Comment: My hopes for gay people in the year ahead

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Writing for PinkNews, Lib Dem Parish and Borough Councillor Mathew Hulbert reflects on 2013, and notes hopes for the year ahead.

For Gay people in England and Wales, 2013 will always be primarily remembered for Equal Marriage becoming law.

A glorious, shimmering step forward for LGBT equality in our Country, but elsewhere it was, sadly, a year of setbacks in places such as India and Australia.

So, as we’re at the start of a brand New Year, what are my hopes for 2014?

Well, sticking with equal marriage, I can’t wait to see the TV coverage of the first weddings in March and how those against it in the right-wing press and their political cohorts will be able to do absolutely nothing about it.

We hope that Scotland will continue on the road to enacting equal marriage North of the Border too.

That’d leave only one corner of the UK stuck in the backwaters of defending inequality…Northern Ireland.

I pay tribute to the many people campaigning for progress in the province, trying to open up many closed hearts.

One of those people is Stephen Donnan, Convenor of the LGBT group in The Alliance Party who has been an important advocate for change in 2013 and who, I predict, will gain further prominence in 2014.

Next, I hope that our Government won’t feel that that’s everything all tied up in terms of LGBT equality and rights as there’s much, much more still to be done.

For me top of that list is the need to tackle homophobic bullying in the school and the workplace.

According to Stonewall’s School Report homophobic bullying remains widespread in Britain’s schools, with 55% of gay, lesbian and §ual pupils having experienced bullying.

A further shocking statistic, also found by that report, is that two in five gay young people have attempted or thought about taking their own life directly because of bullying.

This should be making national headlines and should be seen as a national emergency.

I’m very concerned that some schools aren’t taking the issue of bullying in general-and homophobic bullying especially-seriously enough; they have policies set down but are they being followed?

I also look forward to local authorities continuing to ensure they’re providing the very best service they can to the LGBT community and making sure they cater for our particular needs.

I certainly intend to continue to be a voice for our community on my authority.

Another seminal moment this year was young Tom Daley’s YouTube video where he told the world he was currently dating a guy.

I was asked on to BBC Radio Leicester the following day to discuss why this was important and if someone ‘coming out’ should still be news?

I said in reply that, in once sense, it shouldn’t – that someone being gay should not be seen as something other than perfectly normal – but that, for as long as there’s still people who fear coming out because of the discrimination they might face, then announcements like that of Tom are important because, as a famous face and a sportsman to boot, he has the power to affect lots of other young lives.

I remember around the same time I came out, aged 31 in 2011, the England cricketer Steven Davies also announced he was gay and the subsequent interviews he gave really inspired me and encouraged me to also be very open about my sexuality…which led to a newspaper article and a radio interview.

Not because my being gay was particularly newsworthy, but in the hope of letting other people know that it’s OK to be open about who you are.

I’m no kind of sportsman, as my friends will attest, but I hope in 2014 more professional sportsmen will come out and help ensure that the playing field, the locker room and, indeed, the stands are not somewhere that have to be feared by LGBT people.

And, finally, looking at the international scene that there’ll be renewed focus and energy in fighting for LGBT rights wherever they’re being infringed, thinking especially of places where to be gay remains a criminal offence.

We need our leaders to put pressure on their global counterparts who are not living up to the standards we expect in this field.

Gay rights are human rights and we must not rest until they are recognised right around the World.

So, that’s my wish list for the next twelve months.

2013 has been a big year…so 2014 has a lot to live up to.

Oh and, before I forget, more Ben Cohen and Harry Judd on TV, please.

Happy New Year!

Mathew is a Liberal Democrat Parish and Borough Councillor in Leicestershire and is on the Management Committee of a charity which provides an LGBT Advocacy and Advice Service in his area.