Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Time to #ComeTogetherRightNow: LGBTQIA+ response to the EU Referendum

"Satire is a prompt recipe for making bitter enemies." - Charles William Day, The Maxims, Experiences, and Observations of Agogos

Thanks to Helen Smith @conversationtales for the graphics
Dear Oh Dear! Bless our (Indian./Turkish/Romanian made) stripy cotton socks! The British population (or the plebiscite as Monsieur Ken Clarke has called us) has spoken and by a smidgen of a margin, we have voted to leave the EU framework. Yes 1 million or so extra voters may appear to be "quite a good" mandate on the surface but considering those living in the UK who were ineligible to vote just because they had the "misfortune" of not having been born in this country and were not EU citizens (like my Norwegian mother who has lived here and paid her taxes since 1977), or those who decided to retain their EU passport citizenship because they felt it was OK to be in Britain but retain their national legal identity (as many British people feel like doing when they swan off to the sunny Costa Del Broka and rub their Englishness in the face of hard working, polite local workers who are struggling to make a living at the moment same as many working class British families) or those who desperately wanted to vote but were locked out due to their age (since when did 16 year olds who pay their NI and work hard get called idiots by older voters)  make up a sizeable proportion of the population (34,745,711 people not counting those that didn't vote) that mandate starts to look increasingly shaky in my view.

David Cameron, our so called "Prime Minister" is so far acting far too much like a certain guy who claimed Ecuadorian immunity to absolve himself of his Swedish rape crimes and rebuking his enemies with glee (aka Julian Assange); "it's not my problem...it's up to the next leader/random Leave campaigner/ God to do any negotiation on a Brexit deal" he cries. The fact is Mr (secretly Brexit) Cameron loved himself soo much he thought that if he called an EU referendum he'd be able to silence his critics from the far right of the Tory party with ease. He also thought he would increase Tory membership and voters at the next election thanks to his "strong leadership" and consequently he'd be able to secure Tory rule for at least the next decade and beat "Maggie Always Right" Thatcher all as a result of a Remain result. Now he's failed to deliver that result, he thinks he can get away from the consequences of calling such a divisive, morally bankrupt referendum by resigning his PM post and baiting EU member countries by telling them they can't do a thing till we invoke Article 50. Hmmm!

The initial consequences of a Leave vote have already become apparent; many EU nationals are worried about their future employment prospects within the UK. More than 11,000 have decided to stage "workplace action" on the 11th July to hopefully secure "legally guaranteed protection" for the 2 million EU workers currently employed in the UK economy. Incidents of racism and xenophobia have increased with many Poles and Romanians being targeted in the Southern Lincolnshire area whilst on their way to school, work, shopping or outside their home. My local police force has said there hasn't been an increase in reported hate crimes but I believe the main reason for this is that many EU nationals mistrust their local police officials and feel the only outlet for reporting incidents is through social media or their local charity forums. Ironically these incidents are not confined to EU nationals and are not confined to attacks on nationality or ethnicity; there has been an alarming increase in Islamaphobic attacks in Birmingham, Leicester and Luton. You don't need me to list the amount of attacks reported as they have been well documented by Labour MPs and national media outlets alike.

I believe we have now flung ourselves into an ugly situation where casual racism in white, middle and working class households throughout the country has been given a big fat green legitimised light. However our democratically elected political Establishment now wants to spend more time playing a ridiculously over hyped and rather camp "Blankety Blank" blame game and less time trying to plan for a positive, forward looking, progressive exit from the EU. The Labour Party is in utter turmoil, with most Blairite MPs blaming Mr Corbyn for his lacklustre Remain campaign and Corbynites refusing to let these MPs gain leverage over the party by using a mandate figure that hasn't been updated since last year before the EU Referendum was enacted. Then we have Londoncentric MPs like David Lammy harping on about "the game" not being over because the referendum is "not legally binding." Is it appropriate for MPs to dismiss a vote to enact the referendum result and then risk the chance of there being increased incidents in racism and xenophobia and possibly an extreme right terrorist attack on the Houses of Parliament just because Lammy wants to do a "democratic Computer Says No" moment on Nigel Farage?? 

Now I'd have loved to have stayed within the EU because I believed "Another Europe" was possible if we had managed to sack those incompetent fuckwit UKIP MEPs and engaged in a period of increased collaboration between centre, centre left and left groups within the EU Parliament. I also knew that by voting to leave the EU we risked the very fibre of our United Kingdom. Believe it or not, England and Wales do not own Scotland; we are all part of a union and rule by consent. Scotland overwhelming voted to remain, with 62% backing Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond's campaign. Many of those voters voted to Remain in the UK back in 2014 on the proviso that the UK would remain in the EU. Now that assurance has been taken away from them, no wonder 54% now back leaving the UK (snap poll Sunday 26th June.) Northern Irish voters in the West of the country equally voted to remain because they feared the increase of Unionist rhetorical and physical attacks in the event of Brexit. Gibraltarians are on the front line of the EU conversation; its economic prosperity relies on Spanish tourism and workers making the monotonous drudgery filled trip between Gibraltar and the mainland on a daily basis.

However, many areas of England who feel disenfranchised and left behind in this globalised, competitive economic world decided to vote to Leave and they delivered the majority vote. Whilst I disagree with it, perhaps we will have to respect it and try and rebuild relationships between urban and rural areas, North and South to allow us to progress positively in this uncertain future of ours. Of course that sounds much easier said than done, but there is a silver lining to be had from this vote. I begin considering such a silver living from looking at the EU Ref result from a LGBTQIA perspective:

So Mardy Bums, any Positives of Leaving the EU for the LGBTQIA community?

It's time to look at the positives and decide what we want our country's international and domestic vision will look like outside the EU. I've been thinking in particular about the LGBTQIA community and how we can try and mitigate the impact of Brexit (if any) on our progressive vision.
  • I believe we must have transgender legislation in line with progressive non-EU European countries like Norway (as it seems a lot of Leave voters wanted us to become all Nordmenn!)Just this year (18th March) the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) voted to allow legal gender change without any form of psychiatric or psychological evaluation as well as the need for a diagnosis or any kind of medical intervention if the person was aged 16 or over. Minors are allowed to self define legally provided they had parental consent. I propose abolishing the Gender Reporting Panel (GRP) and allowing transgender people the right to access hormone therapy and surgery provided they have passed an initial referral from their local GP based on their basic state of health and fitness to go through surgery (e.g. having a waist size of 40 or under). Any worries about the cost of increasing treatment levels should be addressed by increasing funding for transgender services including diverting the money saved from maintenance of the GRP directly to transgender clinics such as those in Nottingham and Sheffield.
  • Also if we're going to get a slice of the 350 million (pounds or magic money tree currency) or so, part of it must go on helping to reform transgender health services to cope with the increase in demand. That means increasing GP training on transgender issues, increasing the number of nurses and doctors involved in the transgender surgical process etc.
  • Like Norway, the UK must legislate to protect intersex people explicitly in an update to the Equality Act; there is no excuse now for the government not to recognise the existence of intersex people and their desire to self define as dual gender rather than having to ascribe to one specific gender, whether the majority of voters may understand their view or not.
  • In the workplace, employees must be given at least basic Equality and Diversity training by their  HR department so they can easily identify examples of direct and indirect discrimination and to be able to report those instances to their manager or boss in the event of it happening. They should also know about relevant external channels they can use if bosses and managers fail to act on the information you have provided them; Stonewall, Citizens Advice Bureau, ACAS are examples of such organisations they can report to. Bosses must realise that they will not get away with discriminatory behaviour even if the UK has decided to leave the EU regulatory framework.
  • There has to be increased funding in primary and secondary schools to educate students about all aspects on the LGBTQIA spectrum, including intersex and asexual behaviour. Linked to this must be the idea that interracial and international same sex relationships are not criminal or sinful but an individual choice. LGBTQIA bloggers must try and debunk these myths and help combat the current increase in racist and xenophobic behaviour amongst rural middle and working-class white voters that seems to have been legitimated as a result of the EU Referendum. Students must also understand the need to respect the Equality Act and know how to follow discrimination regulations in the workplace, including how to report incidents of homophobic and transphobic behaviour in a workplace environment to charities like Stonewall if they feel their manager or boss will not act to punish such behaviour. I've always said that we need better business and political education in schools to prepare students for a globalised, competitive workplace -maybe Brexit can offer an opportunity to address the woeful lack of advice given previously.  
  • Finally, just because we're outside the EU doesn't mean UK based LGBTQIA bloggers can't help those still inside the EU. It's more important now than ever to cooperate with our Scandinavian friends in the community to help change legislation in the  EU Parliament whilst we are still members of it so we can help to promote progressive values. I shall be contacting my local non UKIP MEPs to lobby them to promote LGBTQIA protection for Eastern European EU members so that they can evolve.
The UK voters may have voted to leave the EU but LGBTQIA bloggers who voted to Remain can do so much to help stabilise this country and promote our progressive values across the EU. We must remain positive and engaged with politics and help those parties and MPs that believe in preserving the rights of the LGBTQIA community whether we are hard at work or partying our hearts out in a nightclub. So whatever happens, make sure you get behind your preferred candidate and be ready to vote for them actively at the next generation...it may be sooner than you think!