Often at the heart of stories is pain. It’s something a lot of us can connect with, and something that bizarrely, but comfortingly ties us all together as human beings. We know what it’s like to be in, or go through pain. But what is important when it comes to narratives, is who’s pain should be highlighted over others.
After news broke last week regarding Jayne Ozanne’s decision to leave her role within the UK Government as leading equality advisor, it was discussed that the administration had created a “hostile environment” for LGBTQ+ people. As people who are within this community, it surprises me that it takes others so long to realise that the current government and it’s many factions and faces has in fact not just created a hostile environment, but fuelled one.
Ozanne’s decision to leave became focused on this one individual’s “painful decision” to resign. Her plight was centered, and she revealed throughout the interview her shock that the Conservative Government were in her words, “Ministers of Inequality”. This shock and awe may be news to some, but to LGBTQ+ people who don’t have dalliances with a right-leaning governmental power, it’s hardly a revelation.
But enough of my sour grapes at a Conservative woman being shocked at the bigotry within the Conservative Party. The reason behind Ozanne’s decision to leave came after a debate in the House of Commons on 8 March, brought forward after a petition gained more than 250,000 signatures discussing the need to urgently implement a ban on conversion therapy. Since Theresa May first raised the issue in 2018 as part of her LGBT Action Plan, and now Boris Johnson since undertaking of the Premiership, conversion therapy has been continuously highlighted as a practice that should and would be banned. Three years after May’s inaction, and now with Boris’ blundering delays, we are still witnessing the cruel, deadly and devastating effects of conversion therapy in our community. It’s ban is “iminent” ministers say, as they also detail it’s “on Boris’ desk”, as if it’s sat there like an old takeaway menu he keeps forgetting to take out to the recycling bin.
As an Advisor to the Government, a former Conservative Party Member, and being part of a Gay Evangelical group, Ozanne described what the reality was like within Westminster when it came to discussing and advising on LGBTQ+ rights.
“I’ve been increasingly concerned about what is seen to be a hostile environment for LGBT people among this administration,” she said. “Over the years which the advisory panel has met, we’ve seen an increasing lack of engagement and the actions of ministers have frankly been against our advice … The language that I hear from them is of us being woke, or of being loud lobby groups, and what they don’t seem to understand is the reason we have to shout is because we are hurting, because there are people who are vulnerable who are going unheard and unnoticed. I do not believe this Tory government, sadly, have the best wishes of the LGBT community at heart. Instead we seem to have a Trumpesque mode of operation where they’re listening to the right-wing evangelicals and those frankly who want to take us back.”
But this is where my sympathy with Ozanne stops. She describes Boris as someone she believes to be “a friend of the LGBTQ+ community” and appears shocked at the revelation that the Tory party don’t in fact have the LGBTQ+ community’s best interest at heart. A wholly privileged, short sighted and naive comment, from someone clearly acknowledging her position, but not necessarily her privilege.
A man who has not only described gay men in the past as ‘tank topped bum boys’, but abstained from extending the vote for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland in 2019, Boris’ personal and professional record speaks for itself. His party’s political record does the same, with Section 28, the atrocities of the AIDS crisis, and more recently thanks to Liz Truss MP, unacceptable delays to the reformation of the Gender Recognition Act result that has left trans people especially feeling outcast, disowned, unprotected and left to fend for themselves when it comes to any form of social or political security.
As queer people, when we say ‘don’t kiss a Tory’, it’s not because we’re gay and can’t help but make a joke about kissing other men. It’s because of the deep, engrained pain that this Government has allowed our community to endure, for many of us, all of our living lives. If we have learned anything from the past few weeks’ worth of coverage on our news channels, it’s that we live in a country that can never be told that it is wrong, for it will then redefine what it deems as right or wrong, so that its reputation will never be damaged. Racism, transphobia, Islamophobia. The Conservative Party will continue to think it’s fair and just to move the goal posts of what it deems as ‘offensive’, to avoid any accountability.
Time and time again, the Conservative Party has under promised, and never delivered. For LGBTQ+ people with the Gender Recognition Act Consultation; with these enamoured pleas that they will end conversion therapy; and the hollow tweets and jeers from MPs during Pride that we live in a country where ‘you can be who you want to be’. Well I’m sorry to break it to you Jeremy Hunt, but we can’t.
Jayne Ozanne’s decision to leave the party, as well as step down from being an LGBTQ+ Advisor is inconsequential, because her ability to engage with the party as an LGBTQ+ Advisor, and a Conservative member is an oxymoron. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure she has advised the Government on LGBTQ+ issues. But if your advice is coming from a truly Conservative perspective, it’s not going to be inclusive or fair for all. It’s going to continue to benefit those who are at the top with the most privilege, because your worldview as a Tory ignores those that are not white and ‘familiar’.
To end, Ozanne said she feared “that we are going back to the days of Thatcher, the days of Section 28”, and all I can muster to say is (thanks to that infamous Come Dine With Me ending), what a sad little life Jayne. Yes we are, and the sooner that the rest of LGBTQ+ community take their heads out of the sand and realise that there are an increasingly large amount of us that fear for our lives, our freedom and our ability to survive in this country on a daily basis, the better.