With 2022 marking the 50th anniversary of Pride in the UK, Chamber UK held a special edition of Levelling Up the Conversation to discuss the progress of LGBT+ rights over the last 50 years. The event featured contributions from:
- Minister for Equalities, Mike Freer MP
- Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities in the Lords, Baroness Thornton
- Vice Chair of the APPG on Global LGBT+ Rights, Peter Gibson MP
- Chief Executive of Stonewall, Nancy Kelley
- CEO and Co-Founder of Gendered Intelligence, Jay Stewart
- Senior Producer at PinkNews, Chandni Sembhi (Chair)
This year during Pride, trans inclusion has been a key topic of discussion. All panellists agreed that trans-inclusion was central to the progression of key areas of change and progress for the LGBT+ community. Across the panel, the conversation was seen as a key starting area to begin breaking down the walls of prejudice and exclusion of the trans community. Notably Vice-Chair of the APPG on Global LGBT+ Rights, Peter Gibson MP called for parliamentarians to sit down with members of the trans community, and listen to their lived experiences, citing ignorance among his parliamentary colleagues as a barrier to progress:
“I have talked about the trans issues to loads of my colleagues who perhaps have different views to me. A lot of prejudice comes from a lack of knowledge, a lack of understanding and a lack of exposure, not meeting trans people and not knowing their stories.”Peter Gibson MP
This was echoed by CEO and Co-Founder of Gendered Intelligence, Jay Stewart, who championed the need for conversations that reduce fears of trans life and to mitigate polarisation in debates and discussions. He noted that detoxifying the conversation around transgender people will require people to lean into the nuances of the conversation, and to avoid thinking about the issue in such black and white terms.
Baroness Thornton and Nancy Kelley affirmed that on the topic of sport, polarisation must be avoided to ensure all people’s rights are respected. Kelley went on to argue that current sporting guidelines around trans participation not only negatively impact trans athletes but intersex participation. While panellists conceded that it was not a straightforward issue, there was widespread agreement that a blanket ban on transgender participation in elite level competition as is being proposed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is not viable.
Taking Pride in LGBT+ Healthcare
Assessing the current strategies for levelling up health inequalities for LGBT people, Nancy Kelley, Chief Executive of Stonewall stated that this was a key area where LGBT ‘needs were underserved’.
In a frank assessment of LGBT healthcare, Kelley went on to highlight the key areas of concern for LGBT mental health, by contending that diagnosable mental health issues were twice as likely to be apparent in comparison to straight and cis people. Kelley challenged the absence of funding, carefully planned services and understanding needed to level up LGBT+ health care.
In addition to challenging health care services, Kelley called for the LGBT+ community to see gender-affirming health care as a form of essential healthcare for the community. In support of this view, Baroness Thornton extended the conversation by challenging care homes to make their practices and environments supportive for the LGBT + community to stop elderly LGBT+ people from “being forced to go back into the closet”.
In his opening remarks, Minister Freer commented that there is cross-departmental work being done on LGBT+ healthcare, and that he is working with Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid to tackle the key issues of access to health equality for trans people. However, panellists noted that there was much further to go.
“It is beyond a disgrace that trans people have to wait years and years to access healthcare.”Nancy Kelly
Conversion Therapy Ban:
All panellists affirmed that trans people must be included in the conversion therapy ban to ensure that the rights and protections of all LGBT are upheld. Nancy Kelley, called for all members of the LGBT community to challenge the exclusion of trans protections. Jay Stewart contended that the term; conversion therapy’ fails to demonstrate the severity of the practice.
In his opening statement, Minister for Equalities, Mike Freer not only affirmed his support for the conversion therapy ban but challenged people to use the term ‘conversion practices’ to demonstrate the severity of conversion therapy. While the bill as it is being drafted only includes LGB people, he commented that:
“It is not secret that I wanted the [conversion practices] bill to be entirely inclusive… it is my hope and remains my hope that the bill completes its passage fully inclusive.”Mike Freer
LGBT+ Commission Interim Report Launched in Pride
Marking the end of Pride month, the LGBT+ Commission also launched its interim findings at the event. The interim findings are based on inquiry sessions with sector experts, leaders of civil society, business, and local, regional and national government. These inquiry sessions covered four key policy areas for the LGBT+ community:
- Healthcare, mental health, sexual health, fertility
- Homelessness and housing
- Hate crime, domestic abuse and sexual violence
- Employment, employability and skills
Speaking on the findings of the interim report, and the upcoming LGBT+ survey to be conducted by the Commission, the chair of the LGBT+ Commission, Ben Howlett described ”a desperate need for a co-ordinated effort to help reduce widening inequalities.”