LGBT History Month introduction, Stephen Twigg MP

LGBT History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of LGBT people throughout history and to acknowledge the barriers still faced by many as we seek a world that accepts people for who they are.

twigg-ac-2012

During the 1997 General Election campaign I was invited to speak at a hustings at my old secondary school – Southgate Comprehensive. I was asked a question about repeal of section 28 and I remember being impressed that LGBT issues were being raised by school students. I had enjoyed my time as a student at Southgate School but I never had the confidence to come out whilst I was there. In the three decades since I left school we have seen very significant changes both in public attitudes and in the law.

In 2005 I was an Education Minister and was proud that the Government gave our full support to this country’s first LGBT History Month. I am pleased to pay tribute to Schools Out for their excellent work. Section 28 had cast a long shadow over education and its repeal was a crucial step in the long struggle against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

Huge challenges remain. The legislative gains of the past two decades represent important progress but we always knew that the fight for legal equality was only half the battle. We know that bullying remains widespread. It is of crucial importance that schools and colleges tackle all forms of bullying, prejudice and discrimination.

LGBT History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of LGBT people throughout history and to acknowledge the barriers still faced by many as we seek a world that accepts people for who they are. There is rightly a greater focus today on trans issues and on the struggle against transphobia.

The movement for LGBT Equality is global. In recent years we have seen remarkable progress in many countries – from South Africa’s historic inclusion of sexual orientation in its post-apartheid Constitution to the recent decision of the US Supreme Court on same sex marriage. For LGBT people living in most European countries the position today is much better than it was twenty years ago. That is a tribute to the LGBT movements and our allies – and to the parliaments and governments that have responded with progressive legislation.

Yet we know that in more than 70 countries anti-gay laws remain in place including countries where the death penalty applies. As we celebrate LGBT History Month we have a duty to consider how best we can support people facing terrible prejudice and discrimination in many countries – for example, in Africa and the Middle East. Campaigners in a lot of countries risk their lives when they speak up against homophobia.

Human rights are universal. We have a responsibility to tackle prejudice which still scars our own country. We have the same responsibility to stand in solidarity with those fighting for equality in other parts of the world.

Stephen Twigg

Post a comment