Jo swinsonLiberal Democratsphillip leePoliticstim farronUK

Jo Swinson on sharing space with trans women, ‘tank-topped bum boys’ and whether or not gay sex is a sin

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In a Q&A with PinkNews Jo Swinson has distanced herself from her former party leader Tim Farron and Lib Dem candidate Dr Phillip Lee over their views on LGBT+ issues.

The Liberal Democrat leader told PinkNews that she “disagrees with anyone who thinks being gay somehow equates with sin”, stressing that the “party position” of the party is to champion equality.

She also addressed unrest in the party over the defection of former Tory MP Dr Phillip Lee, telling PinkNews that she doesn’t agree with the Lee’s suggestion that transgender prisoners should be held in segregated facilities.

Jo Swinson, whose manifesto pledges to press ahead with trans-inclusive reforms, said she is “completely baffled and so sad” to see concerns over trans women’s access to single-sex spaces, adding: “Of course I feel safe sharing spaces with other women, whether they are cis or trans.”

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson distanced herself from the views of several Lib Dem candidates
Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson distanced herself from the views of several Lib Dem candidates (ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

PinkNews: Is gay sex a sin, and is there room in the Liberal Democrats for people who think it is?

Jo Swinson: Gay, straight, bi, love is love – I disagree with anyone who thinks being gay somehow equates with sin. Liberal Democrats have always and will always proudly champion LGBT+ rights, and work to build an inclusive society that celebrates love. That has always been our party position and always will be.

I disagree with anyone who thinks being gay somehow equates with sin.

Your manifesto says you want to ‘tackle bullying in schools based on sexuality and gender identity’. If a school child tells his LGBT+ classmate that it’s a sin to be gay, what do you think his punishment should be?
With children, I don’t think the question ever starts with punishment, but with working out why a child is behaving the way they are – and teaching them about the importance of empathy. No child is born wanting to be cruel or hateful – and it’s our jobs as parents, as teachers, as society as a whole to teach them respect and care for the people they know.

Two chairs of the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats have resigned because they say you haven’t addressed concerns over anti-LGBT+ Tories defecting to your party. What’s your response to them?

The thing I like most about the Liberal Democrats is how we make our values known. It’s not in leader’s speeches or manifestos written behind closed doors – it’s about the policy we debate and decide from the conference floor. That’s where equal marriage came from, and where our Trans and Intersex Charter came from, and where our commitments to stop the deportation of gay asylum seekers to countries where they would come to harm came from too. People may join us from different places, but they join us and everything that we stand for together.

Do you agree with your candidate Phillip Lee that transgender prisoners should be held in segregated facilities?

No, I don’t. We know that trans prisoners – as the trans population as a whole – are more likely to encounter discrimination and violence than commit it. We saw with the tragic deaths of Vikki Thompson and Joanne Latham in 2015 the impact of forcing trans women to serve their sentences in male prisons. I supported the changes made by the Ministry of Justice to guidelines following these women’s deaths – making clear that the prison system should treat prisoners according to the gender with which they identify, including assessing them for risk in exactly the same way as cis prisoners – and was deeply disappointed to see these changes rolled back as the government abandoned its commitments to trans recognition and equality.

A lot of opposition to reforms of the Gender Recognition Act comes from people who claim women have concerns. As a female leader, would you feel safe sharing a space with trans women?

I know this is my privilege talking, but I’m completely baffled and so sad that these questions are still being asked in 2019 as if there is any reason to say ‘no’. Yes, of course I feel safe sharing spaces with other women, whether they are cis or trans.

Yes, of course I feel safe sharing spaces with other women, whether they are cis or trans.

Your manifesto commits to reversing some coalition government policies on LGBT+ rights, like the spousal veto and the legal ban on same-sex Church of England weddings. Do you think the Lib Dems made mistakes in coalition on these issues?

This is a question of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Does the current legislation need improving? Yes. But I’m so proud to have been in the party that pushed same-sex marriage onto the statute books. We only need to look at the stellar work Lib Dem members of the House of Lords have been doing to make these changes – including being forced, so utterly unfairly, to leave their own churches – to see that we are pushing to improve this law for the future.

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson launches the Liberal Democrat election manifesto
Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson launches the Liberal Democrat election manifesto (Dan Kitwood/Getty)

The Liberal Democrats are one of the only parties in parliament with no out LGBT+ MPs. Why do you think this is, and what have you done to help improve diversity in this election?

With a smaller party in parliament, it’s always more difficult to get the diverse representation you have in other parts of your party (around 12 per cent of Lib Dem members are LGBT+) – but it’s not an excuse and our we need to work on increasing diversity of all kinds including LGBT+ representation. And I am so proud that we have amazing LGBT+ candidates standing for us at this election, including Helen Belcher and Matt Sanders.

When did LGBT+ rights first become an integral part of your political agenda?

I remember watching Philadelphia in the 90s and being so shocked by the discrimination it depicted. I’d like to say I didn’t see this type of blatant homophobia in real life, but with gay friends as I was growing up, it became something we were all far too used to. It was that belief in equality and opportunity free from discrimination that made LGBT+ rights essential to my politics.

Have you ever let your hair down in a gay bar? If so, can you talk about your experience?

Yes! I’ve had many great nights out at Bennett’s in Glasgow. Though now I’m definitely showing my age – I don’t even want to know how long it’s been closed for! Though experiences are a different matter – I confess I don’t remember everything about the best nights out…

Do you think anyone who uses a homophobic slur like ‘tank-topped bum boys’ is fit to lead the United Kingdom?

God, no. Does anyone?

Who is your own personal gay icon and, equally, who is your trans hero?

For my own personal gay icon – Sally Ride, without a doubt. She was a kick-ass physicist and was the first American woman in space in 1983. Despite being such an amazing, accomplished woman, Sally’s decision to keep her 27-year relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy private until she died is a powerful reminder that we still have a long way to go to ensure everyone in the LGBT+ community is included for who they are.

And my trans hero is someone a lot closer to home – the fabulous Stephanie Hirst who I worked with before she transitioned, at Viking FM in Hull. When she came out in 2014, I was horrified to discover that the radio station she was presenting for told her that they didn’t think she should be on air while she transitioned – that after 11 years she was no longer seen as being ‘commercially viable’. It was only 5 years ago, and just like with Sally Ride, it was such an important reminder that we still need to fight so hard against discrimination.

When did you first witness an example of transphobia and how did it make you feel?

It’s not the first time but it definitely counts as the most depressing and the one that makes me the most angry – the current, constant onslaught of sensationalist media coverage. There’s not even a specific place to begin – it’s just perpetually nasty bigotry.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson unveiled the pro-LGBT platform
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson unveiled the pro-LGBT platform (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Madonna or Cher? And, more importantly, why?

Madonna! I love her and I loved seeing her live. So many absolute classic tunes, so many reinventions, so much being herself and not giving a s**t what other people say about her.

What is your earliest memory of a Pride parade and can you speak to it?

It’s not my earliest, but my strongest memory of Pride has to be 2013 when I was pregnant and it was a really hot day – but I think that’s more a message about parades when you’re in your second trimester rather than anything else! I really loved this year’s Prides in Glasgow and London where I marched with so many LGBT+ Lib Dems and their big ‘Bollocks to Hate’ signs, and accessorised with a gorgeous rainbow feather hairband. Such a gorgeous, colourful carnival or love.

What do you think the Lib Dems’ proudest moment is on the issue of LGBT+ equality and queer rights?

This one’s an easy one – all the work my wonderful colleague Lynne Featherstone did to introduce same-sex marriage when we were in Government. The Tories try and steal credit, but we heard only a couple of months ago from David Cameron that he didn’t even support it. It wouldn’t have happened without Lynne and she deserves so much respect for her work.

Then-women and equalities minister Jo Swinson makes a speech during the opening day of the Liberal Democrat spring party conference on March 8, 2013 (Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

As a humanist, do you support the campaign to legally recognise humanist weddings in England and Wales?

Absolutely! I had a Humanist wedding myself in Scotland where they’ve been legally-recognised since 2005 – everyone should be able to.

In Scotland, the NHS funds IVF for gay couples starting a family through surrogacy. This is not allowed in England. Would you reform the NHS to make IVF equal and will you consider reforming surrogacy laws to give gay intended parents more rights? Right now, surrogates can decide to keep the baby, even if they have no genetic link.

I’m appalled by the postcode lottery that exists for NHS funding of IVF. There are clear guidelines in England for what should be provided, but we know that fewer than one in five areas provides in line with this guidance. It’s bad for same-sex couples, bad for women, and bad for modern families who may already have children from pre-existing relationships. More work needs to be done to develop fair and equitable IVF services across the country, as Liberal Democrats have been supporting in parliament. I’ve also been pleased to see the Law Commission proposals for reforming surrogacy law – largely off the back of the work our wonderful Lib Dem peer Liz Barker and campaigners like Dustin Lance Black have been doing. They have made sure we all know that surrogacy law is woefully out of date and does not always work well for either intended parents or surrogates. I look forward to the Law Commission’s suggestions and hope to see proposals for reform in parliament soon.

Why should a LGBT+ voter check the ballot box for Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems on 12 December?

Because we’re the only party standing up – as we always have – for every part of the LGBT+ community.

The post Jo Swinson on sharing space with trans women, ‘tank-topped bum boys’ and whether or not gay sex is a sin appeared first on PinkNews – Gay news, reviews and comment from the world's most read lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans news service.

https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2019/12/09/jo-swinson-liberal-democrats-general-election-gay-sex-trans-prisoners-phillip-lee-interview/

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Jo swinsonLiberal Democratsphillip leePoliticstim farronUK

Jo Swinson on sharing space with trans women, ‘tank-topped bum boys’ and whether or not gay sex is a sin

0views
CrisisTextLineLeaderboard

In a Q&A with PinkNews Jo Swinson has distanced herself from her former party leader Tim Farron and Lib Dem candidate Dr Phillip Lee over their views on LGBT+ issues.

The Liberal Democrat leader told PinkNews that she “disagrees with anyone who thinks being gay somehow equates with sin”, stressing that the “party position” of the party is to champion equality.

She also addressed unrest in the party over the defection of former Tory MP Dr Phillip Lee, telling PinkNews that she doesn’t agree with the Lee’s suggestion that transgender prisoners should be held in segregated facilities.

Jo Swinson, whose manifesto pledges to press ahead with trans-inclusive reforms, said she is “completely baffled and so sad” to see concerns over trans women’s access to single-sex spaces, adding: “Of course I feel safe sharing spaces with other women, whether they are cis or trans.”

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson distanced herself from the views of several Lib Dem candidates
Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson distanced herself from the views of several Lib Dem candidates (ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

PinkNews: Is gay sex a sin, and is there room in the Liberal Democrats for people who think it is?

Jo Swinson: Gay, straight, bi, love is love – I disagree with anyone who thinks being gay somehow equates with sin. Liberal Democrats have always and will always proudly champion LGBT+ rights, and work to build an inclusive society that celebrates love. That has always been our party position and always will be.

I disagree with anyone who thinks being gay somehow equates with sin.

Your manifesto says you want to ‘tackle bullying in schools based on sexuality and gender identity’. If a school child tells his LGBT+ classmate that it’s a sin to be gay, what do you think his punishment should be?
With children, I don’t think the question ever starts with punishment, but with working out why a child is behaving the way they are – and teaching them about the importance of empathy. No child is born wanting to be cruel or hateful – and it’s our jobs as parents, as teachers, as society as a whole to teach them respect and care for the people they know.

Two chairs of the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats have resigned because they say you haven’t addressed concerns over anti-LGBT+ Tories defecting to your party. What’s your response to them?

The thing I like most about the Liberal Democrats is how we make our values known. It’s not in leader’s speeches or manifestos written behind closed doors – it’s about the policy we debate and decide from the conference floor. That’s where equal marriage came from, and where our Trans and Intersex Charter came from, and where our commitments to stop the deportation of gay asylum seekers to countries where they would come to harm came from too. People may join us from different places, but they join us and everything that we stand for together.

Do you agree with your candidate Phillip Lee that transgender prisoners should be held in segregated facilities?

No, I don’t. We know that trans prisoners – as the trans population as a whole – are more likely to encounter discrimination and violence than commit it. We saw with the tragic deaths of Vikki Thompson and Joanne Latham in 2015 the impact of forcing trans women to serve their sentences in male prisons. I supported the changes made by the Ministry of Justice to guidelines following these women’s deaths – making clear that the prison system should treat prisoners according to the gender with which they identify, including assessing them for risk in exactly the same way as cis prisoners – and was deeply disappointed to see these changes rolled back as the government abandoned its commitments to trans recognition and equality.

A lot of opposition to reforms of the Gender Recognition Act comes from people who claim women have concerns. As a female leader, would you feel safe sharing a space with trans women?

I know this is my privilege talking, but I’m completely baffled and so sad that these questions are still being asked in 2019 as if there is any reason to say ‘no’. Yes, of course I feel safe sharing spaces with other women, whether they are cis or trans.

Yes, of course I feel safe sharing spaces with other women, whether they are cis or trans.

Your manifesto commits to reversing some coalition government policies on LGBT+ rights, like the spousal veto and the legal ban on same-sex Church of England weddings. Do you think the Lib Dems made mistakes in coalition on these issues?

This is a question of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Does the current legislation need improving? Yes. But I’m so proud to have been in the party that pushed same-sex marriage onto the statute books. We only need to look at the stellar work Lib Dem members of the House of Lords have been doing to make these changes – including being forced, so utterly unfairly, to leave their own churches – to see that we are pushing to improve this law for the future.

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson launches the Liberal Democrat election manifesto
Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson launches the Liberal Democrat election manifesto (Dan Kitwood/Getty)

The Liberal Democrats are one of the only parties in parliament with no out LGBT+ MPs. Why do you think this is, and what have you done to help improve diversity in this election?

With a smaller party in parliament, it’s always more difficult to get the diverse representation you have in other parts of your party (around 12 per cent of Lib Dem members are LGBT+) – but it’s not an excuse and our we need to work on increasing diversity of all kinds including LGBT+ representation. And I am so proud that we have amazing LGBT+ candidates standing for us at this election, including Helen Belcher and Matt Sanders.

When did LGBT+ rights first become an integral part of your political agenda?

I remember watching Philadelphia in the 90s and being so shocked by the discrimination it depicted. I’d like to say I didn’t see this type of blatant homophobia in real life, but with gay friends as I was growing up, it became something we were all far too used to. It was that belief in equality and opportunity free from discrimination that made LGBT+ rights essential to my politics.

Have you ever let your hair down in a gay bar? If so, can you talk about your experience?

Yes! I’ve had many great nights out at Bennett’s in Glasgow. Though now I’m definitely showing my age – I don’t even want to know how long it’s been closed for! Though experiences are a different matter – I confess I don’t remember everything about the best nights out…

Do you think anyone who uses a homophobic slur like ‘tank-topped bum boys’ is fit to lead the United Kingdom?

God, no. Does anyone?

Who is your own personal gay icon and, equally, who is your trans hero?

For my own personal gay icon – Sally Ride, without a doubt. She was a kick-ass physicist and was the first American woman in space in 1983. Despite being such an amazing, accomplished woman, Sally’s decision to keep her 27-year relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy private until she died is a powerful reminder that we still have a long way to go to ensure everyone in the LGBT+ community is included for who they are.

And my trans hero is someone a lot closer to home – the fabulous Stephanie Hirst who I worked with before she transitioned, at Viking FM in Hull. When she came out in 2014, I was horrified to discover that the radio station she was presenting for told her that they didn’t think she should be on air while she transitioned – that after 11 years she was no longer seen as being ‘commercially viable’. It was only 5 years ago, and just like with Sally Ride, it was such an important reminder that we still need to fight so hard against discrimination.

When did you first witness an example of transphobia and how did it make you feel?

It’s not the first time but it definitely counts as the most depressing and the one that makes me the most angry – the current, constant onslaught of sensationalist media coverage. There’s not even a specific place to begin – it’s just perpetually nasty bigotry.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson unveiled the pro-LGBT platform
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson unveiled the pro-LGBT platform (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Madonna or Cher? And, more importantly, why?

Madonna! I love her and I loved seeing her live. So many absolute classic tunes, so many reinventions, so much being herself and not giving a s**t what other people say about her.

What is your earliest memory of a Pride parade and can you speak to it?

It’s not my earliest, but my strongest memory of Pride has to be 2013 when I was pregnant and it was a really hot day – but I think that’s more a message about parades when you’re in your second trimester rather than anything else! I really loved this year’s Prides in Glasgow and London where I marched with so many LGBT+ Lib Dems and their big ‘Bollocks to Hate’ signs, and accessorised with a gorgeous rainbow feather hairband. Such a gorgeous, colourful carnival or love.

What do you think the Lib Dems’ proudest moment is on the issue of LGBT+ equality and queer rights?

This one’s an easy one – all the work my wonderful colleague Lynne Featherstone did to introduce same-sex marriage when we were in Government. The Tories try and steal credit, but we heard only a couple of months ago from David Cameron that he didn’t even support it. It wouldn’t have happened without Lynne and she deserves so much respect for her work.

Then-women and equalities minister Jo Swinson makes a speech during the opening day of the Liberal Democrat spring party conference on March 8, 2013 (Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

As a humanist, do you support the campaign to legally recognise humanist weddings in England and Wales?

Absolutely! I had a Humanist wedding myself in Scotland where they’ve been legally-recognised since 2005 – everyone should be able to.

In Scotland, the NHS funds IVF for gay couples starting a family through surrogacy. This is not allowed in England. Would you reform the NHS to make IVF equal and will you consider reforming surrogacy laws to give gay intended parents more rights? Right now, surrogates can decide to keep the baby, even if they have no genetic link.

I’m appalled by the postcode lottery that exists for NHS funding of IVF. There are clear guidelines in England for what should be provided, but we know that fewer than one in five areas provides in line with this guidance. It’s bad for same-sex couples, bad for women, and bad for modern families who may already have children from pre-existing relationships. More work needs to be done to develop fair and equitable IVF services across the country, as Liberal Democrats have been supporting in parliament. I’ve also been pleased to see the Law Commission proposals for reforming surrogacy law – largely off the back of the work our wonderful Lib Dem peer Liz Barker and campaigners like Dustin Lance Black have been doing. They have made sure we all know that surrogacy law is woefully out of date and does not always work well for either intended parents or surrogates. I look forward to the Law Commission’s suggestions and hope to see proposals for reform in parliament soon.

Why should a LGBT+ voter check the ballot box for Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems on 12 December?

Because we’re the only party standing up – as we always have – for every part of the LGBT+ community.

The post Jo Swinson on sharing space with trans women, ‘tank-topped bum boys’ and whether or not gay sex is a sin appeared first on PinkNews – Gay news, reviews and comment from the world's most read lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans news service.

https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2019/12/09/jo-swinson-liberal-democrats-general-election-gay-sex-trans-prisoners-phillip-lee-interview/

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