LGBT rights; yes it’s still a pressing issue

Even in LDN, are LGBT couples as free as heterosexuals?

I read last month that London’s population has grown to the same size as it was in 1939 for the first time since the population shrank rapidly during and after World War II. It is now back at 8.6 million for the first time in those 76 intervening years.

It has also struck me a number of times in the last year or so, how common it is to see straight/heterosexual couples holding hands or kissing in public places like parks and on public transport, and yet very rare to see members of the LGBT community engaged in the same type of behaviour. This might just be my own very peculiar experience, but that doesn’t seem likely. In this city (London) which prides itself on being a modern, forward-thinking capital, it seems alarming to think that even possibly LGBT people are reluctant to behave naturally in public.

According to the Office for National Statistics, which gathers data for the government, 2.5% of the London population is LGBT, which is lower than the 10% figure often quoted in the media, but which is still a pretty large number of people. 215,000, to be precise. If members of the LGBT community do feel reluctant to be themselves in public then that seems very wrong, and I wonder why that is. Perhaps the issue is generational?

The generation currently in power did not grow up in our liberal environment. Most were born when homosexuality was illegal (it was only legalised – for over 21s – in 1969), thus they are likely to see relative equality (in terms of improved conditions). But, this hinders the equal treatment of every individual. To some, public displays of affection may be considered petty, however, if a group of people are afraid or unable to show their true selves in public then London (a tolerant and welcoming city, by reputation anyway) is certainly not setting the example it should.

It’s not enough for our generation to be empathetic and open-minded, we are not in charge. In fact, we are barely an influence. The Tories failed to attract over three quarters of the 43% of 18-24 year olds that turned out to vote. And they are the party in power. It seems the government have somewhat alienated themselves from the “Digital Generation” and are therefore often oblivious to the problems we face. UKIP scares and the right wing views of the growing elderly population, mean that the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems have been fighting to improve their chances of power by prioritising these people, inevitably leading to the neglect of younger people and more socially “controversial” issues.

For the LGBT community, representation in politics is far and few. There are currently 6 LGBT MPs in the House of Commons. That’s out of 650 UK MPs. Less than 1%? Whilst the same-sex marriage bill passed in 2013 (well done for catching up America), there were 161 MPs who opposed it (over ¼ of all MPs), and 123 MPs refrained from voting (including new, v popular Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron), meaning 284 MPs did not vote in favour of same-sex marriage, a simple issue and basic right. This is worrying because these are published votes on written law, and in such circumstances it is telling of the everyday treatment and circumstances the LGBT community find themselves in. If just under half of MPs did not support the bill, then do they support equal rights?

There cannot be a bill for every inequality this minority suffers; the right to hold hands in public, or kiss on the tube. Whilst same-sex marriage is a good step forward, the division in the vote shows there are still many members of society stepping back, particularly due to the public example set by politicians, over ¼ of people representing Britons have validated opposing same-sex marriage, in turn, validating inequality.

I think that in order to improve these problems people in power need to assert the fact that mistreatment of minorities is unacceptable, and look at day-to-day inequalities, making changes to their manifestos. The government needs to take a look at things outside of their comfort zone (not only the treatment of the LGBT community). Also, people need to stop being asshats. Seriously, it doesn’t matter how old or young you are, show some respect – age, gender, sexuality or anything else doesn’t change that person from being an intelligent being with important views and beliefs. Anyway, times have changed since our leaders were teenagers, they need to act more in the interests of our generation. It’s time for people to not be so naive and let everybody walk in the sun, as Mae West says: “In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, now heaven knows anything goes.” And so it should.

By Poppy, 14

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