Where next for LGB&T equalities? The heads of some of the bigger LGBT organisations across England have put together their proposals in an LGBT manifesto for 2015.
They say: The passing of equality & same-sex marriage legislation in England, Wales & Scotland were hugely significant turning points in LGBT equality, both in terms of rights, and of the increased visibility of LGBT people. However, there is still a long way to go in ensuring full equality for LGBT people in the UK, particularly in relation to Northern Ireland and also less visible groups such as: bisexual, trans and non-binary people; BME LGBT people; older LGBT people; LGBT youth; LGBT immigrants and asylum seekers; and LGBT people who are mentally or physically disabled.
Its key points are:
Education: Educate all children & young people, at all levels, on gender & sexual diversity
The main message relates to education because this has the potential to address all the other points in the long-term. LGBT people will be safer if children do not grow up to be homophobic, biphobic or transphobic, whether actively or passively. LGBT people will suffer fewer mental health problems if they are not bullied at school and if they and their peers learn that diverse sexualities and genders are valid. Access to services will be less problematic if staff and employers have learned about gender and sexual diversity and the specific needs of LGBT people.
Currently, at least two thirds of LGBT young people experience homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying at school, as do many who are not LGBT. Almost all regularly hear discriminatory language and one in five have experienced physical attack and/or sexual harassment, very few of whom report this. Few people learn about LGBT identities at school, with bisexual, trans and non-binary experiences being notably absent. This impacts upon wellbeing and educational performance, as well as contributing to attitudes within their families and whether young people feel able to come out, with 1 in 10 young people having to leave home due to lack of acceptance.
Teachers express discomfort in supporting LGBT students and in teaching on gender and sexual diversity. This is despite the tangible potential benefits decreasing prejudice and sexual violence, and increasing self-esteem and promoting healthy, consensual relationships across all students. We recommend that gender and sexual diversity is emphasised in teacher training, and embedded across the curriculum as well as in specific sexual and relationship education.
Safety: Monitor and address homophobic, biphobic & transphobic hate crime
One in five lesbian and gay people have experienced a hate crime in the last three years. It is extremely difficult to estimate the extent of biphobic hate crime as this is not currently monitored, and transphobic hate crime is still vastly under-reported due to fear of further discrimination. Better monitoring and training is required across these areas within the criminal justic system, as well as more generally among public & private sector employers. Same-sex activities and relationships remain illegal in over 70 countries worldwide, and punishable by death in 8. Immigration services require LGBT awareness and the UK should provide a model of LGBT equality and continuing engagement on these issues globally.
Wellbeing: Improve the mental and physical health of all LGBT people through increased visibility & improved awareness
LGBT people have significantly higher rates of mental health problems, sexual health needs, self-harm and suicidality than in the general population. Rates are particularly high for BME LGBT people and those who are bisexual, trans, and gender diverse. There are also related disparities in many physical health conditions and health behaviours (including drug and alcohol abuse), and in willingness to disclose to health professionals. There is little awareness of the specific needs of older LGBT people. Monitoring and training with regard to gender and sexual diversity, and adoption of best practice, is vital across all services.
Access: Ensure that all LGBT people have equal access to public services
LGBT people do not currently have equal access to public services due to fear of discrimination and lack of awareness of diverse needs. Monitoring, training and adequate capacity remain a priority across policy and practice including, but not restricted to: employment; healthcare; criminal justice; education; housing; domestic abuse; and family matters such as adoption and pre and post-natal care.
The LGBT Chief Executive Network is formed of a diverse range of Chief Officers, or equivalent, across the LGBT sectors in the UK. It meets several times of year and works to ensure the sector is engaged, collaborative and forward thinking. The following organisations as part of the network have signed up to the manifesto: The Intercom Trust, Bi-UK, Schools Out, Broken Rainbow, London Friend, The Rainbow Project, Birmingham LGBT, PACE, GMFA, Trade Sexual Health, LGBT Consortium, Lancaster LGBT, Galop, Cara-Friend, Yorkshire Mesmac, METRO, Stonewall Housing, Gendered Intelligence, Mind Out, New Family Social, LGBT History Month, Gay Advice Darlington & Durham, Camden LGBT Forum, The Albert Kennedy Trust, GIRES, SexYOUality, Here, Each, Allsorts Youth Project, East London Out Project, The Lesbian & Gay Foundation.