In the last 10 days we have seen our LGBT+ identities attacked in ways we haven’t seen since the 80/90’s. The focus of these attacks have been trans people and asylum seekers, but the rhetoric is beginning to go beyond this as politicians feel emboldened. Let me start by saying I hear you and I feel it too—it is terrifying.
I don’t say this to instil further panic or fear, but too often we are told to tone it down and be less emotive. These are attacks on the very existence of real people, whom we love and care about very much. So, whilst I will always be a strategist and balance that out against being an activist, I want our members, their service users and every person worried about what the future holds to know that Consortium truly cares and will passionately stand up against this hatred.
At these critical moments, the positive in all of this is the solidarity and unity we see across our communities, and our allies. People were quick to email us and reach out asking if we could coordinate a joint statement or have something they could get behind. This solidarity is important. It shows that the hatred being peddled by those in power does not match the reality of our society today. The vast majority of people want every citizen to be able to lead a safe, happy and healthy life. That includes trans people trying to get on with their lives, LGBT+ people seeking escape from persecution, LGBT+ people forced to under conversion practices and young LGBT+ people wanting a good education in a safe and supportive environment.
As we publish a joint statement with orgs across the LGBT+ sector, and ask others to stand by it and speak out, I am heartened by the resolute support and energy people continue to show. It is exhausting, and these tactics are designed to exhaust us, so a huge thank you for keeping going. Real lives are at stake so we have no choice.
Let us also not forget the world we live in right now. Whilst people are struggling to put food on their tables and heat their homes as Winter beckons, and this includes numerous LGBT+ people who are evidenced as being at higher risk of poverty due to prevailing structural and systemic inequalities, trans people are being used as a culture war issue when they represent such a tiny minority of the population and there is no evidence to back up the hatred being talked up.
Every legal opinion I have seen has a common theme—what’s being proposed is likely to be unlawful. As we saw with the proposed DfE Trans Schools Guidance, the Attorney General intervened and said it was likely to be unlawful. The Equality Act is there for a reason—to protect people. It remains an excellent piece of legislation and has protected countless people, including trans and LGBT+ people.
Government’s responsibility is to all of its citizens. Every person deserves the right to access appropriate services and to be an integral part of their local communities. It is a reality that trans people, and LGBT+ people, face inequalities across every aspect of life—health, education, safety, employment, etc. Government should be working to tackle these, not actively creating further inequalities. The behaviours they demonstrate are in no way proportionate or fair.
We have a right to live our lives. We have a long history of fighting for our rights, and protecting our communities. This is a key moment in history where the future will of course look scary. We have a duty to stand by those most vulnerable in our society and we need this now more than ever. It is 20 years since Section 28 was abolished. I lived through that era and faced the bullying for being gay when teachers felt fearful of supporting me (but some did and I thank them for that). We cannot allow history to repeat itself for our trans siblings.
To those that have the energy, please continue to write to your MPs, write to Ministers, speak out on social media and challenge transphobic, biphobic and homophobic behaviours. To those who are too exhausted or too scared to do these things please hear this—we won’t leave your side, ever. I remain an optimist and things will return to a better place but that only happens because we defend what is right—human rights for every person.