THE BLOG

LGBT Rights In 2017: A Queen's New Year Message

31/12/2016 13:36 GMT | Updated 31/12/2016 13:36 GMT

2016 been a funny old year, hasn't it? From Brexit to Trump, and a fair few celebrity deaths in between, we've seen our political and cultural landscape rapidly change around us, provoking feelings of uncertainty and fear.

When the Equal Marriage Act was passed in 2013, allowing marriages between same-sex couples to be considered equal to "straight" marriage, we finally felt that our Parliament had acknowledged that LGBT rights should be enshrined within British Law, placing our community on an equal footing with all members of our society.

Of course, simply creating laws does not change the attitudes of people on the streets. Following the divisive Brexit campaigns and the vote to Leave, we saw an 147% increase in LGBT hate crime, as well as an increase racist attacks too. After America voted in Donald Trump after a particularly aggressive and divisive campaign which targeted many minority groups (the disabled, Latin people, black people, women, gay people, immigrants, humans without 'Trump' as a surname) the US also saw an increase in hate crime, including homophobic attacks as well as attacks on ethnic minority groups.

2016 also saw the horrors of the Orlando Nightclub Massacre, an attack by an Islamic State inspired terrorist who specifically targeted the LGBT community. This attack and other hate crimes serve to remind us that whilst laws may have been passed to protect us, in reality our rights and personal safety as a minority community are in a constant state of flux. As 2017 will bring the full effects of a Trump Presidency and Brexit, as well as the possibly of a Far-Right Presidency in France, I worry that feelings of fear and division could lead to further attacks on the LGBT community rights as well as other minority groups.

History had taught us that it's minority groups that are often made scapegoats and targeted at times of political and economic uncertainty. This means that as the year progresses we must continue to call out crimes and injustices against all minority groups, standing united alongside our friends and allies in defending equal rights for all.

For me, I feel particularly strongly that we allow our straight friends and allies to stand with us. No one is too "privileged" to stand up for another person's rights; in my mind a friend is a friend and I'm thankful and honoured for their love and support (even more so when it's in the form of posing for calendars).

It also goes without saying that it is incredibly important to engage with the political system too, whether that's voting in local elections and by-elections in 2017, attending peaceful protests such as Pride marches and signing petitions, we must use the platforms our political system has to ensure that minority voices are heard and represented.

We don't yet know what further political and cultural changes are to come in 2017, though it's a personal resolution of mine to become more involved in politics away from social media and the internet and to take actions in a way which has a positive effect on LGBT rights and rights for all minority groups.

By standing together and fighting for one another rather than against each other, we can make 2017 a happier, more just and fairer year than 2016.