In the throes of the corona-virus pandemic and the recent protests over race relations, it is easy to forget that the month of June is dedicated to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender equality. Right-of-centre political parties in the West are often considered as “hostile” to LGBT interests. For example, the Fidesz Party in Hungary recently passed a bill ending legal gender recognition for trans citizens while Polish President Andrzej Duda said he would ban LGBT teaching at schools. However, a party that has taken the upper hand in promoting LGBT equality is the UK’s Conservative Party.
The principles of the UK Conservative Party advocate for less government intervention in peoples’ lives, something that goes beyond economic intervention. No government intervention should occur in romantic relationships between adults and consenting individuals, as well as for individuals feeling as if they were assigned the wrong gender at the time of their birth. Same-sex marriage was legalized in England and Wales in 2013 under Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, giving same-sex couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. A couple of years before marriage equality bill was passed, the Conservatives allowed for gay and bisexual men to donate blood, something which was illegal before 2011. When it comes to the rights of transgender people, the Conservatives have pledged to extend hate crime laws to include gender identity. However, PM Boris Johson recently walked back an initial pledge of making the process of changing one’s gender identity easier.
Living conditions for LGBT people tend to be better in Western and democratic countries. However the same cannot be said about places such as the Middle East. UK Embassies abroad have strived to support human rights organisations that actively campaign to change anti-LGBT legislation in their respective countries. In addition, the UK Government has stopped the deportation of LGBT asylum seekers, facing prosecution because of who they love and what gender they identify as.
However, there is still progress to be made. For instance, conversion therapy, whilst criticised by the government, remains legal to this day. According to the Trevor Project, such treatments, which are often forced upon LGBT individuals, are not only ineffective but also harmful. It amplifies the shame and stigma felt by LGBT people, fractures the relationship between parents and children, and is linked to higher depression rates among “patients.” Therefore, legislation banning the practice of conversion therapy should be supported by all parties in the House of Commons. However, as the largest party in the House, Conservatives ought to have the upper hand and introduce such legislation.
LGBT issues have become more salient in the 21st century and progress has been made in the past 20 if not 10 years. We see more and more LGBT athletes, politicians, musicians and actors on our screens, and we should continue to encourage these role models. I am optimistic that the Conservative Party will continue to make progress in the area of LBGT legislation as well as correcting errors of the past, acting as an example for other conservative parties around the world.