International day against homophobia transphobia and biphobia

On Friday 17th May is international day against homophobia transphobia and biphobia. This day is  recognised across many accepting countries and by those in countries whose struggle still goes on. Today is a day to highlight and campaign for equal rights for all people of all sexualities and gender identities the world over. Often the day highlights the successes and new legislation introduced by governments across the world.  Or it raises issues and injustices that are taking place in countries where people still face oppression and persecution.

Across the UK, the Department for Education allocated £2 million to tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools last year. One of the organisations who were allocated funding was the LGBT educational organisation ‘Educate and Celebrate’, with this funding they set up Pride Youth Networks in schools across the country to empower students to campaign and celebrate equality and diversity in their classrooms, their school environments and within their community to tackle HBT bullying. Elly Barnes has continued to train school staff across the country to enable educational professionals to make their schools more LGBTI inclusive. Educate and Celebrate also had their annual schools showcases in Birmingham, London and Durham where students performed plays, songs and dances with the themes of love, equality and diversity.

There have been many organisations across the country doing great work to support and celebrate LGBT people, there have been many great projects too and we need to celebrate every day and on IDAHOBIT day.

There have also been negatives things that we still need to tackle in the UK, issues which we still need to campaign upon to ensure that these experiences do not happen to others in our community.

Last year, three trans women who had started or had been through the gender affirmation process were placed in men’s prisons, only one of these women is still alive today. This happened despite there being Ministry of Justice guidelines on the management of transgender prisoners, it was a systematic failure, these three prisoners should never have been sent to all-male prisons. The reason that was given to justify their sending to a male prison was that the three prisoners did not have their gender recognition certificates. This is an abhorrent excuse that led to the death of two of these women in prison, they should never have been placed in a men’s prison in the first place. I was shocked by both the governments slow response and to people’s responses across social media such as “well, they shouldn’t have committed a crime in the first place then they wouldn’t have ended up in there”. This was disappointing to see such a poor response from the authorities and from society in general, it highlighted the prevalence of transphobia in society and the institutional transphobia that takes place each day by the structures that govern us.

This last couple of years have been a mixed bag when it comes to equality, on the one hand there has been equal marriage in the UK but still not in Northern Ireland, the majority of Northern Irish people (68%) when polled are in favour of equal marriage (Ipsos Mori, 2015) and the many ministers in Northern Ireland wanted equal marriage signed into law (53 votes for equal marriage and 52 votes against marriage) however the DUP in Northern Ireland blocked the legislation moving forward using a ‘petition of concern’ which allows legislation to be blocked if it does not carry cross – community support (BBC, 2015). Attitudes are changing in Northern Ireland and hopefully one day anyone who wishes to be married will be able to do so.

Finally, something that has been of notice is the increase in hate crimes over the past few years in the UK, the statistics for 2014/2015 was that there were 5,597 ‘sexual orientation hate crimes’ and 605 ‘transgender hate crimes’ (Home Office, 2015) and this was an increase on the 2014 statistics (Home Office, 2015). It could be that people are now more confident in reporting their hate crimes to the police and must continue to do so and therefore more hate crimes are now reported and perpetrators are being punished for their crimes. Or that there seems to be an ever increasing number of hate crimes and that communities, police, councils, schools and LGBT organisations need to continue to work together more closely to ensure that LGBT people do not become victims of hate crime. Many news outlets have already reported on serious assaults towards LGBT people in 2016 and it seems that hate crimes appear to be more prevalent and this is something that still needs to be tackled in society to ensure that LGBT people are free from harm and do not experience any form of discrimination.

So on IDAHOBIT day, we need to celebrate the positive contributions that Governments, LGBT people and organisations keep on making in society but we still need to continue with the hard work, the campaigning and efforts to eradicate prejudice in society and to have a society that is proud of its equality and diversity.