5 Things Government Can Address NOW to end its “hostile environment” towards LGBT+ people and improve lives
In the middle of March the Government was besieged with criticism over its treatment of LGBT+ people. It got so bad that it lost three LGBT+ advisers. They cited the ignorance of ministers, and said that the government has created a "hostile environment" for LGBT+ people.
The government's failings are clear to see: from a failure to deliver GRA reform, failure to ban conversion therapy, and cutting funding to tackle anti-LGBT+ bullying in schools.
LGBT+ people still face systemic barriers and discrimination in 2021. Instead of dithering, and delaying, here's where the government should be focusing its attention to improve the lives of LGBT+ people across the country:
Ban Conversion Therapy
First on the list is the banning of conversion therapy. After more than a thousand days of delay, the government has signalled that it will now begin to consult on the banning of this dangerous practice. The situation is so intolerable that in March signatories from almost all of the UK's LGBT+ political groups co-signed a letter demanding action. Conversion therapy is enormously damaging to LGBT+ people. LGB people shouldn't be on the receiving end of it, and trans people shouldn't be either.
Reform the GRA and recognise Non Binary people
The failure to deliver meaningfulreform of the Gender Recognition Actwas one of the bitter blows of 2020 - but we cannot let this matter drop. A vast number of changes to the GRA are still needed - starting with demedicalising and the introduction of self identification (as called for by the British Medical Association). In addition, the government needs to follow the lead of countries like New Zealand and Denmark and legally recognise Non Binary people.
Improve access to empowering and respectful health and social care
The past year has seen an almost unprecedented focus on our collective health and experiences with the NHS. And yet an under-discussed issue is the experience of LGBT+ people in receiving health and social care services - if they receive them at all. Many LGBT+ people report feeling uncomfortable or discriminated against in health and social care settings. The causes for this range from from a lack of awareness amongst staff in some cases, to the burden of having to come out over and over again in others. With more and more LGBT+ people reaching old age, the government and the NHS should produce a roadmap to properly cater to LGBT+ people's needs so that they can be empowered and be treated with dignity in their care.
Close the LGBT+ gaps in education and the economy
Unlike in other countries, such as the USA and Ireland, the UK collects relatively sparse information about LGBT+ people in terms of their schooling or education, or in relation to employment and pay. The 2021 census is a first step towards remedying this - but the government should continue to try to fill in the data gaps that we are left with. What studies we do have suggest that bullying is a persistent problem for students in the UK's schools, and that bullying can have an adverse effect on school performance. In addition, research has pointed to an LGBT+ pay gap of some £6000 per year compared to their cis-het counterparts. We also know that LGBT+ people are considerably more likely to be homeless than many of their cis-het counterparts.
We need to build a better picture of what is happening to LGBT+ people in the economy and in education, so that we can provide the right support for them at each stage of their lives and careers.
Defend LGBT+ human rights at home and abroad
LGBT+ people face persecution and harassment in countries across the world. Private same-sex relations remain illegal in 71 countries, of which 11 countries have the death penalthy as a possible punishment. In addition to these, countries like Poland and Russia are intensifying their harassment of LGBT+ people - creating 'LGBT-ideology free zones' and demonising LGBT+ people as part of a broader assault on liberal values. The government must follow the example of the Liberal Democrats and our recent #ProtectOurTwins campaign, and actively challenge this discrimination. Where we cannot change the situation in other countries, the UK should be a moral leader on the international stage and be a safe sanctuary for LGBT+ asylum seekers.
In addition, the government needs to ensure that LGBT+ people are safe and have their rights respected at home. Reports of LGBT+ hate crimes have been trending upwards. Government must invest in building trust that hate crimes will be taken seriously, and work with LGBT+ civil society to build a plan to fully protect the dignity and rights of LGBT+ people in the UK.
This list is by no means exhaustive. But if the government can make meaningful change in just one of these areas, it would be enhancing the lives of countless LGBT+ people.