The founder of UK Black Pride has turned down an MBE from the 2016 New Year’s Honours List in protest of the persecution of LGBTQI people in the Commonwealth.
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, who is also a Stonewall trustee and Rainbow List judge, said that, while she was “honoured and grateful” to be selected for the accolade, she felt she had to turn it down.
She told DIVA magazine: "As a trade unionist, a working class girl, and an out black African lesbian, I want to stand by my principles and values.
"If you're a member of a minority - or multiple minorities - it's important to be visible as a role model for others [and] for your successes to be seen.”
She continued: “I don't believe in empire. I don't believe in, and actively resist, colonialism and its toxic and enduring legacy in the Commonwealth, where - among many other injustices - LGBTQI [lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex) people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed because of sodomy laws, including in Ghana, where I am from, that were put in place by British imperialists.”
According to the Independent, 39 Commonwealth countries still have repressive anti-LGBT laws.
Opoku-Gyimah is in good company, with a host of high profile figures who have turned down honours over the years, including Danny Boyle, Jon Snow and Stephen Hawking.
A number of LGBT people were honoured in the New Year’s list.
Tim Sigsworth of LGBT homeless charity The Albert Kennedy Trust was selected for an MBE while Paul Roberts, the chief executive of national charity LGBT Consortium was also awarded an OBE.
David Smith, first secretary of the foreign and Commonwealth office was chosen for an OBE for services in support of diversity and LGBT equality within the government.
Choreographer and director Matthew Bourne, who devised the all-male version of Swan Lake, was also knighted.