Wendy Chamberlain at Pride: Let’s go high, stand for our values and build bridges.

Mary wrote yesterday about her lifetime as an LGBT ally. 

She mentioned the virtual Prides that were taking place at the moment.

I went to the Scottish Lib Dems virtual Pride event last Sunday, which was run by LGBT+ Lib Dems and Scottish Lib Dem Women. It was a marathon, but well worth every second.

The day started with a rally with speeches by Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP and Wendy Chamberlain MP. It ended almost 12 hours later with a Eurovision watch along of the 2014 event, won by Conchita Wurst. I had forgotten so many of the delights of that night. Watch here if you need cheering up. In between there were a couple of panels – on queering our policy and on being a better ally. The penultimate event was a quiz won by Wales’ Callum Littlemore who seems to have a brain full of obscure song lyrics and who got almost full marks in the Gay or Eurovision round.

Alex spoke off the cuff like he always does but was as passionate as you would expect from him about how we as a party should not shy away from speaking up for LGBT people.

Wendy had her remarks written down and I’m delighted that she has shared them with us.

I’m privileged to be asked to address today’s rally
But, as I mentioned in my maiden speech, I may be the first female MP for North East Fife, I’m well aware of my privilege in other areas – my class, my ethnicity, my sexuality, my gender identity.

My life experience to date, also, if we are looking to make generalisations, perhaps, on the surface, doesn’t suggest that I’d be a natural ally. Having been a police officer for 12 years brings its own assumptions I suppose, particularly of late.

But, other than friends at university – no one at school was out – from colleagues in Tesco (Grant and I bonded over Eurovision and mourned Michael Ball’s 2nd place) and friends in the Edinburgh University Footlights (I had a couple of dates with a guy who told me that the last person he had seen was a 36 year old man – I was fine with that, but I did meet his parents a couple of times as his ‘friend’ as he was clearly struggling to be honest with his Dad (I’m pleased to report he’s now happily married to a man and still working in the theatre), the police was the first workplace where I had a number of colleagues who were gay.

The first trans women I knew was through the police – Jan, a traffic warden. She had transitioned later in life, her marriage had broken down and she had been ostricised by her family and children as a result.

I know that Jan experienced direct discrimination from some colleagues at work, but I also saw the service trying its best to support Jan, and provide the facilities that she required.

A friend met her on the bus last year – she still has no contact with her family, and in the main keeps to herself – her bus trip was an exception and not the norm.

Not long after returning to work after maternity leave, I attended 3 days of diversity training, as did all police officers in the UK, as part of the police response to the Lawrence report, where the police’s institutional racism was called out.

I was pleased that the training was not restricted to racism, but covered all of the diversity strands.

I’ll be honest, the last day, was the toughest – the majority audience of white heterosexual men, really struggling with their prejudices in relation to the trans activists delivering that part of the training.

So much so I felt the need to apologise to the trainer afterwards, and asked one colleague how he could feel anything other than empathy – that going through painful procedures, family estrangement and abuse from all sides, was still better because it allowed them to be the person they truly were.

At the conclusion of the 3 days one attendee said I just treat everyone the same. I have to admit I was beyond exasperated by this point – surely this teaches us to treat people according to their needs.

My most recent employer Diageo has been refreshing – Rainbow Flags flying in Leven and bringing in Vic Valentine from the Scottish Trans Alliance to talk about non-binary. But still much work to be done

I am proud to be part of a group – INC that won an award for our work throughout the year to raise awareness of all diversity issues. And to see the Pride flags going up this year on Diageo sites makes me proud to have worked for the company.

I want to us to think positively – Hope Not Hate.

It’s very interesting that there’s a generational divide in respect of those calling out JK Rowling’s recent posts – i.e. Harry Potter actors.

This has obviously not been a great 12 months – for the party our election result, for the country Covid 19. The divisive nature of our politics and othering of groups.

It’s less than 6 months since death of Caroline Flack and agreement to Be Kind.

The Trans debate is a particularly toxic. Views are entrenched with many people, who we would otherwise  see as liberal, whether we like it or not, have sincerely held concerns that we need to calmly and rationally respond to. We need to say more than trans men are men and trans women are women – it’s true but we need to reach out.

I welcome the work of the LGBT Political parties group – great to see them working together. We need to be ensuring that reform of the GRA takes place in Scotland and UK. Plus be proud that as party we don’t have the issues about this issue that others like the SNP do – we speak with one voice.

We risk following into the trap that the UK government wants us to, distracting from the failures of Covid and the looming disaster of Brexit.

We need to stand by our values – my friend Helen Belcher did not respond to JK Rowling with anger, but with compassion, a couple of quotes from her response:

Firstly, may I say how sorry I was to hear about the sexual assault you suffered. It must be difficult to deal with the emotions that keep resurfacing, the inevitable and uncontrollable fear in certain situations. No one wants to suffer like that.

Compassion.

I can understand why those fears may trigger something visceral in you, as they do in some other women. And yet their behaviour triggers many visceral fears in trans people, who are then condemned if they act in any way which displays those fears. So I’m sorry that some trans people have sent you verbal abuse, but, like every other group, it doesn’t mean that all trans people are abusers.

As Michelle Obama says when they go low, we go high. Let’s go high, stand for our values and build bridges.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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