The Conservatives have undergone a dizzying transformation from being the party with arguably the worst track record on LGBT rights to one which presents itself as at the vanguard of LGBT equality.
No political party has wrapped itself up so tightly in the rainbow flag as the Tories during the course of their time in office. In moves that few would have suspected of the right wing, traditionalist party, they made history when they passed same-sex marriage in parliament in 2013. They also challenged deeply rooted cis discourse this year in opening up long overdue talks on how to address discrimination against the UK’s trans community, which they symbolically reflected in the flying of the trans flag on government buildings for Trans Day of Remembrance.
Yet, while the wedding confetti and rainbow flags provide pleasant photo opportunities and fuzzy feelgood sentiments for the party, their austerity cuts are undermining their claims to care about LGBT people and risk revealing their new found ‘pride’ as mere lip service.
It has been revealed that the UK’s only national LGBT domestic violence charity, Broken Rainbow, is facing closure due to lack of funding. The charity has helped more than 40,000 people since it was founded over a decade ago. Many of those who contacted it to seek support were in urgent need of help and had nowhere else to turn. Its staff are trained to be specifically aware of the acute needs and particular vulnerabilities of LGBT people in the counselling and support services they deliver. In March 2015, the charity’s four year funding plan was cut to one year and is now due to run out. It may be forced to close within a matter of weeks.
1 in 4 lesbian, gay, bisexual or pansexual people suffer domestic violence at the hands of a partner or family member. Research has indicated that as many as 45 per cent of bisexual women are victims of rape, often by a family member or partner. For trans people, the figures are staggering, with some 80 per cent of trans people becoming victims of domestic violence.
It is difficult to pinpoint precisely why these rates are so frighteningly high but indications suggest that it is the result of a complex and damaging web of factors which can isolate LGBT people and leave them particularly vulnerable to abuse. This includes the fact that LGBT people are much more likely to be homeless, much more likely to be cut off from family and other community support networks due to being rejected after ‘coming out’, and can often be deeply reticent about trusting the police due to very real fears of homophobic or transphobic treatment based on historic police brutality.
LGBT domestic violence victims cannot be left to struggle alone at such frightening and vulnerable moments. Those who seek help under such desperate circumstances should find safety and support where they need it in tailored services such as Broken Rainbow. To fail to find funding for this service would represent yet another ideological austerity cut masquerading as financial prudence.
While the Conservatives’ record in passing same-sex marriage is a positive one, it’s important to remember that in taking away support and protection elsewhere, this merely makes Tories fairweather friends to the LGBT community. Same-sex marriage cannot be applied like a sticking plaster to the historic wounds in queer communities, and it cannot obscure the fact that proper investment is needed in their lives elsewhere.
Sadly the Broken Rainbow’s funding crisis shows the hollowness of the Conservatives’ new found show of LGBT allyship. They support the pleasant, photogenic side of LGBT equality with marriage equality and Pride at the same time as their cuts risk exposing vulnerable LGBT people to violence.
Yet another vulnerable and marginalised group in our society risks being cast aside as this government continues its crusade of rolling back the state under the guise of necessary austerity. LGBT lives should be placed above such political point-scoring. Real people should never be left in limbo in the name of ‘balancing the books’.