Tag Archives: LGBT

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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Lib Dems are very clear about the rights of transgender people

Embed from Getty Images

Once again transgender issues are making media headlines – sadly for all the wrong reasons. Arguments are being made that are based on misunderstanding and fear, rather than facts and tolerance.

As a party the Liberal Democrats are very clear about the rights of transgender people. We had a debate, and passed party policy on this, at conference in September 2015. The motion starts:

“The transgender and intersex communities are too often marginalised, with little or no emphasis on their needs from government or third sector organisations. Transgender and intersex individuals experience similar levels and types of discrimination within society, including but not limited to hate crime, health discrimination, and difficulty obtaining documents in the correct gender.

Legislation concerning the transgender population often does not fully advance – and sometimes actively hinders – transgender equality. Transgender and intersex people are at a higher risk of mental health issues and suicidal ideation than the general population and the rest of the LGBT+ population, especially among BME transgender and intersex people.”

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Christine Jardine: Why I support equal marriage and transgender rights

Here’s Christine Jardine speaking to Edinburgh’s Pride march yesterday. One of these days, I’ll remember to hold the phone round the other way.

She was speaking at the Mercat Cross on the Royal Mile to a vast, sparkly and bright crowd. As always the atmosphere was incredible.

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International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

On this day in 1990, the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of ‘mental disorders’. Since 2004 the anniversary of this has been used to promote awareness of the legal and cultural discrimination LGBT+ people still experience around the world.

In the UK that we have come a long way towards achieving equality – and yet we know that, for many, there is still a stigma around their sexuality or gender identity. Imagine being a teenager struggling to reconcile same-sex attraction with the teachings of their parents, or religion. Think about why you may not know many people who are openly bisexual, or those who have multiple partners in consensual polyamorous relationships. Consider the workings of the “spousal veto” which insists a trans person’s husband or wife must consent in order for them to gain gender recognition.

IDAHOBIT is about celebrating the diversity of human sexual and gender expression and challenging the barriers to people living their lives as openly as their cis, straight peers.

In the UK, this year’s day takes place against a backdrop of the current media storm over self-ID for trans people. This is the proposal to reform the Gender Recognition Act such as to reduce the hoops that trans people have to go through to replace their birth certificates. Despite what you may have read, it’s not a licence for any man who wants to perv at naked women to walk into the female changing rooms at the local swimming pool. There are, after all, already rules against that sort of thing. It is merely the UK catching up with such notoriously socially liberal states as Ireland.

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LGBT History Month

Today is the start of LGBT History Month, marked in the UK since 2005 to raise the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, their history, lives and their experiences.

In 2017, there was a clear unifying anniversary of fifty years since the partial decriminalisation for part of the UK of sex between men – enabled by then Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, whose political career took him from Labour minister via SDP leader to the Lib Dem green benches.

2018 has key round-number dates too, though: forty years since the …

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Brian Paddick writes…We need to reassure people that Liberal Democrats remain the most accepting of all the political parties, whoever you are and whatever you believe

I write as a gay Christian about the tightrope between freedom of speech and religion and prejudice and discrimination.

One of the fundamental principles of Liberalism is to allow people to do as they wish provided it does not harm other people.  When it comes to religion, what appears to be a simple enough principle becomes complicated.

Many religions, including Christianity, require its followers to proclaim “the good news” of their particular religion to non-believers.  There are interpretations of many religions that say intimacy between same sex couples is wrong, indeed that any sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is sinful.  The question then becomes, does proclaiming such ideas contravene the Liberal harm principle?

There are people who think religion is at least, mumbo jumbo, and at worst, damaging and divisive, and that whatever God, his Son or his prophets may or may not have said, it’s all nonsense, in which case, no harm done.

There are others who do have a faith, who are from sexually and gender diverse groups or who love those from such groups (family members, friends, allies), for whom it really matters what their religion says on these issues and who are seriously harmed by such declarations.

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Why we could all do with reading LGBT Youth Scotland’s guidance on supporting transgender young people

This week, the excellent LGBT Scotland launched a guide offering advice to schools on supporting transgender young people. 

It’s badly needed. Some young transgender people find that their schools support them very well. For others, the story is very different. They find that their school does the minimum that they can legally get away with and no more.

They fail to recognise and protect young people from transphobic bullying. They make a massive issue about things like toilets and changing rooms. I know one transgender young person who was made to use the accessible toilet – not something that they were necessarily unhappy with if it hadn’t been presented in such a hostile way. The problem was that the accessible toilet was kept locked, so they had to ask for the key every time. That was incredibly stigmatising and distressing for that young person.  It’s hardly surprising that their attendance at school was extremely low.

The guidance covers practical, social and cultural issues – from residential trips and name changes to making the whole school an inclusive environment. So why is that important for us? 

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LibLink: Vince Cable on the battle for LGBT+ rights

 

This week Vince Cable marked the 50th Anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality with an article in Pink News. He remembers the social context in which the changes happened.

The period that saw the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 left a powerful impression on me. It was around this time that I returned to the UK from Kenya with my now late wife, Olympia. She was Indian, and we arrived in a Britain snarling with the racism of Enoch Powell’s notorious “rivers of blood” speech. Intolerance was not merely tolerated by the state, but enforced by it, with immigrants, women and of course members of the LGBT+ community discriminated against in a way that is hard now to fully understand.

But it was also a time of social change, even ferment. My colleague David Steel piloted an act that legalised abortion that same year. And gay people could finally have sex without fear of prosecution (provided they were both 21 or over, and it was in private).

Looking back, the sheer level of bigotry is shocking. Even many supporters of the reform referred to homosexuality as a “disability”. By 1974, the number of arrests for gay “offences” had actually increased. It was not until 2001, after a defeat in the European Court of Human Rights, that the Labour government was forced to repeal the criminalisation of “homosexual acts”.

 He then looks at the Liberal Democrat record.
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On IDAHoBiT, what is in the Lib Dem manifesto for LGBT+ people?

Today is IDAHoBiT – the international day against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Liberal Democrats have a proud tradition of fighting for LGBT+ rights. The 2017 manifesto, published today, aims to go further than any other party is furthering LGBT+ rights. However, because we Lib Dems believe that LGBT+ rights are human rights, a lot of the LGBT+ content in the manifesto is spread out in the various policy topic areas the manifesto covers. While I like this, because it means that LGBT+ rights are integral to our policies, not tacked on as an afterthought, it can make things easy to miss. In lieu of a manifesto index, therefore, I am going to draw it all together in one place, starting at the beginning:

  1. Our young people are bright, creative and want a world that is clean and green and that the rest of us haven’t wrecked. They want jobs, good health and the chance to choose who they love and how they live– Introduction by Tim Farron, p7, emphasis mine.
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There, he’s said it. You can leave him alone now

So, we’re teetering on the edge of a massive Tory hard Brexit cliff. The UK is in danger of breaking up because of the Tory preoccupation with finding the bumpiest, riskiest way out of the European Union. Donald Trump has his finger on the nuclear button and North Korea is deliberately winding him up.

Yet our media gets all obsessed about whether a man with a good track record on LGBT rights thinks gay sex is a sin. Today, Tim put the matter finally beyond doubt in an interview with the BBC.  

He said:

“I don’t believe that gay sex is a sin,” he said.

“I take the view though that as a political leader, my job is not to pontificate on theological matters.”

Mr Farron said that with a general election campaign under way, it was important to be talking about “big issues” like health and social care and Brexit.

“I am quite careful about how I talk about my faith. I do not bang on about it, I do not make a secret out of it,” he said.

“On reflection, it makes sense to actually answer this direct question since it’s become an issue.”

He also said the Lib Dems had “undoubtedly the best record” on gay rights out of all political parties.

Personally, I’d rather politicians kept their traps shut about what was sinful and what is not. So, clearly, does Tim, yet this whole thing was clearly not going to go away until he made a definitive statement. I feel more than a little bit livid that someone with a fantastic record on LGBT equality has been pushed like this. Nobody has asked Theresa May the same question, nor any of the other Christian MPs with much worse voting records.

Writing sensible stuff about Lib Dems in right wing publications once is quite incredible, twice in two days seems almost reckless, but  journalist Stephen Daisley has done exactly that. There was yesterday’s Scottish Daily Mail article saying that the Lib Dems must be taken seriously and now he’s written about what he calls the cruel hounding of Tim Farron for the Spectator.

Journalists feel no misgivings about doing just that to Tim Farron because they suspect him of holding a view they deem bigoted and because although he is a Lib Dem he is not a member of a favoured minority. Their transgression is not political correctness but hypocrisy and the impotent obsessions of identity politics. If we are to bring a theological critique to the campaign trail, a man who seldom talks publicly about his faith seems an odd target when the Prime Minister speaks so openly about hers. How does Tory policy on refugees square with Isaiah 1:17? Or their welfare reforms with Proverbs 22:16 and 22:22?

Except that would look priggish and doesn’t have social media ‘shareability’. Forgive them, Tim Farron, they know exactly what they do.

This was some of the reaction on Twitter:

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The irony behind tonight’s Corbyn media firestorm

By Jeremy Corbyn’s standards, it was actually quite a good speech. Pink News has the video here. He was engaged, clearly speaking from the heart. He talked about having saved a Gay Centre from attack by National Front types decades before gay rights became fashionable. And then, in true Corbyn fashion, he has to go and ruin it all by concluding:

Our defence of you is a defence of all of humanity and the right of people to practise the life they want to practise, rather than be criminalised, brutalised and murdered, simply because they chose to be gay, they chose to be lesbian, they were LGBT in any form

Obviously, being gay isn’t some kind of lifestyle choice. You don’t choose it any more than you choose your eye pr skin colour or whether you are right or left handed. It is how you are born. Everything about Jeremy Corbyn’s voting record on LGBT issues over the years suggests he knows that and that he genuinely mis-spoke tonight. Let’s face it, it’s not the first time he’s snatched disaster from the jaws of opportunity.

He should be aware that any inference that your sexual orientation or gender identity is a choice plays into the hands of those who wish to roll back the decades of progress. It is also deeply upsetting to LGBT people.

It’s even more upsetting when it’s being gleefully amplified all over the place by the right wing press and Tory LGBT groups.

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Tim Farron welcomes LGBT History Month

February is LGBT History Month, a chance to celebrate those campaigners who have made such a  difference for LGBT rights and a chance to remember all those who suffered as a result of repressive attitudes and laws. When I was growing up, I was heartbroken to hear accounts of long-term partners being frozen out of hospital visiting or funeral arrangements by family members who didn’t recognise their relationship. You could live with someone for decades and have no rights when they were ill or when they died.

It looks as though the US may be about to enter a period when these hard-won rights are cast aside and we’ll have new examples of the effects of harsh and cruel intolerance. There are numerous examples of repressive regimes where LGBT people face death or imprisonment. In this country, hate crime is on the increase. The road to equality across the world is still being built and it’s important that we all do our bit to help.

I am constantly awestruck at the courage of some of my friends, who took risks when same sex sexual activity was still illegal (officially until 1980 in Scotland) to support others and to lay the foundations for the much more welcoming environment we have today. Scotland is one of the best places in the world to be LGBT these days and it’s due to people like my friend Gregan Crawford, who is now Edinburgh Lib Dems’ Master of All Things Connect (seriously, he makes the best delivery runs EVER).

Anyway, here is his account of an International Gay Rights Congress which took place in Edinburgh in 1974 which ended up with 2000 people marching on the BBC:

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Maria Munir chosen as Girls’ Champion for BBC’s 100 Women

Lib Dem member Maria Munir, from Watford, won widespread global respect and admiration when they came out as non binary to President Obama at a town hall meeting in April this year. Let’s remind ourselves of that moment:

They spoke to the BBC here about their experience:

I just felt this moment of euphoria that finally I would be able to raise and highlight the issue that non-binary transgender people face.

If anyone has the power to change things for people like myself across the world, it is President Obama.”

Maria said their family history made the situation even more poignant.

“I started to feel the tears well up. My parents are immigrants. My granddad did manual labour in Pakistan. My dad worked as a manual labourer in Saudi Arabia before coming here to start a business with literally nothing.
“For me, aged 20, to be sat in front of the President of the United States, leader of the free world, to be able to pitch to him social action…

Maria has now been named as one of eight Girls’ Champion as part of the BBC’s 100 Women series. They will be able to use their voice to highlight issues that affect girls and non binary and transgender people.

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Marking the Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of RemembranceNovember 20th each year is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s the day when we honour those who have lost their lives through transphobic violence. The list of those who have been murdered for being who they are is so harrowing to read.

Nobody should face fear, intimidation, discrimination and violence because of who they are. As the forces of intolerance appear to have the upper hand in politics in too many places, those of us who believe in freedom, diversity and equality have our work cut out for us.

This is a day to remember those who have died but also to re-affirm our own commitment to not put up with a world where this sort of thing happens. It isn’t going to become a more tolerant place by itself. We have to make it happen, one person at a time, by questioning prejudice whenever we see it, whether it’s round the dining room table with our grandparents, in the pub, at work or in the party.

LGBT+ Lib Dems has statements from Lorely Burt and LGBT+ secretary Zoe O’Connell, who is one of the few transgender people to have stood for Parliament.

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London’s LGBT Vigil to be sung and sung loudly

If it didn’t exist would you create it? Well based on last night, the answer for the London Gay Men’s Chorus was a resounding Yes.

As thousands of members of the LGBT community poured into Soho, supported by friends, family and a host of straight allies – everyone was very uncertain. The nervousness was palpable with no-one clear what was going to happen. There were a few attempts to get a political chant going, but the crowd was more contemplative. As the hour of 7pm approached there was a hanging sense of expectation.

And sure enough as 7pm there was a raft of whistle blowing then then the cloak of silence fell over everyone – Soho is said to be the only identifiable district in London which has no buses through it and when the silence fell you could hear a pin drop.

The silence was held for what seemed to be an age and the tension was real and then slowly, quietly and determinedly the joyous noise gathered pace and rose up. Here was London Gay Men’s Chorus singing ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’. Conducted by the deeply impressive Simon Sharp the Chorus absolutely delivered. Clad in their distinctive blue t-shirts this community chorus – which operates an open access policy – totally filled the yawning void of emotion, anger and optimism. The men next to me were openly crying, holding each other tight. It was a wave of song, of love and of gratitude: a surge of shared affinity for the heartache being witnessed in Orlando.

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Horror in Orlando

Today I’m struggling to find the words to come to terms with what has happened in Orlando. Fifty people have been slaughtered solely for being who they are. Every terrorist attack is both an outrage and a multitude of personal tragedies but for all LGBTQ people this attack at the heart of our  community is particularly terrifying.

Throughout our history as a community LGBTQ people have faced violence and terror but there was a prevailing attitude that to be LGBTQ in Western Europe or North America was becoming safer, more accepted. This horrendous attack is a reminder that for some people, …

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Jonny Oates tells House of Lords about his experience of depression

In a speech to the House of Lords yesterday, Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates talked about his experience of depression as a young man.

This experience was not unrelated to the times in which he was growing up. As a young gay man, having the government legislate against him was not easy to deal with. He also suggests that the churches should reflect on the impact they can have on people’s mental health, referring to Archbishop Michael Ramsey who was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time homosexuality was legalised and who was supportive of that change in the law.

Here is the speech in full:

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to take part in this important debate on the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health initiated by my noble friend Lady Brinton. As my noble friend said, mental health is a topic which touches almost everyone in this country, whether through direct personal experience or through families and friends who have suffered from mental ill-health.

For much of the time when I was growing up, it was pretty much a taboo subject. Few people talked openly about mental illness; it was too often a personal burden not to be shared, understood or tackled but to be hidden away even from those closest to one. In recent years there has been a welcome shift in our attitudes, and I pay tribute to the mental health charities and the many activists and campaigners, such as Alastair Campbell, who have helped break down taboos and get mental health on the agenda, but I also pay a real and heartfelt tribute to Norman Lamb in particular who, as a Health Minister in the previous Government, strongly supported by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, did so much to push the issue of mental health right up the government agenda, placing mental health literally on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

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We should be ashamed of UK inaction on refugee crisis

David Trett refugees

On a bleak windswept desolate morning in mid February, I walked through puddles of mud whilst alongside me a community of refugees, desperate to re-start their lives, remain near the French /UK border hoping to escape the situation and get to the UK, or some other place of sanctuary. I visited along with my Lib Dem colleague Councillor David Chalmers. I’m left wondering what will become to all those that I met this weekend.

I believe in showing humanity, care and love for our fellow citizens wherever they come from in the world, especially those escaping from lives of persecution, violence and discrimination. We, as a country, should be utterly ashamed of ourselves, as should the French authorities, for allowing a situation to develop only 20-25 minutes by travel from our shore, where a group of harmless, fear stricken people are left looking for sanctuary.

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Let’s celebrate LGBT history month

LGBT history monthLGBT History Month is a wonderful opportunity for us all to celebrate LGBT’s contribution to society and promote a more equal and diverse society which benefits us all.

The Liberal Democrats have been steadfast in campaigning for LGBT equality and inclusion working with a variety of organisations to make sure that a multiplicity of voices are heard and considered in Westmister and beyond.

The last Parliament marked a historic step in challenging the status quo. The Equal Marriage Act driven by the Liberal Democrats in Government was celebrated up and down the country but it is not always just the big things that count. We have been calling for proper sex ed in schools, an end to discrimination against transgender individuals by the state and better representation of LGBT individuals in public life. This change will not come overnight but I am certain that with a coalition of organisations, activists, politicians and public personalities all working together with common purpose change will come.

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The terrifying consequences of witch-hunts

ScandalNow that, one by one, European countries are shifting the law for allow for same-sex marriage – the spotlight now turns on Italy where mass demonstrations have taken place in support of the idea – it is  worth thinking about why homosexuality was criminalised in the first place.

We have spent so much time celebrating the decision in 1967 to repeal laws which did so, that we have perhaps forgotten to look a little further back to see how they came onto the statute book in the first place (sodomy had been a crime for some centuries before).

The story goes back to the Phoenix Park murders of 1882, when republican terrorists stabbed the Irish Secretary to death – accidentally, as it turned out: he happened to be walking with the intended victim.

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Time is ripe for Church of England disestablishment

 

Now that the Anglican Communion has ruled that the US Episcopalian Church will not be able to take part in its decision making for three years’ following their support for same sex marriage and their appointment of a gay bishop in 2003, it is time for us to put Church of England disestablishment back on the agenda.

Like many in the party, I had misgivings about Tim Farron’s Christian faith when he was elected leader. As a liberal Christian who campaigns for same sex marriage within church, I perceived Tim to be a conservative Christian that would be opposed to this. However, the controversy about Tim’s interview with Cathy Newman last year has rather changed my mind on this, especially when I read his May 2015 interview in Pink News. Tim called for the disestablishment of the CofE in this interview, and I think that we should make this official policy to finally dispel the view that his Christianity is a problem for his leadership. Having had a closer look at Tim Farron’s reasons for his voting record on same sex marriage, I think the problem is not that he’s a fundamentalist Christian, but that he’s a fundamentalist Liberal.

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  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 19th Nov - 8:03pm
    Alex Macfie, in my view the political naivety lies with what Mark Pack describes in this blog post-https://www.markpack.org.uk/121390/liberal-democrats-repeated-jo-grimonds-mistake/ in which he concludes: "Will the party...
  • User AvatarYvonne Finlayson 19th Nov - 8:02pm
    I joined the party as I thought, as per the constitution, that we would support the most disadvantaged in our communities. It’s to my dismay...
  • User AvatarMartin 19th Nov - 7:31pm
    Alex Macfie: I agree, a 'no deal' would be an extraordinary outcome given that it appeals only to the most blinkered and socially irresponsible ideologues....
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    Lib Dem voice has got a lot more hostile to food banks than in the coalition years when things like this were being written: "The...
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