What are we doing now that we will feel embarrassed about in a few years?
I wrote a blog back in June about my role as NPCC lead for LGBT+ and why it is so important for us all to support Pride. As we start to come towards the end of Pride season, I have been reflecting on some of the things that are going on currently and in particular I will focus on T and B.
Why? Well, because trans people are being persecuted daily for who they are by lots of people, some of whom come under the LGBT+ umbrella and who you would have thought would be supporting rather than persecuting. I choose not to repeat some of the vile language used. I also have been thinking about bi – not many people talk about being bi for fear of challenge, for not being able to ‘make up their mind, being greedy or not being quite gay enough’. Yet what do all of these people have in common? They are human and are just being themselves.
It makes me wonder what I will be discussing with the next generation in 20 years or so, and how uncomfortable we may all feel about some of what is going on today. Consider, for example, the hurdles that the LGBT+ community has overcome in the last half century.
- 1950s onwards – Canadian LGBT purge. LGBT workers in the Canadian Military and Civil Service removed from their roles because they were LGBT+. This wasn’t stopped until the 1990s
- 1969 – Stonewall Riots. We saw the start of the LGBT+ movement in the USA and around the world. So much has improved for LGBT+ people and yet there is so far to go
- 1972 – The first Pride was held in London
- 1986 – In December 1986, the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police stated that homosexuals, drug addicts and prostitutes who had, in his words, AIDS were "swirling in a human cesspit of their own making"
- 1988 – Margaret Thatcher introduced Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. A Local Authority "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship"
- 1990 – Lesbian and gay police officers established the UK’s Lesbian and Gay Police Association
- 1992 – World Health Organisation declassifies same-sex attraction as a mental illness
- 1999 – Trans Day of Remembrance is founded in the USA to remember those who have died as a result of transphobia and transphobic violence
- 1999 – Admiral Duncan Pub, homophobic nail bomb results in 3 killed and dozens injured
- 2000 – The UK Government lifts the ban on lesbians, gay men and bi people serving in the armed forces
- 2003 – Section 28 is repealed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, lifting the ban on Local Authorities from ‘the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality’
- 2003 – Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regs becomes law in the UK, making it illegal to discriminate against LGBT in the workplace
- 2004 – The Civil Partnership Act 2004 is passed
- 2004 – The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is passed giving trans people full legal recognition in their appropriate gender (only male and female)
- 2009 – International transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) first held. An annual event dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide
- 2010 – The Equality Act 2010 officially adds gender reassignment as a protected characteristic
- 2013 – Alan Turing given a posthumous royal pardon for his conviction of ‘gross indecency’, which led to chemical castration and suicide
- 2014 – The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 officially comes into force allowing same sex marriage
- 2016 – The Isle of Man legalises same-sex marriage
- 2016 – 49 people are killed and 53 people injured after a gunman opens fire in the LGBT nightclub Pulse, in Orlando
- 2019 – A much better position for LGBT+, but people are still being abused for who they are and in particular trans people suffering significant harm for being themselves. Protests outside schools in Birmingham over LGBT+ equality lessons. Alan Turing chosen to be the face of the new £50 note. Hopefully Northern Ireland will soon have same sex marriage. Delays to the Gender recognition review and the fact that in this country gay conversion therapy still exists and is not yet illegal
So a lot has happened in the last 50 years and much of it is very positive. Yet the freedoms that many of us have who are not LGBT+ have only very recently been put in place for LGBT+ people, and in many parts of the world are not yet established.
We often hear people say that we’re in the same position now with trans rights and awareness as we were 20 years ago with lesbian and gay rights. What can we learn from that process over the last 20 years that could help to accelerate positive change for trans people? How can we increase equality for trans people?
And bi is rarely talked about, yet I believe that sexuality is becoming much more fluid. We have a tendency to want to put people into binary boxes because that’s what our norms are and that’s what we’ve grown up with, but a YouGov survey reported just 4 years ago on the question as to whether people considered themselves 100% heterosexual. With each generation, people see their sexuality as less fixed in stone. For 18-24 year olds surveyed in 2015, 43% placed themselves in the non-binary area and therefore 43% of this age group did not consider themselves to be 100% heterosexual.
A call to action
Call out transphobia, bi-erasure, homophobia and hate when you see it, read it or hear it. Social media has, each and every day, an anti LGBT+ story and this is debilitating for our colleagues. Show up. Don’t simply wear a pin badge or a lanyard; show up at events, at seminars and places where you can aid your learning and knowledge and show your personal support.
Let’s all work together to try to ensure an inclusive society, inclusion within policing and enable everyone to be themselves. I heard someone say recently ‘lots of nudges can turn a wheel and turning a wheel can create a revolution’. Let’s do that soon so we don’t look back in 20 years and see the ongoing battles that our LGBT+ friends have had to continue to pursue.