“But gay marriage is legal here!”
“Stop exaggerating the issue for attention!”
“I mean, it’s 2017. We are cool with things like that, now.”
If you are part of the LGBT+ community, you’ve likely heard these remarks dozens of times. During my time working for Stonewall as a Young Campaigner, My YouTube videos were inundated with these sorts of comments– yet when I was named Young Campaigner of the Year by Stonewall, it was celebrated, rather than shunned. Whilst I feel like I should see this as a positive, and it’s true that there is much to be celebrated, to think that we have achieved full equality in any way is a gross oversight.
In the last four years alone, hate crimes against crimes against gay, lesbian and bisexual people have increased by a whopping by 78%. In the last year two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime because of their identity. Mental health issues and homelessness are disproportionately affecting (particularly young) LGBT+ people. Yes, it may be 2017 but we still have national news organisations who think it is appropriate to promote gay conversion therapists on live breakfast television. Personally, I don’t think we can celebrate just yet.
“Progress did not materialise out of thin air. It is the result of the tangible hard work put in year after year.”
The reality is that the notion that progress is linear–that it should advance naturally alongside the progression of time–is a dangerous misunderstanding and one which allows for complacency. It allows us to forget that progress did not materialise out of thin air, but that it is the result of the tangible hard work put in year after year, often by the marginalised people who themselves are impacted by systematic inequality.
This collective complacency regarding how intolerably high the levels of LGBT+ inequality in the UK are is extremely dangerous because it allows people to believe that their LGBT+ friends, family and colleagues are safe and out of harm’s way. Maybe this is because people are simply unaware of the issues, or too blithe to notice things which do not directly affect them. Perhaps it is because people don’t know how to support LGBT+ people more effectively. Either way, it’s dangerous.
That’s why Stonewall’s most recent campaign Come Out For LGBT focuses upon encouraging people outside of the LGBT+ community to ‘come out’ and support the LGBT+ community through small actions which can be implemented within everyday life. Each community has its own unique and nuanced challenges and this campaign highlights that, whatever your background, there are things you can be doing to improve the lives of LGBT+ people.
As a young LGBT+ person, sometimes it is the seemingly little things such as using inclusive language which make the world of difference. Sometimes, complacency (especially when broadly accepted) has hurt me more than violence.
“Remember that the LGBT+ experience is not a monolith–LGBT+ people are just as diverse as any other group.”
The reality is, people who aren’t part of the LGBT+ community need to be doing more to actively demonstrate their support for LGBT+ folks. Whilst it is important that non-LGBT+ people are not speaking over us, they can help to amplify our voices and stand up for us in situations where it may be unsafe or impossible for us to do so.
If you don’t know where to start, here are a few suggestions as to how you can Come Out For LGBT:
- Educate yourself–learning more about the LGBT+ community, its history and struggles (both past and present) can be a great start. Maybe try learning about different labels and the importance of using the correct pronouns. Take the time to understand your own prejudices, where they have come from and begin to unpack that. If reading isn’t your thing then you can always find some excellent YouTube videos (I highly recommend Ash Hardell’s the ABCs of LGBT+ as a good starting point).
- Use your privilege–where you are able, use your privilege to challenge prejudice as you see it. Be visible with you support of LGBT+ issues online or in real life (maybe you could start by sharing the #ComeOutForLGBT pledge on social media!)
- Remember that the LGBT+ experience is not a monolith–LGBT+ people are just as diverse as any other group of people and this might mean that, for some people, they are dealing with multiple levels of discrimination. Oftentimes the depiction of the LGBT+ experience focuses on those who are white, cisgender and abled, but the experiences of a disabled queer person and a BAME person are likely to be different to that and it is important that you listen to what people are expressing in order to best support them.
Since this article was written, Stonewall has released a statement stating that it condemns ‘all violence’ and that there was ‘no place’ in the movement for such actions. This is in spite of the fact the organisation itself is named after the riots against police violence which took place at the Stonewall Inn. Although the comments were presented without context at the time, it is apparent that the remarks were made after violence between trans-exclusionary speakers and protesters occurred.
Whilst Stonewall’s advocacy for ‘equality for trans communities’ is important (although Stonewall would do well to remember that the term is ‘transgender’ and not ‘transgendered’ as a recent graphic said), the suggestion that the path to this is through making people ‘allies, not enemies’ is fundamentally problematic. That trans and other marginalised people should have to build ‘consensus’ — as suggested by Stonewall — with those who perpetrate violence against them is actively damaging because it reduces the ability to respond to any violent attack whilst also showing a clear and disappointing lack of awareness of the history of the LGBT+ community.