In just over a month the UK public will be taking to the polls to have their say on who will take the reins of the next Government, and who will be left behind fighting to have their voices heard.
The last five years have included some real successes for the LGBT community and some progress for trans communities. The most memorable for many is finally being able to legally marry their husband or wife. However, while I welcome this with open arms, the achievements of this government also present a big risk for the LGBT community.
That risk is complacency.
The risk is that people assume that legal equality is enough by itself. Yes we have come on leaps and bounds in terms of legislative change, but laws protecting trans and non-binary people need a major review, and rest assured there is still a lot to do to change social attitudes towards LGBT people.
We saw some clear illustrations of this very recently. The well-publicised comments made by Dolce and Gabbana for one insinuate that LGBT people should for some reason have different rights to others. Another great example was found in research released by YouGov and Pink News, which showed that 18% of people would be unhappy if their child was gay, rising to 39% if their child was trans. Stonewall's own figures tells us that this year alone more than 75,000 LGB young people will be bullied just for being who they are, and more than 21,000 will attempt suicide. Marriage is fantastic but with more than 100 hate crimes committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people every week, and two thirds still going unreported, it's not an end point.
Don't get me wrong, legislative change is great - it's the first real step to equality - and that's why we want all parties to commit to reviewing laws affecting trans people. But it's attitudes that we must continue to work to change, and we must not become complacent about doing so.
Britain is also only one part of the jigsaw. Many international LGBT communities face daily persecution, and in fact legislative change is often still a way behind. 77 countries around the world criminalise same-sex relationships, and five punish them by death.
As a result, we're asking for the parties to look at four main things, which we believe, if tackled, will have a huge positive impact on the LGBT community.
- Statutory Sex and Relationship Education for primary and secondary school children in England. This includes talking about different types of families to make people aware of the diversity of family life. It also means ensuring that the issues facing LGBT young people are included across the board, including in discussions around consent, abuse and online safety. Finally, Stonewall is calling on the next government to show its commitment to tackling homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying by ensuring all teachers are trained effectively.
- Combatting homophobic, biphobic and transphobic hate crime. This must be high priority and should be added to the list of 'aggravated' offences alongside hate crime based on race or religion. The next government should spearhead a campaign that encourages LGBT people to report all incidences of hate crime; we must abolish the notion that some incidents are not serious enough to report.
- International aid. The next government must develop initiatives to ensure aid reaches LGBT people across the world. It should encourage its partners to embed LGBT equality into the way they plan and deliver aid, with the support of LGBT people in their countries, and it should make specific funding available for LGBT groups to achieve social change.
- Reviewing the laws affecting trans people. We also know that across the UK trans people have to fight for the right to be themselves, often struggling with a legal system that doesn't make that easy. That's why we're asking all candidates to commit to reviewing laws affecting trans people, including the Gender Recognition Act, to ensure that all trans people are treated as equal citizens with equal rights.
Equality needs to sit at the heart of the political agenda, and we will call out any instances of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia that we see from any political party or candidate.
With five weeks to go until the election, the political parties all have a role in helping to change attitudes - here and abroad, and according to our research they all also have a long way to go to show voters that they are committed to tackling these issues. We surveyed more than 2000 LGB people and nearly half couldn't name a political party that they thought was committed to tackling homophobic hate crime or a party that they thought was committed to tackling homophobia in schools.
The political parties should be thinking long and hard about how they can help us fight for a world where every LGBT person can be themselves, and be safe, every day. No one knows who will come out on top in this election, and one in ten lesbian, gay and bisexual voters are still unsure where they're going to turn.
This sends a clear message that complacency cannot and should not get the better of anyone.