For Lesbian Visibility Week we are thrilled to have Hannah Bardell MP write her reflections on being a lesbian on the public sphere, how far we have come since the 1980s and where we still have to go.
This Lesbian Visibility Day I am reflecting on all of the empowering, progressive and inspiring queer and lesbian role models we now have, both within and outwith the political sphere. From Val McDermid to Linda Riley there have been many Lesbian women who have supported me, and who I look to as role models.
I am incredibly conscious that as an MP, who is also a lesbian I hold a position of significant power and privilege and with that comes a very significant sense of responsibility. So often we see those in power forget or disengage from their responsibility to makes the lives of those less privileged than themselves better. I am committed to using my voice and influence but I am also committed to challenging others in power to do their best for those in our community who still don’t have the rights that we enjoy. What use is power and privilege if it’s concentrated amongst a few and if those who have it, don’t use it to better the lives of others?
Growing up, I had very few, if any, LGBTQ role models. I grew up in the 80’s when being from a single mother family rendered me different and I often felt, odd. Then, the notion that I was attracted to other women seemed to much to bear.
Now I’m hugely proud of both my family background and my sexuality. Discriminatory legislation like section 28 and the horrible language and stereotypes applied to Lesbians and gay people made it impossible to contemplate coming to terms with who I really was. On reflection I know that if there were more outwardly proud lesbians for me to look to, and if society had been more accepting of who I was, I would probably have been spared much emotional and mental pain.
Therefore, I feel particularly moved to comment on the circumstances my trans sisters and brothers currently find themselves subjected to. The rise of transphobia in recent times has been utterly despicable and I feel certain we will look back on this time in years to come with a sense of deep shame at the transphobia that was allowed to permeate through society. Trans and non binary people are important members of our LGBTQ community and society. So to see the same old stereotypes that were used against people like me in the 70’s and 80’s makes my stomach turn. Their complex and emotional journeys are difficult enough already, without the addition of relentless abuse and harassment just for being their authentic selves and seeking to live their lives. I stand with the trans community, today and always.
I can reflect now, almost 7 years on from coming out as a lesbian, that so much has changed, that the next generation of young people are so much more accepting of each other whatever their gender identity or sexuality, that should give us so much hope for a brighter, fairer and more inclusive future.
I am hopeful for a future where everyone in our society is valued equally and I envision a time where all members of the LGBTQ+ community live as equal and valued members of our community, in a normal and independent Scotland. I will absolutely commit to using my voice and my privilege until we reach this point.