Action plan announced in response to national survey showing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are experiencing daily prejudice

The Government has promised to appoint a national adviser to reduce inequality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and to end conversion therapy, as part of a new action plan published by the Equalities Office.

The LGBT Action Plan: Improving the Lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People includes more than 70 commitments to tackle discrimination and improve the lives of LGBT people in the UK. £4.5 million of funding is promised to deliver the plan.

The biggest national survey of LGBT people in the world was carried out in order to inform the plan. The survey, with more than 108,000 respondents, proved that LGBT people are experiencing prejudice on a daily basis. Other findings include:

  • LGBT respondents are less satisfied with their life than the general UK population; trans respondents had particularly low satisfaction scores

  • More than two thirds of LGBT respondents said they had avoided holding hands with a same-sex partner for fear of a negative reaction from others

  • At least 2 in 5 respondents had experienced an incident because they were LGBT, such as verbal harassment or physical violence, in the 12 months preceding the survey. However, more than 9 in 10 of the most serious incidents went unreported, often because respondents thought ‘it happens all the time’

  • 2% of respondents had undergone conversion or reparative therapy in an attempt to ‘cure’ them of being LGBT, and a further 5% had been offered it

  • 24% of respondents had accessed mental health services in the 12 months preceding the survey

  • 23% said people at work had reacted negatively to them being LGBT and over half of those who accessed or tried to access mental health services said they had to wait too long

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We can be proud that the UK is a world leader in advancing LGBT rights, but the overwhelming response to our survey has shone a light on the many areas where we can improve the lives of LGBT people.”

The PM said she was struck by just how many respondents said they cannot be open about their sexual orientation or avoid holding hands with their partner in public for fear of a negative reaction. “No one should ever have to hide who they are or who they love,” she said.

In response to the results of the survey, the action plan outlines the following promises:

Ensure that LGBT people’s needs are at the heart of the National Health Service

The survey showed that LGBT people feel their specific needs go unaddressed when accessing healthcare. The Government will appoint a National Adviser to provide leadership on reducing the heath inequalities that LGBT people face, and will seek to establish a more modern care model for adult gender identity services in England.

The Government will act so that every child and young person feels safe in education, and can achieve their potential

The survey found that the education system is not preparing LGBT young people for later life, and that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is a problem that still needs to be tackled. The Government will continue to invest in programmes that tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools, and ensure that the new subjects of Relationships Education, and Relationships and Sex Education will support pupils, whatever their developing sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Government will act so that LGBT people feel safe in their own homes and in their communities

The survey shows that many LGBT people do not report hate incidents they experience and that the abhorrent practice of conversion therapy is still alive in the UK. The Government will bring forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy in the UK, and take further action on hate crime as part of the upcoming refresh of the 2016 Hate Crime Action Plan.

The Government has promised to ensure transgender people are treated with dignity and respect

The survey showed dissatisfaction with the gender recognition process. The Government will immediately consult on reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and consider how best to make the gender recognition process less bureaucratic and intrusive. They pledge to improve understanding of the issues faced by people who identify as non-binary and people who are intersex. The Government will launch separate Calls for Evidence on the issues faced by non-binary and intersex people.

The Government will trial innovative ways of tackling deep-seated prejudices in our communities

Many LGBT people are not comfortable with the simple act of holding their partner’s hand in front of others, as shown in the survey results. The Government will work across the public, private and voluntary sectors to improve the representation of LGBT people in public life, championing role models and giving people the confidence to be themselves in public. Commitments set out in this document will be delivered by the end of this Parliament. The Government pledged to listen to the needs of LGBT people and the LGBT sector organisations that support them as the plan is delivered, and a new LGBT Advisory Panel will be established to guide this work and hold them to account.

“Everyone in this country should feel safe and happy to be who they are, and to love who they love, without judgement or fear. All people, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, should be supported to reach their full potential. This action plan sets out the ways in which the Government hopes to move closer to that goal.”

Charity Stonewall called the action plan a “welcome first step” adding that the findings will be shocking for some, but “for anyone who is LGBT, or has a family member or friend who is, these results will be sadly recognisable.

“But while legislation will help create a stronger framework for equality for all LGBT to flourish, it is up to all of us to create a society where people can truly be free to be themselves.”

Photo by Kirsty Lee on Unsplash