Monday, 9 May 2011

Gay political representations in the Green Party: the next phase

In one of my recent blog posts, I talked about the challenges those of us interested in LGBT rights within political parties need to wrestle with in the next couple of years. After thirteen years of unprecedented change in both legal and social terms, coming to terms with your sexuality has become a little easier for most young people. There is still a great deal more to do for these changes to be grounded permanently in the fabric of national life.

For me, the struggles that we need to confront in the coming years are four-fold:

1. Transforming the education system to protect LGBT students from bullying, whilst becoming more comfortable in educating all students clearly about sexuality.
2. Working closely with LGBT communities across the globe to support their struggles for equality in ways that make sense for them, rather than imposing Western cultural values or strategies.
3. Binding the solidarity between lesbian and gay men to truly embrace transgender and bi equality and to renew the links between the LGBT movement and those striving towards gender equality.
4. Breaking through the barriers of representation in every walk of life.

The final of these has a resonance within the Green Party. We've been rightly proud of being the most progressive, consistent and uncompromising on the equality agenda and those within the party who have worked on this deserve our profound thanks. Their work has kept our political opponents feet to the fire on these issues and contributed to the political consensus that shaped the Blair government's legislative programme for LGBT citizens.

However, looking at the work being undertaken by other political parties, we are slipping behind on building up our capacity in this area. In structural terms, the LGBT Greens group has relied upon the over-stretched time of a very small core of committed people. Without a constitution, terms of reference or even job descriptions for the officers, it is unsurprising that nobody new is coming forward to get involved. Elections for these positions are very informal and therefore not as transparent as they should be. With the massive influx of new members to the Green Party, this isn't conducive to harnessing fresh energy.

I am really keen that at this year's LGBT Greens AGM at the GP Annual Conference, we bring more clarity and take the time to fix the foundations of the group so that it can achieve even more. We should be using the opportunities afforded by the Green Party members site, Green Activist magazine, other publications and websites and conference fringe events to publicise membership more frequently. We should be identifying prominent LGBT champions within the national party to speak on our behalf. We should work to mentor or twin younger or newer activists with more experienced role models so that we can build upon the successes of electing LGBT representatives to date. (The new crop of councillors in Brighton & Hove are an excellent example!) And we should be undertaking modest fundraising from our supporters to give us the resources to do so, in much the same way as the Young Greens are beginning to translate their energy into concrete achievements and a stronger profile with non-political campaign organisations. We have so much untapped potential in the party.

Finally, and possibly controversially, we should seek to work with our counterpart LGBT groups in the other political parties where possible on joint campaign work. Half the battle is changing the mood music on political issues and a united front across the board would assist this. I am a firm believer that there are bigger issues than party political advantage.

This is a considerable programme of action - and I am personally happy to put my money where my mouth is and put myself forward to help deliver on some of this. I'll be speaking up for this at the September Conference and I hope others will join me in striving for an energised group, orientated once more to become leaders in the equality debate as it enters a new chapter.

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