Hannah Bardell is the Scottish National Party MP for Livingston, winning the seat in 2015. She is currently a shadow SNP spokesperson on Foreign Affairs as well as International Development. She is a powerful and authentic voice in Parliament, including on LGBTQ+ rights.
Pride Month has come to a close, but we have a busy schedule of Pride events running until autumn in the UK.
I asked Hannah why Pride Month and marking Pride is important to her?
We are in a dangerous place in terms of the attack on trans and non-binary people in the UK. It’s important to celebrate how far we’ve come, but it’s a protest as well as celebration. In many parts of the world, it’s still illegal to be gay. In the USA there is a broader attack on LGBTQ+ rights. It’s so important to highlight the experiences of our community and talk about the challenges we still face, but also what legislation we need.
Which LGBTQ+ issues concern you the most in the UK?
At the moment the treatment of trans and non-binary people, particularly in the media but we also need changes to legislation. Banning conversion therapy and simplifying and humanising the gender recognition process are at the top of the list. There are broader issues about religion and the LGBTQ+ community. The Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church have come a long way. We can, parish-by-parish, get married and are embraced. The Church of England is still not there yet and we have Church of England Bishops in the House of Lords, legislating but they’re not willing to follow the law of the land. We have other religious groups and organisations where we need to make much more progress.
Can you expand on this?
There is a broader concern about political discourse and the narrative is that people are in their own corners, they don’t necessarily want to talk to each other. We have to open our hearts and minds, because there’s a lot of misinformation out there which is leading to fear, discrimination and hurt. There is also still a postcode lottery around fertility treatment, particularly in England and Wales. It’s a bit better in Scotland, but there are still challenges in terms of access and funding. We’ve come a long way in education. Time for Inclusive Education has done amazing work in Scottish schools. Unfortunately, what we have seen in England is not as much progress and potentially a rolling back of rights. Many people fear we might end up in another Section 28 situation.
Which LGBTQ+ issues concern you the most globally?
The basic and fundamental rights of LGBTQ+ people. In recent years I’ve visited Malawi, where trans people are not even recognised. Turning a blind eye isn’t good enough. We need concrete progress. Other countries, like Namibia, have just legalised same-sex marriage. Then again, I was in Tunisia last Easter where I met with an LGBTQ+ charity. They were having to lie to their families about what they did and where they work. Some of these countries are former colonial nations that have laws which were passed in the UK and are being used to persecute the LGBTQ+ community.
Would you encourage young LGBTQ+ people to go into politics?
I absolutely would. We are now the queerest parliament in the world. That’s great, but it isn’t good enough to just have the greatest number of LGBTQ+ MPs. We need them to stand up for our community. There is still something, for me, about being a queer person, also from a working-class background, a single parent family, that drives you to be involved in societal change. Being an MP comes with challenges and threats, but it is also one of the best jobs in the world. Most of what you do isn’t party-political, in that we’re employed to help and serve our communities and that is the greatest privilege you can have.
Do you have a message for GAY TIMES readers?
Keep fighting. We have stood together through so much and there are powerful forces trying to divide us. We need to resist and stand together. My identity as a cis lesbian is not diminished or erased by the existence of trans and non-binary people; in fact, it’s enhanced, because they’re a beautiful part of our community that must be celebrated.
Find Hannah on Instagram.