Last week, Luke brought together a number of charities and individuals involved in supporting different parts of the LGBTQ+ community in Plymouth, to discuss equality in Plymouth and challenges the community faces.
Luke is a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ issues in our city and nationwide. Luke said:
As Plymouth’s first ever openly gay MP I wanted to bring together our community in Pride Month to recognise the progress we have made but look ahead at the work that still needs to happen. With hate still on the rise, we are still not yet able to realise the goal of everyone in Plymouth being able to be themselves and achieve their full potential.
I’m grateful to all the people who joined me for my LGBT roundtable. With the Government dragging its feet over the ban on conversion therapy and with continued culture wars being deliberately played by the right of politics, we need to make the case even louder for equality. When everyone in our city is able to be themselves we will have a happier and more productive city – what is not to like about that.
With two years of no Pride event in Plymouth and over a year since the outbreak of coronavirus, the consensus was that there are many in the LGBTQ+ community who are feeling more isolated and vulnerable than ever. Charities and local LGBTQ+ groups have been meeting up as much as possible outdoors within the guidelines, but this has still proved difficult and the Intercom Trust have put together some concerning statistics on the effect of the pandemic on the community. You can read the report here.
It was highlighted however, that fewer hate crimes against the community seem to be being reported. It was discussed that this could be due to reduced numbers of people out and about, a shift in attitudes, a lack of knowledge on how to report these crimes, hate crimes becoming less overt and more insidious or a combination of all of those.
If it is a lack of awareness of the avenues through which you can report, here are some local third party reporting centres that are specifically aimed at the LGBTQ+ community:
- Pride in Plymouth third party reporting service: 07746 410593
- Eddystone Trust: 01752 254406 / 0800 3283 508
- Intercom Trust: 01752 210454
- Not Alone Plymouth: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Out Youth: 07774 336616
Other third party reporting centres are listed in in this helpful Plymouth City Council leaflet and this Devon and Cornwall Police page. Of course, if you are comfortable doing so, you should also consider reporting hate crimes to 101 (or 999 in an emergency). If you are not able to call 101 or are concerned about the waiting time, their online reporting facility is very helpful.
It was particularly highlighted how the trans community are seeing a lack of movement on trans healthcare, with the local standard waiting time for an initial assessment being around six years. There also seems to be some disparity between the ways GPs take on trans patients who have previously gone for private assessments to speed things up. This is all incredibly troubling for those whose healthcare is affected and something that Luke wagered to take up with the Clinical Commissioning Group. One of the charities at the roundtable noted that due to the wait, some local trans people have been lost to suicide.
Research shared by Stonewall has found that almost half of trans people in Britain have attempted suicide at least once and 84% have thought about it. This is an incredibly upsetting statistic and shows just how much our trans friends need our support; particularly with the government U-turn on Gender Recognition Act reform.
Luke is keen to support equality and inclusion for the trans community, which includes continuing the fight for the GRA to introduce self-declaration for trans people. The debate around the reform of the GRA has had a lot of toxicity around it and that this causes great harm to women and the trans community. We need to work together to make life better for the trans community and women alike – not create divides and hostility against the trans community.
The government also seem to be dragging their feet on the subject of conversion therapy, and concerns were raised that trans issues may be excluded from any resulting legislation or that it may be permitted for religious reasons, so Luke will be following this closely. He feels this needs to be a comprehensive piece of legislation that includes everything it needs to, to prevent long-lasting trauma for our young people. He would also encourage everyone who feels passionately about this to write to your MP when the time comes that this is debated in Parliament.
Local charities have been working hard to support the LGBTQ+ community, with the Intercom trust starting up some group work and gender identity family days in July among other things, and the Eddystone Trust focusing on supporting Derriford in getting PrEP to those who need it most. There are also local schools who offer fantastic support for their LGBTQ+ students, and following the meeting will be looking at setting up a network of LGBTQ+ leads in schools so they can share ideas and all try to reach the same standard of support for our young people.
Plymouth’s very own gay village
On another positive note, there is a lot of buzz around ‘Plymouth Gay Village’ at Bretonside which despite its name, has some great pubs aimed at everyone in the LGBTQ+ community (you can follow news on this here) and all being well, this year’s Plymouth Pride is due to take place on 7 August – so look out for updates! It has been wonderful to see the rainbow lights on the Theatre Royal this month.
There has also been a great milestone with blood donation recently being opened up to gay and bisexual men. Luke has his blood donation booked in, and hopes that those of you who haven’t been able previously to give blood, have yours booked in too.