MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
I was very proud today to launch the Government’s Advancing transgender equality: a plan for action – the first ever Government action plan to advance transgender equality.
It lays out the Government’s vision and commitment to improve transgender people’s lives. To view the action plan and our e-bulletin, please click here.
The action plan was formulated with the trans community and I would like to thank everyone who took time to speak to us, attend our events and respond to our e-surveys. All of the input, challenge and continued hard work by the community themselves have made the action plan possible.
PS Support our campaign to tackle homophobia and transphobia in sport. Sign the Charter for Action by ‘liking’ our facebook page
On 14 March 2011 the Government launched Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality: Moving Forward, which sets out the actions Government is taking to tackle lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inequality.
But trans issues are often quite distinct and we recognise the need for some of those issues to be addressed separately.
To make sure we really deliver for the trans community, we need to know how you think we should be progressing the agenda. The first E-Bulletin can be found here.
The bulletin includes an online survey asking for your views and ideas. We will use the findings of this first survey to shape the Government policy in trans equality and the transgender equality action plan. We would be grateful if you could complete the survey by 6 May 2011.
To help us make sure we are reaching the widest range of people, please forward this message and bulletin to your friends and colleagues; post it on your blogs and discussion forums; and raise it in your community groups.
Stonewall Housing provide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with housing advice and support, either in their own homes or in supported housing. They also lobby for LGBT housing rights.
The Liberal Democrat MP met with the Chief Executive, a staff member and some of the residents to discuss the issues affecting both the LGBT community and charities.
After the visit, Lynne Featherstone MP commented:
“It was great to visit the house and hear about Stonewall Housing’s work. They provide an invaluable service to vulnerable LGBT people in my constituency and across the city.
“They would like to do more. It was great to hear about their aims and ambitions to expand their support network, for instance to vulnerable LGBT asylum seekers.
“Charities are having a tough time at the moment, but I am confident Stonewall Housing will get through it and come out stronger. I wish them all the best for the future.”
My column published in the Ham & High this last week:
It’s been quite a year – both in government and in the constituency. And there is no real separation between those two. The constituency is where legislation and the economy hit the street. The people who come to my advice surgery and the letters, emails and phone calls that come in from local residents at the rate of between two and four hundred per day are my reliable barometer of local peoples’ lives.
Sadly, the stand out of the local year has to be the riots, which kicked off in Tottenham and then spread – not only to Wood Green in my constituency – but across the country. The images of peoples’ lives in flames and wanton looting seared into the nations psyche. I have written about the riots, cause and effect before, but in terms of my own actions at the time – I was duty Minister at the Home Office on the Sunday. With Boris, the PM, the DPM and the Home Sec out of the country – it was down to me to go out on the airwaves to speak to the nation. And of course – locally – going to visit the traders in Wood Green who had been left for hours the night the riot kicked off without police coming to their frantic calls and then visiting Tottenham High Road with Nick Clegg on the Monday to see the devastation for ourselves, meet some of those who had suffered the consequences of the riots and all of the local partners who needed to put things in place for recovery and help and support.
More generally, as a Liberal Democrat in a coalition government, it has meant making terribly hard decisions in order to do the right thing for the nation. I would have loved to come into government like Labour did in 1997 with a flourishing economy. But the economy not only is not flourishing – but takes all we can do not to go under. So I totally support and believe that the stringent measures we have taken as a government are what is protecting us from the hideous interest rates that we see hit other countries like Italy, Greece and Ireland. If we had those interest rates – the job losses and loss of homes would be massive compared to what we are suffering now.
The economy has dominated all – and will do for some time to come. So without rehearsing a full list of Liberal Democrat achievements in government I will mention a couple of key policies delivered – both which go to the heartbeat of Liberal Democrats – fairness.
Thanks to Liberal Democrats, the coalition has taken over a million of the lowest paid out of tax altogether and put £200 back in the pockets of 23 million low and middle income earners.
Our ‘pupil premium’ (which is money that the follows the child and is awarded on the basis of deprivation), has meant that even during these tough times in Haringey we received £5.3 million extra for our schools the first year of the pupil premium. This year it has gone up to £8.8 million and this will go on rising year on year of this government. Education is the key transformative for so many children.
More personally in my government portfolio (which is Equalities and Criminal Information) I have been very fortunate to be able to commence the Equality Act (nine tenths enacted); see civil partnerships in religious premises become law; announce that the government will consult on same sex marriage next March; produced action plans on: violence against women, equalities and transgender; introduce consultations: on stalking; on widening the definition of domestic violence; on the disclosure of information about previous convictions men have of harm to women (Clare’s Law); get rid of identity cards; reduce vetting and barring back to common sense levels; ban wheel clamping on private land; set up a Body Confidence campaign group (fighting the impossible pressure of the perfect image); find some funding for male domestic violence groups; play a part in the change of the laws of accession; ensure that government messages on women’s rights (a moment in history with the Arab Spring and Afghanistan), violence against women and LGB&T rights are taken across the world by travelling ministers; play a part in the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan post 2014; tackle Homophobia and Transphobia in sport with the Sports Charter; support and pursue more women on boards, equal pay; women entrepreneurs – and a lot more – which there just isn’t room to cover in this column.
But as ever – home is where the heart is – and here in Hornsey & Wood Green there have been many, many campaigns. Perhaps the biggest of which is fighting against plans which are supported by Labour Haringey for a massive waste plant at Pinkham Way . We have stopped them at the moment (thanks to lots of local people, Liberal Democrat Cllr Juliet Solomon and the Pinkham Way Alliance and the three local MPs) – but vigilance is key. As to Labour’s plans to make rubbish collections once every two weeks – judging from our survey – not wanted!
I have also – as always – been delighted to visit countless local people, schools, projects and events and you can always see what I am up to if you go to my website and look at the news section which covers what I do locally.
As ever, it has been an absolute honour and privilege to serve as your MP and I thank you all for your contribution in answering my emails and my surveys and for being the best constituents an MP could ever want.
Please just get in touch if ever I can be of help.
Wishing you all a very Happy 2012.
Last night I attended the Hate Crime Vigil in Trafalgar Square. As with last year – the roll call of those killed by hate is shockingly long and incredibly moving.
Stuart Milk, Harvey Milk’s nephew came over from the USA to speak at the event. And he really summed it up. Everyone is included in this life with the same rights and same potential to contribute. He said that ‘tolerance’ was not a word to be spoken in this regard – it has to be about an inclusive society – not just a tolerant society. I totally agree.
I paste below my speech.
– since last year when I stood here and exhorted you to report hate crime and get your friends to report hate crime
– there is some evidence that this is happening
– recent statistics from the Association of Chief Police Officers show that more people are coming forward to report incidents of disability and transgender hate crime
– but our overall aim is not just to see a rise in reporting but to see a fall in the incidence of all hate crime
– we continue to work with our partners both in the UK and internationally to develop our response to hate crime and t
– raise awareness of all forms of hate crime
– encourage reporting
– identify those who are most at vulnerable and likely to suffer repeat victimisation and ensure they receive appropriate support to prevent further incidents and
– ensure that those commit these crimes are challenged and punished
– we are developing a new cross government hate crime action plan which sets out our vision and approach for tackling hate crime over the coming years
– the government is taking tackling hate crime very very seriously
– But there is more we all can do
– when I stood here last year
– Listening to the roll call of those killed by hate
– I was shocked by the length of that roll
– Hate is the most terrible of emotions
– It is a destructive emotion
– Evil in its manifestation
– And hate for reasons of sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or race is also pathetic
– It’s ignorant
– It’s about impotence
– It’s about inadequacy
– And it’s about fear
– Only this week, sadly, I witnessed such hatred unmasked
– and there is a frightening insanity that feeds that fire
– and whilst we put have laws around us to protect us from such hate
– and we do have good laws
– we still, sadly, have a long long way to go
– Whilst we may be more civilised, we may walk safely in many areas, we know that round any corner that hatred may be lurking
– And we still have to get to the very heart of that hatred
– and I cannot, literally cannot understand how any human being can hurt another human, because they are frightened or threatened by difference
– as individuals and as a community we should be embracing each others differences, not persecuting each other for them.
– So as well as the law, each and every one of us has a duty to challenge this hatred wherever and whenever we see it and I call on everyone to do so
– And never, ever walk silently by
Hornsey and Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone has this weekend announced that in March the government will start a formal consultation on how to implement equal marriage for same sex couples.
As part of its commitment to advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB and T) individuals, the government announced in February this year its intention to look at how legislation could develop on equal civil marriage.
The plans to get marriage equality for all were made into official Liberal Democrat policy at last year’s party conference.
Lynne Featherstone MP comments:
“I am delighted to confirm that, in March, the Government will begin a formal consultation on equal civil marriage for same-sex couples.
“This would allow us to make any legislative changes before the end of this Parliament.
“Civil partnerships were a welcome first step, but to deny one group of people the opportunities to get married is not only discrimination, it’s just not fair.
“This is Liberal Democrats delivering Liberal Democrat policy in Government, and I am proud to be taking this forward in the New Year.”
On Saturday I had the pleasure and honour of opening the 7th Sparkle in the Park in Manchester. Sparkle is the biggest event of its kind for the transgender community.
The transgender community as a group suffer a great deal of discrimination. It is a community that is small and little understood by the population at large. That most basic of questions when a child is born – is it a boy or is it a girl – is something that most of us never question or even have to think about.
But for those to whom the answer to that question is less clear as they grow – a lifetime of trying to exist in a binary gender system when those descriptions conflict with feelings – is what is born.
But things are changing. Sparkle, which as I said is in its 7th year, is a public statement from the community that they are standing out there and standing proud.
The Equality Act gives protection to the transgender community from discrimination in the same way as it gives protection for gender, sexual orientation, disability, race and other protected characteristics. But protection under the law is one thing. Hearts and minds need to follow – and whilst much has been achieved – there is still a hugely long way to go.
The trangender community suffer from a great deal of hate crime, discrimination at work, access to public services and generally a lack of understanding about what it means to be transgender. Whilst it is often joined to the LGB agenda as LGB&T – there is a world of difference between sexual orientation LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) and T (transgender) which is about gender identity and quite separate from sexual orientation.
Currently we (the government) has a consultation going on all the issues for the transgender community because we recognise that there are issues that need addressing separately from those that are addressed by our LGB&T workplan. We have had over 1200 responses so far – making this the largest ever in the UK.
These responses will form the basis on which we can make informed decisions about what changes are needed. I can’t promise that every aspect can be met – but we will use the information to do as much as is possible.
When I left Sparkle, having given the opening speech and met a number of those taking part and organising the day, the sun had come out – and Sparkle was sparkling. The turnout for this event in the park was huge. And it was striking that in a park where only a few years ago the transgender community wouldn’t have even dared to walk – now they were holding a party in that same park.
A huge thank you to Bella and her team for all the organisation – and a thank you for inviting me to share the day.
Three cheers for Channel 4 for signing up to the Memorandum of Agreement with Trans Media Watch.
The agreement was signed by Channel 4 at an event last Monday and is the brainchild of Trans Media Watch – a group that works to ensure that fair and accurate portrayals of transgender people are used in the media.
Bt signing, Channel 4 has committed to ‘accuracy, dignity and respect’ in its portrayal of transgender people and to ensure that transgender people in the media are treated with the same respect as everyone else.
Trans Media Watch make it clear that this does not touch on editorial freedom and is not about any sort of censorship – but is to give media organisations the information they need to address the issue from an informed standpoint.
Channel 4 showed three of its 4thought films that will be aired shortly – each was of a trans person speaking about their particular situation. They were such brilliant and powerful snapshots of these three trans peoples’ lives that anyone watching would – if they know little about the trans world – stop seeing the trans and start seeing the person. Absolutely brilliant shorts.
89% of trans gender people experience hate crime. That is beyond shocking and beyond unacceptable and demonstrates just how far we still have to go – despite having some of the best anti-discrimination law in the world. Later this year the Government will publish the first ever transgender action plan – to address some of the issues that impact on trans people.
But that statistic surely also demonstrates the vital need for more understanding – which is the purpose of Trans Media Watch’s Memorandum of Agreement.
Congratulations to Trans Media Watch for this brilliant initiative and to Channel 4 for being the first (hopefully of many) broadcasters to sign up.
An article written for and published in Pink News following the launch of the Government Charter for Action on Monday:
As a Liberal Democrat in Government, fighting for a more equal society is my driving force and I am lucky to be in a position as Minister for Equalities to be able to do so much. But sometimes you are reminded that simple Government diktat doesn’t change everything. We can declare equality but unless people understand what that really means, there’s only so much you can do. Societal change doesn’t happen because a Minister says it must it happens because everyone out there works towards it.
I was reminded of this during our Spring Conference in Sheffield, where I visited a local support group for young people struggling with their sexuality and/or gender, Sheffield Fruitbowl. The charity running the group, the Sheena Amos Youth Trust, had also invited a number of young people along who take part in the Side by Side project, a peer education initiative to tackle homophobic bullying in schools. I was struck by the enthusiasm and commitment of these teenagers. Here were a group of people who saw an injustice in their schools and instead of standing by the side-lines, instead of shrugging their shoulders and keeping their heads down, they went out into schools in Sheffield to tackle homophobia and prejudices towards gay and transgendered people, through drama and workshops.
They quite rightly asked me what I was doing to support people like them and the Charter for Action to tackle homophobia in sport, which I launched on Monday, is one of those ways. Sport is such a key element in our society, so many people enjoy playing sports and watching them. But it remains an area where homophobia remains prevalent. So many gay sportsmen and women fear coming out and those that do are often well-established in their careers. It is a shame that homophobia, and probably more importantly the fear of becoming the target of homophobic jibes, leads to many LGBT people simply not partaking.
The fight against racism has been so successful in football and other sports, through programmes like Kick it Out. Given the role sports can play to change attitudes in society, it?s crucial that we break down the culture that allows spectators and participants to get away with homophobia. The Charter for Action is the first step in bringing people together to start doing just that.
I’m glad that the Football Association, the Lawn Tennis Association, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Rugby Football League and the Rugby Football Union joined the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) in becoming the first signatories of the Charter. Their clear intention to make sport welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will be a first step. We will work together to change the culture of sport, to educate and to show just how hurtful and damaging homophobia is ? to people as well as the sport. Imagine the Welsh rugby team without Gareth Thomas, imagine England?s cricket team without Steven Davies, imagine diving without Matthew Mitcham or speed skating with Ireen Wüst. You can’t because their sport would be poorer for it without them. It is in everybody’s interest that people can be themselves because then they will perform at their peak.
As I said in answer to an oral question in Equalities Questions last week – it is hugely important that role models like Gareth Thomas and Stephen Davies have come out – and that soon we hope that working with the Football Association footballers too will feel that the atmosphere and ambiance around football will enable them to come out too. But the real importance of these fantastic role models is the message that goes out to young people – that up and down this land children will feel able to be themselves, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity, and take to the fields of sport without fear or anxiety. That is the ambition.
UPDATE: Forgot to post the details of facebook page: facebook.com/LGBTsportcharter
Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, yesterday launched a new Government campaign to tackle homophobic bullying in sport.
Major sports organisations, such as the Football Association, the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Rugby Football League, have signed up to a Charter for Action in which they pledge to make sport a welcome place for everyone.
Commenting yesterday, Lynne Featherstone said:
“Sport is still seen by many as an institution where there are barriers we have yet to tear down, because there are so few openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who feel comfortable on the field.
“Professional sports have the ability to change attitudes, on the field as well as in society. That is why it is important we break through this last remaining taboo and tackle it head on so that LGBT people feel welcome in all sports.
“The Liberal Democrats have long pledged to tackle prejudice everywhere and today’s launch of the Charter for Action is an important step in ensuring in sport, homophobic prejudices become a thing of the past.”
You can show your support for the campaign by signing up to the Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/lgbtsportcharter