I think if you asked most people this question in the UK they would probably say yes. They might look to the legislation, including same sex marriage, equal age of consent and the Equality Act which has been passed which led to greater equalities for LGBT people.
It is undoubtedly true that LGBT rights have greater protection than they ever have, and the lives of LGBT people are significantly better. That said, legislation only goes so far, the lived experiences of LGBT people vary enormously.
I had a look through Twitter to see reactions to moments of increased LGBT visibility in the media. To be fair, overwhelmingly it was positive however there were a number of hateful, openly homophobic and transphobic and abhorrent statements made by a significant minority.
Both Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing on Ice had same sex couples dancing in 2019. In the case of Strictly, it was two professional dancers and for Dancing on Ice it was a celebrity paired with a same sex professional. Following the Strictly dance, there were originally 189 complaints to the BBC with an additional 103 coming in the following month. With Dancing on Ice there were fewer complaints – just 16 to OFCOM so possibly that’s progress!
Some of the comments are less progressive.
“Dancing on Ice with same sex partners isn’t normal, ‘people need this’ Eh? No, the don’t. Maybe in the wee 2% LGBT bubble they do. I won’t be tuning in.”
“LGBT agenda pushed even further down people throats with a same sex dance on dancing on ice (sic)”
“I’ll tell you the winner of dancing on ice now. H and matt it will be made sure they win. Trying to prove a point that it’s normal. It isn’t normal, it was Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. (sic)”
Not all doom and gloom though!
“Turned over to Dancing on Ice as it was H dancing as part of a same sex couple and I literally have goosebumps. What a beautiful to thing to see on television. It’s about TIME.”
Although there have been significant gains, there are still homophobic and transphobic attitudes which undermine and threaten LGBT people. We have seen huge debates surrounding JK Rowling’s comments and there is a plethora of vitriolic comments levelled at transgender contestants on University Challenge and Only Connect. All of these comments have been in 2019 or 2020.
Stonewall published a report in 2017¹ focusing on LGBT hate crime. Headline figures include:
One in five LGBT people (21 per cent) have experienced a hate crime or incident due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months
Two in five trans people (41 per cent) have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months and one in six LGB people, who aren’t trans (16 per cent), have experienced a hate crime or incident due to their sexual orientation in the same period
More than a third of LGBT people (36 per cent) say they don’t feel comfortable walking down the street while holding their partner’s hand. This increases to three in five gay men (58 per cent)
One in 10 LGBT people (10 per cent) have experienced homophobic, biphobic or transphobic abuse online directed towards them personally in the last month. This number increases to one in four for trans people (26 per cent) directly experiencing transphobic abuse online in the last month
So what does this mean for schools? This is undoubtedly where the change will come. By educating our children, young adults, staff and ourselves we can begin to secure an equitable place for everyone. Schools are best placed to challenge discrimination and prejudice by celebrating diversity and championing the voices of all. We have to support our whole school communities to become allies for each other.
The world has certainly moved forward and I feel more accepted now than I ever have. The future is bright but there’s still work to be done!
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela