As winter draws in, and the end of the year gets closer, it gives you time to reflect.
For someone who is a passionate supporter of equality, after a decade of what felt like great progress, it’s sad that this year has been marred by division and discrimination. I’ve been dismayed to see the most vulnerable picked out, and to witness how eager people are to target anyone who is a bit different. This of course is close to my heart as Stonewall’s chair of trustees, and as a lesbian.
I know full well the impact of not fitting in. LGBT people who not only break, but subvert society’s expectations, like the camp man, or the butch woman, bear the brunt of vile abuse. Society’s policing of gender and how you should look or act can leave you literally looking over your shoulder as the rise in hate crime against LGBT people sadly shows. Recent research shows hate crimes against trans people have risen by 37 per cent, while those against lesbian, gay and bi people have gone up by 25 per cent, and this should be a wake-up call to everyone who cares about equality.
The best way that we do this is by doing what we have always done as a community in the face of hate. Stand together.
For trans people, society’s current obsession with policing gender is intolerable. My heart goes out to trans people right now. Their struggle is why my fellow Stonewall trustees and I are more determined than ever to stand up for trans equality. The best way that we do this is by doing what we have always done as a community in the face of hate. We stand together.
We’re very good at this, in fact, it’s what the modern LGBT community was built on.
Solidarity – embracing each other arm-in-arm – was the key to our liberation.
Nowhere is this clearer than in how this movement started in the first place. Exactly 50 years ago, a diverse community of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, many of whom were people of colour, came together to lead the uprising at the Stonewall Inn in New York. What these people knew better than most was that solidarity – embracing each other arm-in-arm – was the key to our liberation. This is a message that feels just as relevant and urgent today as it did back then.
We can’t eradicate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in any meaningful way if we don’t at the same time work to tackle all other forms of oppression, like ableism and racism.
Sometimes those who want to undermine equality pit communities against each other. It’s exactly what’s been happening with LGBT-inclusive education. The actions of a few extremists in faith communities demonstrates their rejection of this inclusive approach. A situation that has been seized upon by those who want to intensify Islamophobia in this country. We must be vigilant in guarding against this. What we have seen is many people of faith, and many in the Muslim community, speaking out loudly and proudly to say that they support LGBT equality. We know that this vocal minority does not represent them.
I’m aware that some reading this may be wondering what ‘standing in solidarity’ actually looks like in practice and where it’s happened. Well, this year, we celebrated the first-ever UK Bi Pride, which is a huge milestone. There was also the huge outpouring of support at Pride In London this year for trans people when the parade was led by the wonderful, grassroots #LWithTheT movement. All across the UK, Prides were loud and proud in their inclusion and celebration of trans people, despite a small but vocal traveling band of haters. So if you want to know how to act in solidarity, those are just some examples of what you can do.
The Stonewall Education Conference this year was led by young people passionate and determined that Britain’s education system be one that is not only inclusive, but one that cherishes diversity. Inclusive education is all about building bridges between different groups in society. That’s the ethos of the work we need to be doing if we’re going to start healing divisions in society and make the world a better place for all people.
True equality doesn’t exist unless it reflects everyone.
What all these events showed me is that we’re not a community of solitary parts. We’re not fighting for equality alone. And nor can we, because true equality doesn’t exist unless it reflects everyone. There is no hierarchy in human rights. Stonewall is here to fight for equality for all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, in whichever community they are in. We will not be divided, and we will not be deterred in our mission for acceptance without exception.