In the wake of yet another LGBTQ+ charity closing as a result of cuts, Stephanie Farnsworth examines the cost of austerity for the community.
The closure of Pace, an LGBT+ mental health charity in London, predictably comes in the wake of increased financial pressures due to the climate of austerity. This is a massive blow for LGBTQ+ Londoners; all gender and sexually diverse people have been shown to be at greater risk of experiencing a mental health issue and now these people will be left with far fewer places to turn for support. This is far from the first LGBTQ+ charity to have suffered under the government’s austerity plans: last year Broken Rainbow was also fighting for maintaining its services, and thankfully enough money was raised to save it. Services have suffered across the country: We’ar Out, the only LGBTQ+ charity in Sunderland, was forced to close several years ago, LGBT HQ in Carlisle also closed last year and these are just two examples. Cuts to funding on certain issues have also disproportionately impacted LGBTQ+ people such as cuts to ensuring preventative work in tackling HIV. The last example is particularly striking as despite government protests that it needs to save money, it costs far more to provide a lifetime of medication to help keep the HIV virus under control than it does in working to prevent transmission. Such a basic error in maths and common sense suggests that this government is at best incompetent at being able to effectively carry out its own austerity programme or that it is immune to any concern for the community.
Such a basic error in maths and common sense suggests that this government is at best incompetent at being able to effectively carry out its own austerity programme or that it is immune to any concern for the community.
The Tories have tried to claim that they are the party for equality but the problem is that they’ve only supported LGBTQ+ rights when it has benefited them. The Same Sex Marriage Act was pushed through thanks in large part to David Cameron, but why? The benefits were twofold: it was a quick way to try to shrug off the label of the ‘Nasty Party’ although that did not quite work when half of his party were screaming bloody murder over the bill, and the second benefit was the income it generated. I don’t think it has been any coincidence that the only measure that the Tories introduced to help improve rights for LGBTQ+ people (and even that only went so far with its horrific discrimination against trans people due to the spousal veto) was something that would generate a huge amount of cash for the economy while LGBTQ+ services are being slashed of their funding. There was almost undoubtedly pressure from Massow too, but this half hearted Act was pushed through simply to win headlines and direct attention away from savage cuts.
This government though has shown little concern for LGBTQ+ lives. It is not enough that we get a rancid bone thrown at us to try to pacify our objections. The most vulnerable in the community are suffering. The lack of care for LGBTQ+ lives is perhaps shown most clearly with the treatment towards asylum seekers. Transphobia, biphobia and homophobia are commonplace so you cannot tell me that this government is LGBTQ+ friendly in the wake of such harsh treatment to those most vulnerable. It is the behaviour of bullies. Orashia Edwards was one of the few fortunate to win his appeal to be able to stay in the UK but he was subjected to a huge amount of biphobia by the government. His initial pleas for asylum in the UK had been rejected because of overt biphobia. The response was that because he had claimed to be bisexual and attracted to women too then his relationships with men had been experiments. That is what biphobia looks like. There are no other examples which could be more blunt or damning than this and it was carried out by a state that seeks pats on the heads from the white, cis, middle class members of the LGBTQ+ community so it gets an easier ride in the media. Yet rejecting someone’s bisexuality deliberately so that they can be deported back to a place where they are likely to be subject to harassment, assault and perhaps even murder is the definition of persecution. This is far from the most outrageous case though with many being deported regularly and the violating demands for ‘proof’ of sexuality.
Yet rejecting someone’s bisexuality deliberately so that they can be deported back to a place where they are likely to be subject to harassment, assault and perhaps even murder is the definition of persecution.
Such binary thinking that Edwards should only ever have had sex with men or have engaged in relationships with men is LGBTQ+ phobia. It puts anybody who does not fit into a narrow binary at risk of being subject to harassment, intimidation and an invasion of privacy by the state. This is especially true for bisexual and transgender people who seek asylum because by their very identities they subvert the binaries the government has imposed. It leaves it easy for the government to say any relationships outside of same gender are experiments, that if trans people aren’t out then they are frauds. It is as though the system is designed to break the most vulnerable, such as by the case of a trans woman being forced to shared a room with a cis man simply because the government wants to appear tough on migration and ‘fraudulent’ asylum seekers.
The pattern of abusive and authoritarian behaviour has also been repeated with regards to prisoners, by the reports of trans women being forced into men’s prisons. This resulted in the death of Vicky Thompson and yet the government has been slow to act despite the fact that housing a trans woman in a men’s prison breaks their own guidelines. Prisoners demonstrate just how a government thinks of its people because they are completely at the whim of the state. They have little rights and simply exist to be told where to go and what to do. The message here is that the government doesn’t care because they know they won’t be held to account for the death of a trans woman.
LGBTQ+ youths have also suffered disproportionately under this government. Cuts to welfare (particularly housing benefit) have meant that many youths in abusive situations have been forced to choose between staying in a dangerous situation or being homeless. This is no choice at all. LGBTQ+ youths are more at risk of facing abuse and/or rejection by their family and yet there has been little to no consideration about the consequences for them when implementing these austerity policies. There has been little room for comparison or reasonable objections when it comes to the ideology of austerity. It is not real lives that matter but a failing attempt to balance the books.
The Tories record on LGBTQ+ rights has been abysmal. They have one trump card though that the community let’s them get away with playing instead of calling them out on their deceit. The Same Sex Marriage Act has been hailed and yet it was a decade late and more than a dollar short with its rampant discrimination in the legislation. Furthermore, the climate of cuts have led to a harsh reality for so many LGBTQ+ people who are more likely to be in poverty and needing support. They may claim to be champions for LGBTQ+ people but they are liars.
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