There is a certain type of book; the kind that ambles along, not revealing much new but which you find yourself nodding along in agreement to before it comes to an abrupt end with no discernible conclusion, leaving a host of questions unanswered.
This week saw the publication of a government-commissioned report entitled “Inequality among lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender groups in the UK: a review of evidence”, compiled by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. The 164-page document paints a gloomy picture of life for LGBT people in the UK in a number of key areas. Bullying on the basis of actual or perceived sexual preference or gender identity is, the report concludes, rampant in schools. Widespread heteronormativity and cisnormativity in almost all areas of life, from healthcare to specialist services means that, often, LGBT people are left bereft of the support they so desperately need.
While articulating the issues at hand, most of which are by no means news to many members of the LGBT community, the report offers nothing in the way of possible solutions. To be fair, it doesn’t set out to. Regardless, a perfectly justifiable response to the report’s findings would be to ask how we are still in this position in the post-SSM era and to what extent the Conservative government is responsible.
The report does make mention of spending cuts and their impact on the Voluntary and Community Sector. However, it is exceedingly careful not to apportion blame for the status quo in other areas. The challenges are glaringly clear. Equally as evident to anyone willing to analyse the situation dispassionately is the fact that this government has done precious little to address the numerous dilemmas. In truth, all too often, it has been the dissembling abettor of injustice and inequality.
If older LGBT people face disproportionate levels of financial insecurity and dependency, then the government’s outrageous stubborn refusal to address the rank injustice of unequal survivor pension benefits will do nothing to assuage the hardship that will undoubtedly befall many married same-sex couples as they come face-to-face with the realities of a pensions system that effectively penalises non-heterosexual marriage.
Furthermore, the report states that LGBT people, particularly gay men, and young and/or BME people, are at an increased risk of falling victim to hate crime, the incidences of which continue to rise. That being the case, it is wholly reasonable to question the 18 per cent cut in real terms to police budgets, as well as the consequent loss of 17,000 police officers and almost 4,600 PCSOs. This is hardly symbolic of a government with the safety of LGBT people – and the wider public – at the heart of its policymaking.
For younger LGBT people, the picture is depressingly bleak, as reaffirmed in the report. More susceptible to mental ill health and the risks associated with sexual experimentation, once more, we are forced to consider the implications of the gargantuan gulf between government rhetoric and policy. Alongside the aforementioned austerity-driven havoc wrought upon public spending, there exists a huge disparity in the delivery of Personal, Sex, Health and Relationships Education. This has been immeasurably aggravated by this government’s obsession with deregulation and its laissez-faire attitude towards the involvement of faith-based organisations in the creation of free schools and academies.
If the government is taken aback by the findings of this report, then it clearly hasn’t been listening to the very people who have been tirelessly lobbying and campaigning on the impact of Conservative policy on the lives of LGBT people since 2010.
I, and many others, now await a statement of intent from the government on how it intends to respond to the report. It’s a well-worn adage but when it comes to LGBT equality, actions really do speak louder than words.
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