On Saturday I had the pleasure and honour of opening the 7th Sparkle in the Park in Manchester. Sparkle is the biggest event of its kind for the transgender community.
The transgender community as a group suffer a great deal of discrimination. It is a community that is small and little understood by the population at large. That most basic of questions when a child is born – is it a boy or is it a girl – is something that most of us never question or even have to think about.
But for those to whom the answer to that question is less clear as they grow – a lifetime of trying to exist in a binary gender system when those descriptions conflict with feelings – is what is born.
But things are changing. Sparkle, which as I said is in its 7th year, is a public statement from the community that they are standing out there and standing proud.
The Equality Act gives protection to the transgender community from discrimination in the same way as it gives protection for gender, sexual orientation, disability, race and other protected characteristics. But protection under the law is one thing. Hearts and minds need to follow – and whilst much has been achieved – there is still a hugely long way to go.
The trangender community suffer from a great deal of hate crime, discrimination at work, access to public services and generally a lack of understanding about what it means to be transgender. Whilst it is often joined to the LGB agenda as LGB&T – there is a world of difference between sexual orientation LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) and T (transgender) which is about gender identity and quite separate from sexual orientation.
Currently we (the government) has a consultation going on all the issues for the transgender community because we recognise that there are issues that need addressing separately from those that are addressed by our LGB&T workplan. We have had over 1200 responses so far – making this the largest ever in the UK.
These responses will form the basis on which we can make informed decisions about what changes are needed. I can’t promise that every aspect can be met – but we will use the information to do as much as is possible.
When I left Sparkle, having given the opening speech and met a number of those taking part and organising the day, the sun had come out – and Sparkle was sparkling. The turnout for this event in the park was huge. And it was striking that in a park where only a few years ago the transgender community wouldn’t have even dared to walk – now they were holding a party in that same park.
A huge thank you to Bella and her team for all the organisation – and a thank you for inviting me to share the day.