11 August 2016

Stonewall Housing has a ‘Quick Exit’ button at the top of their website, so users can quickly and safely ‘vanish’ the website from their computer screens, should somebody enter the vicinity. That quiet little button tells us that we have a huge problem. Those two words are not just a label for a button, they are more than information, they are advice, and they are what an LGBT person is feeling when they click that button. ‘Quick! Exit!’

For some of us, it might be hard to imagine the fear of stigma to still be so profound in a country where gay rights are world-leading. The ILGA-Europe reviews the LGBT rights situation of every European country and ranks them on a number of areas. The UK has had the highest score in Europe since 2012, with the highest rank with respect to laws and policies against discrimination (80% progress towards full equality) and in the 2nd position with regards to family recognition, gender recognition, and right to asylum. However, in practice, the UK falls a little short, coming in 10th place for protecting LGBT people from hate crime and hate speech. Discrimination is still a huge problem. The London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime reported that homophobic hate crimes have increased 22% since 2013, with over 100 crimes recorded per month.

It might shock you to learn that 24% of young homeless people are LGBT. That’s enormous, and it’s hard to pretend their gender identity and sexual orientation aren’t a contributing factor. In fact two thirds say their homelessness is directly related to discrimination. Young people in this world-leading country are being forced from their family homes by un-accepting family members, bullied out of private accommodation by homophobic landlords, and forced into hostile living arrangements by abusive partners; sometimes offered sex, or being forced to offer sex, in exchange for accommodation.

We might wave the rainbow flag, when it comes to Pride festival, but it’s still considered ‘brave’ to come out. Public opinion is such that danger still exists in being LGBT. Fortunately, Liverpool has the Michael Causer Foundation, OUTreach Liverpool, and links to Stonewall Housing to help our young LGBT people with housing issues, but with public funding cuts of 34-50% for LGBT voluntary and community sector organisations, it’s a constant struggle to keep that support afloat. Why does a vital and vibrant section of our community feel either abused or neglected? Why is hate and fear still so prevalent?

The recent victims of the Orlando attack have been supported and mourned for all over the world, including Liverpool with a highly attended vigil at St George’s Hall, but we still harbour a culture in which a gay kiss is not just a kiss, and a gay wedding is not just a wedding, and we still have quick exit buttons on support pages for our LGBT people.

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