Equality for LGBT people in Britain today: lots done, lots to do

Over the past 25 years, we’ve taken huge strides on the journey towards lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) equality in Britain. Changes in our laws mean that more schools, employers and public services are tackling anti-LGBT abuse and discrimination. Equal marriage is now a reality for many, and Section 28 has been consigned to history.

But for many LGBT people in Britain today, these legal changes have not translated into true equality, and for trans people in particular, much progress remains before they are fully protected and equal under the law.

Stonewall is Britain’s largest organisation campaigning for LGBT equality. We exist to let every LGBT person, everywhere, know that they are not alone. We work with government, schools and workplaces across Britain to drive forward LGBT equality, and we conduct in-depth research to measure the pace of change and identify where work remains to be done.

This year marks the publication of our state of the nation research series, LGBT in Britain, which surveys nearly 5,000 LGBT people to find out what life is really like for LGBT people in Britain today.

Last month we published the first report in the series, Hate Crime and Discrimination, which uncovers LGBT people’s experiences of hate crime and discrimination. The findings demonstrate the scale of the task that remains. One in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime or incident related to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months. For trans people in particular, this rises to two in five, and black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT people and disabled LGBT people are also at particular risk.

Alarmingly, the percentage of lesbian, gay and bi people who have experienced a hate crime in the past 12 months related to their sexual orientation has nearly doubled since 2013.

I was assaulted by a man whilst I was holding hands with my lesbian partner. He grabbed me from behind and thrust himself into me, then verbally attacked me – Freya, 21 (Wales)

Worryingly, four in five LGBT victims of hate crime did not report this to the police, many because they feared they would not be taken seriously.

I have been the victim of transphobia numerous times over the past two years, and yet the police haven’t really taken it seriously – James, 47 (South East)

The report also finds that many LGBT people still endure poor treatment while using public services and going about their lives, whether in their local shop, gym, school or place of worship. A third of LGBT people avoid particular streets because they don’t feel safe there as an LGBT person, and one in six have been discrimination against when visiting a café, bar or nightclub. Meanwhile, anti-LGBT abuse online is endemic: in the last month alone, one in ten LGBT people – including one in four trans people – have been the direct target of anti-LGBT abuse online.

My partner and I are never openly affectionate in public for fear of being victimised. This includes holding hands, linking arms, or even a peck on the cheek. We are very aware of our surroundings - Aria, 47 (East Midlands)

To address these issues, it is vital that hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity are made aggravated offences, in line with those based on faith or ethnicity. We are also calling upon police forces across Britain to ensure that all police officers receive training on tackling anti-LGBT hate crime.

It’s clear from these findings that the fight for LGBT equality in Britain is far from over, and it is crucial that laws protecting LGBT people are maintained and strengthened moving forwards. We warmly welcome the Government’s decision to review the Gender Recognition Act, which is in urgent need of reform, and the upcoming consultation on updating the guidance for teaching relationships and sex education (RSE) is a vital opportunity to ensure that this teaching is fully LGBT-inclusive in all schools.

Looking ahead to Brexit, the Government has stated that there will be no backsliding on equality for LGBT people – or for any other group – during and after the Brexit process. But the Withdrawal Bill as it stands does not guarantee this and broad Ministerial powers to change legislation could put these hard-won rights at risk. We are supporting Liberty and Amnesty International’s call for a People’s Clause in the Repeal Bill, to ensure that this important commitment to protecting human rights legislation is clearly enshrined in law.

If Britain is to retain its position as a beacon for LGBT equality worldwide, it is clear that we cannot be complacent. That is why we have launched our new campaign, Come Out For LGBT, which calls on supporters, politicians, advocates and allies across Britain to take action and speak up for LGBT equality.

Josh Bradlow is a Policy Officer at Stonewall.