As the UK’s first openly lesbian cabinet minister, I’m calling on Liz Truss to save a vital lifeline for generations of LGBT+ people

Justine Greening, the first lesbian minster on the British cabinet. (Social Mobility Pledge)

Justine Greening, the former British Conservative Party equalities chief and the first-ever openly lesbian cabinet minister, writes for PinkNews about her campaign to save the nation’s shrinking LGBT+ venue scene, under threat from the coronavirus pandemic.

Four years ago I came out as the UK’s first openly gay female cabinet minister.

To this day I remember the feeling of relief and pride when I pressed send on that warm Saturday morning, something I had worried about talking about was now something people were getting in touch to congratulate me on.

I received thousands of supportive emails and tweets from people – some who were struggling to come out, others from proud parents, and even some people who had been inspired by it to finally talk to their family and friends about who they were.

That feeling of connection and community is to this day what Pride reminds me of.

This Pride season is very different to the one we would usually have, in normal times London this week would be building up to a rainbow celebration – one of the biggest in the world.

Instead, we have the chance to reflect on how far as a movement we have come, from the Stonewall Riots in 1969 to the 1999 bombing of the Admiral Duncan. The opportunity to reflect is welcome, it’s sometimes easy to look at a pride parade or an LGBT+ venue and see it as a big party but the importance of these events and venues has never been more important.

Justine Greening campaigns to save LGBT+ venues after lockdown

Former Tory equalities chief Justine Greening. (Social Mobility Pledge)

For lots of LGBT+ people, having that sense of community and shared experience is something that helps them discover their true self.

For those such as the young Black and trans members of our community, who can sometimes feel amongst the most excluded, this can be a real lifeline.

That’s why our community venues and spaces matter more than most. They’re often some of the only places where people from our community come together. Imagine a young person coming to terms with their sexuality in a rural area – these venues are the only place you’re likely to meet people just like you.

You can’t be your best if you can’t be yourself, but it’s much harder if there’s no chance to spend time with people you can relate to.

That’s why I’ve launched my Together Tomorrow campaign to save our LGBT+ spaces, many of which have already been in decline in recent years.

Research also suggests that those venues that may be forced to close will disproportionately be ones that serve women and people of colour, as well as working-class members of our community – so not only does it pose a threat to our whole community but the impact would be felt the hardest by those who can already feel the most excluded.

I’m asking Liz Truss, the minister for women and equalities, to deliver two specific things which, from my discussions with people involved in these venues, I believe can save them for generations of LGBT+ people to come.

Firstly, councils should identify the LGBT+ spaces and venues in their local areas, and create extra protections for these with an aim to ensure no net loss of venues from year-to-year. This will help protect the cultural elements of these much-loved venues.

Secondly, the government should work with local authorities and LGBT+ groups to set up an LGBTQ+ Cultural Preservation Fund at a national or local level, which could offer grants to help at-risk LGBT+ venues.

The fund would not be a guarantee to save every venue, business, or job, but would be intended for venues with particular cultural and historic or community value while protection plans were put in place.

At this time of national crisis, it is more important than ever that our community uses the time to reflect on the progress we’ve made and come together with a renewed energy to push for the change we want to see in the world.

If you feel like I do then let Liz Truss know too – like and share the video and let’s push for real change together.

Together we can make things “much betta“.