This article originally appeared on VICE UK.Great improvements have been made to LGBT rights in Britain over the past few years, and, in the lead up to tomorrow's election, political parties have been praised for addressing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans issues in their manifestos. And it's about time. When you've got a Prime Minister who apparently can't even say the word gay when it comes to inclusive sex education, 55 percent of gay kids still being bullied at school, and 59 percent of trans people considering suicide, LGBT issues have been in dire, urgent need of more prevalence in UK politics.
Only, when our politicians are predominantly straight, white, rich, cisgendered men with interests pointed primarily in that direction, how can we trust them? If you fit anywhere within the LGBT spectrum but don't have time to comb through the party manifestos ahead of tomorrow, how do you know what you're voting for? Politicians have done their best to cast their parties as progressive in the final slog election campaign, to appeal to the 3.8 million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender voters in the UK, but what does that actually mean?Here's a guide to exactly which parties are championing which LGBT rights.
The Tories aren't exactly famed for their progressive views in relation to sexuality and gender identity. However, in 2013, David Cameron broke the mould when he legalised same-sex marriage, to the resounding support of less than half of his fellow Conservative MPs. It's something he'll always be remembered for. In the party's most recent manifesto (if you look closely—really closely—there's a paragraph perched at the end of the "Big Society" section), they continue to champion same-sex marriage because it has "strengthened the institution of marriage."Last year, UKIP leader Nigel Farage refused to comment on whether he supported gay marriage, and in this year's manifesto chose to ignore it again, rather than open that "very big can of worms." This comes after Roger Helmer, who ran for parliament last year, compared gay marriage to incest, and former UKIP member Donald Grewer said that people who supported gay marriage were "fascist perverts" who threaten "the social fabric of our society." LOL! Grewer, mate, you actually make getting gay married sound fun.
BEING ABLE TO GET MARRIED
Meanwhile, Labour have essentially released a big gay book which says that, although marriage is legal, there's much, much more to be done. Equally, the Green Party have been vocal about their support for gay marriage since back in the day, Plaid Cymru said they're strongly in support, and the Lib Dems have said that they will continue to "promote international recognition of same sex marriages and civil partnerships."Basically, if the thought of "some queen who wants to dress up in a bridal frock and dance up the aisle to the Village People" sounds like a "spiritual disease" to you, then vote UKIP. If you're well into the idea, then vote for anybody else.
While it's probably unorthodox to teach six-year-olds about the logistics of rimming, the total lack of anything beyond the basic, breeding benefits of "penis in vagina" can be a very real problem for young, isolated LGBT people and is so out-of-date it's laughable. The health of young LGBT people is also at risk without proper information and education about how to have sex safely. So what are the major parties saying about it this year?The attitudes left over from Section 28—the legislation implemented by Margaret Thatcher in 1988 forbidding the "promotion of homosexuality" in schools—still lingers like the smell of poppers in a Vauxhall club on a Sunday morning. Despite David Cameron's public apology for Section 28 in 2009, the Tories have completely ignored the issue of LGBT education in this years manifesto. Cameron, as previously mentioned, couldn't even say the word gay when it comes to educating kids about sex. The subject seems to have slipped the mind of SNP in their manifesto, too.
KIDS LEARNING THAT NOT JUST STRAIGHT PEOPLE HAVE SEX WITH EACH OTHER
Labour have been pretty vocal in their support of an LGBT education in schools, but their abolishment of Section 28 in 2003 made very little difference at the time. In their 2015 LGBT manifesto they look more towards the future, saying: "Our commitment to age-appropriate compulsory sex and relationship education (SRE) in all state-funded schools will ensure children have the opportunity to learn about and respect different family lives," and "we will equip all teachers to tackle LGBT-phobic bullying."Similarly, the Green party have said they'd provide "mandatory HIV, sex and relationship education—age-appropriate and LGBTIQ inclusive—in all schools from primary level onwards" as well as requiring that every school has an "an anti-bullying program that explicitly combats homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying."Plaid Cymru have not mentioned an all-inclusive sex education in their manifesto, although they have said that they'll "ensure that all schools and local authorities record incidents of homophobic bullying and seek to eradicate it by providing support and training to teachers." Recording bullying once it's happened is something, but how about preventing it in the first place?UKIP have opposed it, claiming that an inclusive sex education would "encourage experimentation"—you know, that crucial thing you do to figure out who and how you want to fuck. This comes after UKIP member Iain McLaughlan's comments last year, calling it a "tragedy" that Section 28 was repealed. Do with that information what you will.
Watch our related documentary 'Gay Conversion Therapy':
As VICE columnist and transgender rights activist Paris Lees wrote last year, "Once upon a time, being transgender meant someone's dad having a midlife crisis and getting his peen chopped off for attention."However, thanks to the domino effect of trailblazers changing the narrative over the past few years, that perception is becoming very tired. When we've got Olympic Gold medallist-turned-reality TV star Bruce Jenner coming out as trans on primetime TV and getting an amazing response, it makes you wonder why politics isn't keeping up with pop culture.This years Labour manifesto recognises that the "T" has often been left out of "LGBT" rights in the past: "For the trans community in particular, we need to go much further to ensure people feel as though Britain is a country in which identity is respected and supported," they say in the introduction. They also say they'll, "undertake a review of gender identity law and policy" and "work with the trans community to improve access to gender care services."Similarly, the Green Party have pledged to "end cuts to the NHS which have made it harder for trans people to access gender reassignment services," as well as "removing the Spousal Veto so that trans people can acquire their gender recognition certificate without having to obtain permission from their spouse." They also want to "improve access to services for young people seeking to transition."
BRINGING GENDER IDENTITY LAWS AND POLICIES UP TO DATE
Plaid Cymru have said they would "work towards the implementation of a framework for Primary Care Service for Trans and Intersex people and the development of a Gender Identity Clinic in Wales."The Conservatives pledge in their LGBTory manifesto to "continue to champion equality" for LGBT people by tackling transphobic bullying, supporting all transgender job seekers and ensuring all NHS commissioners comply with the Equality Duty that's more responsive to patient choice.The Lib Dems also want to extend the existing NHS Memorandum of Understanding to cover trans people—including a full Trans Manifesto—which is a big step towards focusing on trans rights and increasing visibility in advertising, sport, media, and politics, as well as introducing an "X" gender marker on passports.The SNP have offered no specificities on gender identity, law and policy and UKIP have—surprisingly, really—said fuck all.
For all the progression we've made, homophobic or transphobic hate crime is still a nasty, gangrenous blot on our society. Six years ago, a beautiful gay man I worked survived being stabbed seven times outside the George and Dragon, a gay pub in Hackney, in broad daylight. While the attack was apparently motiveless, it ricocheted throughout East London's gay community as a reminder that you weren't always safe—even in an LGBT epicenter like Shoreditch.What are our politicians doing in order to prevent similar hate crimes against the LGBT community?
TACKLING HATE CRIME
In the Green Party's LGBT manifesto they say they will "combat homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic violence" by "ensuring uniform legislation against all forms of hate crime." Plaid Cymru go one step further, claiming that they will "toughen sentencing" on LGBT hate crimes, as well as working closely with police authorities to ensure widespread recording.Similarly, the Labour party claim that they "will strengthen the law on hate crime, equalising protection for these groups," as well as building "confidence in the criminal justice system to highlight hate crime reporting by ensuring the CPS publishes data on enhanced sentencing for each protected characteristic."The Tories also pledge to "toughen sentencing and use new technology to protect the public" (whatever that means), and review the legislation governing hate crimes, "including the case for extending the scope of the law to cover crimes committed against people on the basis of disability, sexual orientation, or transgender identity."The Lib Dems—a party who do have a good history of supporting LGBT equality—have said they will make homophobic chanting at football matches a criminal offence, which is great, but who cares about football chanting on a day-to-day level when people have fucking knives?!The SNP have kept quiet on specifically addressing hate crimes and discrimination faced by LGBT people.UKIP have said squat.
I'm a queer woman in my early twenties and have experienced the bleakness of the NHS's mental healthcare crisis first hand, spending countless months flitting between antidepressant prescriptions, while also sitting on a year-long waiting list to get talking therapy. In my case, I don't believe my problems are specifically related to my sexuality, but for many people, the two are inextricably linked. Young LGBT people can carry so much shame, stigma and fear about who they are, that it can drive them to suicide. We need a much bigger, better framework of support.The Green Party have pledged to "pay special attention to any mental health issues of the LGBTIQ communities," but it's only Labour, really, who seem to have tackled this profoundly serious issue with any vigor. In fact, they've dedicated a [whole page](a whole page) of their manifesto to it. "We want LGBT people to feel confident accessing health services and discussing any issue without fear of misunderstanding or an unsympathetic attitude," they say. "[We] will look at models which can help achieve this, for example, the dedicated LGBT mental health service which has been established in Brighton."
DEDICATED MENTAL HEALTHCARE FOR LGBT PEOPLE
It's all well and good protecting us from bigotry on our own soil, but what about LGBT people abroad? It's hardly sending the most all-encompassing message when you ban people from using the word "fag" in the UK, but allow someone to face prison for 14 years in Nigeria for being a lesbian.Neither the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru (or UKIP—there may be a pattern here) have explored foreign policy in relation to LGBT people in any detail. The Liberal Democrats have said that they'll be introducing a "comprehensive International LGBT Rights Strategy that supports the cause of decriminalising homosexuality in other countries."
The Green Party have gone into more detail, saying that they will "end the detention of LGBTIQ (and other) asylum seekers and the culture of disbelief that often denies them refugee status," as well as "challenge criminalisation, discrimination, and violence against LGBTIQ people in other countries and work in solidarity with campaigners there."Similarly, the SNP have said that they will establish "a diplomatic post within the Foreign Office—to promote the rights of LGBTI people throughout the world, as an integral part of foreign policy."The Labour Party have dedicated an entire page to "leadership on LGBT rights around the world" where they go into detail about—deep breath—appointing an international LGBT rights envoy, decriminalising homosexuality around the world, protecting the human rights act, improving the recognition of same sex marriage across the European Union, and reviewing the guidelines around applications for asylum on the basis of persecution for sexuality or gender identity.
Just because a politician is straight and/or cisgendered, doesn't mean they can't be sympathetic to the plight of LGBT people, but it'd be nice to know there's, like, a few of us in the hallowed halls of Parliament.In the last election, there were 20 openly gay Tory MPs, which is pretty reasonable for a party with a history of barely disguised bigotry. However, there has only been one well-known Tory lesbian MP, and there have been no Tory transgender MPs, or even candidates. Despite this, there's nothing in the manifesto about better visibility or representation in Parliament.Similarly, the Lib Dems haven't made too much of a song and dance about addressing the lack of LGBT people in Parliament—besides listing their 38 LGBT candidates on their website—despite claiming they will work to achieve greater representation of women and BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) people.The Green Party have also bypassed the lack of LGBT MPs in government, although have said they will push for accredited status for a Commonwealth LGBTIQ Association. SNP and Plaid Cymru have mentioned nothing. Neither have UKIP, funnily enough (although that hasn't stopped Kellie Maloney from making her voice heard.)Labour are the only party to have explicitly referred to the issue in their manifesto, saying they are "proud that 35 Labour candidates standing at this election are LGBT, including our first openly trans Parliamentary candidate Emily Brothers," and that they would "seek and support more LGBT people to run as candidates for public office," adding: "No LGBT person should ever be held back or put off from public office."Follow Daisy on Twitter.Get more of VICE UK's UK Election coverage here.