Saturday, 8 April 2017

Lib Dem LGBT+ Policies Everyone Should Know About

Before I started my blog and decided to get all "politico" on everyone, I didn't have much idea about how each political party viewed LGBT+ activism. In fact to be frankly honest, I had a na├»ve optimism that each political party somehow agreed that equal rights should be advanced for those whose gender identity and/or sexuality was different from the patriarchally enforced heterosexual "norm". After nearly a year of researching and engaging with LGBT+ activists across the political spectrum you realise that every political party has a different approach to advancing equal rights in the UK. So far, I've written about how the Green Party has advocated for a much broader party policy platform, with the recent conference deciding to put Intersex rights at the heart of their LGBT+ platform....a group much ignored in UK legislation. Now my thoughts turn to a party who has had a good track record for advocating for LGBT+ rights. The Lib Dems have a history of fighting for LGBT+ equality, having been the first party to commit to a Gay Rights policy in 1975, the only party to oppose Section 28 (which stopped schools from "promoting homosexuality) from the moment it was implemented in 1988 (with the party still campaigning for schools to be told to teach acceptance of homosexuality) and the first party to support same-sex marriage in 2010. The Lib Dems also tried to table amendments to the Equality Act 2010 to change the requirement for trans people to express a wish to go through Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) before they are covered by the protected characteristic. It's a shame that neither the Conservatives or Labour supported such amendments in their entirety at the time.

Whilst I may be more inclined to vote Labour at a local level, I must admit that my vote at the general election remains very much "up for grabs". So if you're an independently minded LGBT+ person or ally considering voting for the Lib Dems, here's a few of their policies to digest:
  • The Lib Dems have been vocal in their support of non-binary, gender-fluid and genderqueer legal recognition rights with the party having campaigned for X options of legal documentation including passports since 2010. Baroness Burt, the Lib Dem's Equalities spokesperson came out and reiterated the Lib Dems' support for X options on the day Stonewall's plan for trans rights "A Vision for Change" came out, the only Equalities spokesperson to mention the policy. Baroness Burt has argued that a review isn't needed by the Government to green-light proposals as they do not directly impact on other peoples' right to gender identity expression.
  • The Lib Dems are committed to lobbying the Conservative Government for a review into the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). They believe that the spousal veto should be removed and a legal mechanism installed which allows married couples which contain one person who has transitioned to reinstate their married status provided both persons consent to that action. The Lib Dems also want to remove the requirement for people to get a medical diagnosis of "Gender Dysphoria" before a Gender Recognition Certificate to be removed so that intersex people whose gender wasn't recognised at birth or was incorrectly recognised can have their legal gender updated to reflect what they believe to be their true legal gender.
  • Baroness Walmsley, Lib Dem spokesperson on Health has talked about the need for Sex and Relationships Education to be LGBTQIA+ inclusive to help combat gender identity stereotyping and homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. As I've previously blogged about, the Lib Dems are committed to ensuring that the "diversity of society continues to be reflected in the National Curriculum"  (3.3.4, "Expanding Opportunity, Unlocking Potential", Autumn Conference 2014) as this will help build a sense of community cohesion which is especially needed in areas where immigration has been lower or where there are fewer open LGBT+ people....e.g. Lincolnshire coastal towns such as Skegness.
  • The Lib Dems are fighting hard to improve access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), arguing it should be prescribed routinely on the NHS. Recent research has shown that there are no new cases of HIV for those gay and bi men and non-binary people on generic PrEP. Lib Dems now want to see PrEP made available to all those at high risk of contracting HIV, including BAME communities and women with bisexual partners or whose partners have sex with men. Read the facts about PrEP here: http://www.tht.org.uk/sexual-health/About-HIV/Pre-exposure-Prophylaxis
  • The Lib Dems are pushing for a more "evidence based approach" to blood donation, believing that men who have sex with men should not be barred from donating blood, even if that bar only lasts for a year (a requirement established in 2011 regulations). The Blood Ban was originally based on stigma against gay and bisexual men in long term relationships and trans people whose sexuality may have changed may become subject or no longer subject to the rules, which is confusing for all concerned. That's why many Lib Dems want to see a complete end to the Blood Ban and have been campaigning for this since 2006. Tim Farron introduced a Bill into Parliament in February 2016 that actually got the Government to commit to a review of the 2011 regulations.
  • The  Lib Dems are resolutely against all forms of conversion therapy and wants to see a ban put in place ASAP. In the meantime, they are calling on health organisations to regulate their members to ensure they do not use coercive methods to discriminate against patients on the basis of their gender identity or sexuality.
  • Whilst the Lib Dems believe that the Church of England should not be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages, Lib Dem Anglicans have campaigned for a more inclusive, tolerant overall approach towards gender non-conforming Anglicans, including those who identify non-binary, gender-fluid and genderqueer.
  • The Lib Dems believe that embassies should be able to conduct same-sex marriages "wherever legally possible"..i.e. to assume they can conduct SSMs until the host country formally objects (4.2.15 "Expanding Opportunity, Unlocking Potential).
  • The Lib Dems want to create a scheme whereby recognition is given to care homes that create specialist services for LGBT+ residents. Older LGBT+ people may have additional care needs (such as HIV/AIDS care) and may want to be in an environment with other people who have lived similar lives to them. Certification would allow older LGBT+ people to decide which care home would best suit them.
  • In the LGBT+ 2015 General Election manifesto, the Lib Dems made a promise to give cohabiting couples legal rights for asset splits following relationship breakdown and right to benefits following the death of a cohabiting partner.
  • The Lib Dems passed a motion at their Autumn Conference 2015 which called for the creation of a Trans and Intersex Health Charter. This includes policies such as:
    • establishing an inquiry into "widespread and systematic" abuse against trans people in the NHS
    • funding for more paid positions for LGBT+ people in charity organisations to help young people
    • facilitating a change to the protected characteristics in the Equality Act so that it is entirely inclusive of all Gender Identities and sexualities and so that discrimination can be legally fought against
    • lobbying for the phasing out of unnecessary invasive surgery against intersex children
    • ensuring that trans status "of any kind" to be designated as "sensitive personal data" under the Data Protection Act 1998 and "protected information" under the GRA.
    • lobbying the Government so that they fully recognise and observe Bisexual Visibility Day (23rd September), Intersex Awareness Day (26th October) and Transgender Day of Remembrance (20th November)
  • The Lib Dems are committed to promoting a positive image of trans people in " central government publications" which would help to increase trans visibility as a whole. I believe this commitment should be expanded to help improve intersex and asexual visibility too.
  • The Lib Dems remain resolutely against deportation of LGBT+ asylum seekers and refugees. It's wrong for Conservatives to continue to assert the false narrative that LGBT+ people will be OK in a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic state if they "behave discreetly".
As you can see just by briefly outlining these policies, the Lib Dems are committed to making the UK a more open, tolerant and inclusive place for all members of the LGBT+ community. There are a number of influential and passionate campaigners who have been involved with influencing party policy. These include:
  • Trans Lib Dem activist, current Cambridge City Council councillor and former Parliamentary Party Candidate Zoe O' Connell who blogs about trans candidates in order to help raise their profile within their local communities. Zoe is blogging for the May elections and knows of at least 2 openly trans candidates who are hoping to be elected. Her history of trans political representation is well worth a read and should give hope to trans people across the UK thinking of standing for election, that they can get elected if they put the hard work in campaign wise. You can access Zoe's blog here: https://www.complicity.co.uk/blog/ (Aside....why isn't Labour talking more about the amazing Rachael Terri Webb, Lambeth Councillor and as far as Zoe (and I now) know was the first openly trans councillor to stand and be elected?)
  • Former Parliamentary Party Candidates Helen Belcher and Sarah Brown (who has also been a Cambridge councillor) who have been heavily involved in the drafting of Stonewall's "A Vision for Change" . Helen is co-founder and co-director of Trans Media Watch, which campaigns for a change in mainstream press attitudes towards trans, non-binary, gender-fluid and genderqueer people. Sarah has been influential in highlighting inequalities in the NHS against trans people. She presented an amendment to a motion at the Spring Conference calling an end to trans conversion therapy and a motion at the Autumn Conference in 2015 to improve healthcare rights for Intersex people. Both were voted through unanimously.
  • Maria Munir, non-binary activist (and fellow University of York attendee) who famously came out to President Barack Obama during his 2016 visit to the UK and urged him to do more for non-binary, gender-fluid and genderqueer people helps to raise awareness of non-binary identities in the workplace and also within their Pakistani-Muslim community.
  • Jen Yockney MBE who has campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of biphobia. In her recent interview with Big Issue North, Yockney has talked about the fact that "bi men are 4 times as likely to feel they can't be out at work" and that those who come out as bi are just as likely to have previously thought of themselves as gay as bi people who previously self-defined as heterosexual. It's amazing to hear Jen speak of a positive future for bi people in the UK though and groups such as Biphoria do help to give bi people confidence to be themselves in spite of prejudice. You can read more about that interview here: http://www.libdemvoice.org/lib-dem-mbe-jen-yockney-talks-about-discrimination-faced-by-bisexual-people-53877.html.
If you like the sound of fighting for a change to the GRA to make it inclusive of non-binary, gender-fluid and genderqueer identities, asking for a review into how the NHS treats trans and intersex people or want to see PrEP prescribed on the NHS for all groups at risk of developing HIV, the Lib Dems might be for you. You can join the LGBT+ Lib Dems and find out more about their work here: https://lgbt.libdems.org.uk/en/.