Today, Tuesday 17 May, marks the 2016 International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia or ‘IDAHOT’. This year the global focus of IDAHOT is on mental health and wellbeing.
In May 1990 the World Mental Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Some seventeen years earlier the UK had already made this change.
We know that, historically, where global authorities have tried to pathologize LGBT adults and children - branding them as ill based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression - human rights violations have occurred. As UK police forces gain an ever-increasing awareness of the issues facing the LGBT community, we create a more in-depth and nuanced understanding of many important issues and help to build the type of police services required. Although much progress has been made towards equality in recent years, there is still a need for improvement. Mental health and wellbeing are two areas at the forefront of this progress towards equality.
Earlier this year, the World Psychiatric Association strongly condemned any attempt to conflate homosexuality with a mental disorder. However, for gender identity, the picture globally is not as positive. In almost all countries mental health diagnoses are mandatory in order for Trans people to access gender affirming treatment and other social pre-conditions are required to access legal gender recognition. Last year, together with other interested parties, I spoke at a parliamentary inquiry session held by the Women and Equalities Committee on Transgender Equality. I emphasised the need for the police service to better understand the issues faced by the Trans community and for the government to review existing hate crime legislation.
Earlier this year the committee published its report - making several recommendations for change. While we still await the government’s response, I was delighted by its recommendation to bring parity to existing hate crime legislation. LGBT people are entitled to respect, dignity and equality at home, on the street, from the police and in court. The report also recommended mandatory training for police officers in Trans hate crime awareness. I recognise that better knowledge is key if we are to challenge hate, bring offenders to justice and reduce the harm caused and, because of this, I will continue to work with partners across the country to help share knowledge, embed best practice, promote fairness and implement any changes to the law on hate crime.
Over the past twelve months, the National LGBT Police Network has continued to grow in strength, developing its structure and regional representation. I look forward to continuing to work with the network as we begin an important piece of research which will explore the current workplace progression experiences of our gay colleagues within the service. I am always extremely grateful and hugely impressed by the dedication, commitment and work of our national staff associations including the National Trans Police Association and the National LGBT Police Network. They help support, inform and challenge our approach to tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
Overall, the police service is making good progress in our efforts to tackle these issues. Please join me today in recognising the significance of IDAHOT to our LGBT colleagues and, most importantly, to our LGBT communities. The LGBT community look to the police service to ensure they feel safe and secure - and we must treat them with the equality, dignity and respect they deserve.