Clare Bailey MLA

Clare Bailey MLA: Arlene Foster can learn much from LGBTQ community engagement

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Clare Bailey MLA has commented on Arlene Foster’s planned attendance at a LGBTQ event at Stormont next week.

The South Belfast MLA said:

Arlene Foster has said that she will attend a Stormont event celebrating the contribution of Northern Ireland’s LGBT community.

That’s great and well done to the former First Minister.

I’m sure she will be made more than welcome at the event and she’ll be in the company of some of the most articulate and engaging people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

It’s coming around to Belfast Pride and the theme this year is “Demand Change”. Change has been demanded and denied for many years now.

The Assembly has failed to deliver since Steven Agnew’s motion on marriage equality was defeated on October 2012. Since then, the local parties have come around to marriage equality and have begun to challenge homophobia and transphobia in public life.

Unfortunately however, the DUP have blocked marriage equality at every turn and are out of step when it comes to rights and equality matters.

Arlene Foster will learn of the real challenges faced by LGBTQ people when she begins to engage with the community.

She will hear that LGBTQ people have high rates of self-harm, suicide attempts and depression than their cisgender or heterosexual peers. The disproportionate impact of poorer mental health and well-being among LGBTQ people can be exacerbated by hostile attitudes and perception of inferior status.

The DUP leader will hear of the other challenges and issues, from non-inclusive sex education, hate crime and bullying, other health inequalities particularly in relation to sexual health and substances, the lack of funding from Government Departments with responsibility for equality and access to trans healthcare.

Listening is useful and platitudes may follow but if Arlene Foster is genuine in her understanding of Unionism as inclusive and progressive, she must act.

She must act on restoring an Executive and delivering on a Sexual Orientation Strategy and a Gender Strategy.  We know that some DUP MLAs support allowing same sex couples to marry. Mrs Foster should allow a free vote to showcase her inclusive and progressive Unionism.

She must curb the vile homophobic and transphobic comments that emanate from her party. Perhaps a £100 fine for every utterance might hit party members where it hurts most!

I hope that this first step is genuine and not tokenistic. I’d love to see Arlene at Belfast Pride – and I think she would enjoy the experience!

ENDS

Media contact

Sinead McIvor – 07701 302 498

 

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