of little surprise to many campaigners following Thatcher’s address at the 1987 Conservative party Conference where she stated:

Too often, our children don’t get the education they need—the education they deserve. Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay. And children who need encouragement—and children do so much need encouragement—so many children—they are being taught that our society offers them no future. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life—yes cheated.

Once enacted, Section 28 prevented any form of positive depiction of LGBTQ+ life in schools. Teachers were banned from teaching or discussing LGBTQ+-related items, LGBTQ+ literature, or books containing a depiction of positive LGBTQ+ relationships, and additional resources were removed by schools. This was in addition to the disbandment of LGBTQ+ groups and clubs both within schools and those facilitated by local authority services in the community.

Upon its introduction, the Liberal Democrats were the first party to openly oppose the legislation. As a party, we were clear that teachers must be allowed to support pupils who come out to them, and schools must be allowed to provide information that presents LGBTQ+ attraction and relationships as valid and normal.

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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.


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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