Sadiq Khan opens the PinkNews Awards 2020 with heartfelt vow of solidarity to the LGBT+ community

The PinkNews Awards 2020 in association with Amazon opened virtually Wednesday (2 December), honouring the LGBT+ heroes who have fought for the community and stood up as shining examples of queer excellence.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan kicked off the digital event by thanking the campaigners and frontline heroes who have gone “above and beyond”.

“I speak from the heart when I say that I’ll always stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ+ communities,” he said.

“No one should have to endure hatred, discrimination or violence simply because of who they are and who they love.”

Paying tribute to the victims of the pandemic as well as to George Floyd, the Black man whose brutal murder triggered a wave of global Black Lives Matter protests, Khan said 2020 has been an “emotional rollercoaster”.

“I know that people have spent too many months locked down in environments where they’ve not been free or safe to be themselves, placing huge strains on their mental health.”

Despite this, Khan believes we can “draw hope, not only from the heroism and selflessness of key workers during this crisis, but from the amazing resilience and spirit of our wider LGBTQ+ community”.

“You know better than anyone that progress is possible, and that a brighter tomorrow awaits when people of conscience are prepared to roll up their sleeves and fight for a fairer future,” he added.

Kicking off the awards, the winners of the Frontline Hero, Business Equality, Public Sector, Third Sector and Community Group Awards were announced.

Frontline Hero Award: Presented by Dr Ranj Singh and won by Dr Rachel Levine and Dr Kamilla Kamaruddin.

Dr Ranj Singh presented GP Kamilla Kamaruddin and Pennsylvania secretary of health Dr Rachel Levine with the Frontline Hero Award at the PinkNews Awards 2020.

Singh began by thanking frontline workers across the world for their work throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

“You have gone above and beyond to keep us, our friends and families, and our loved ones safe, and I stand with the entire LGBTQ+ communtiy in saying thank you,” he said.

Accepting her award, Levine said she was “proud and privileged” to serve as secretary of health in Pennsylvania.

“I’m so sorry that I could not attend in person, but as we all have seen throughout the world, COVID-19 is the biggest public health threat that we face today,” she said.

She noted that LGBT+ people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and said data collection practices must be improved to better serve the community.

“Thank you so much for this award and for your continued support. I like to say in all my speeches is please, stay calm, stay alert, and stay safe.”

Dr Kamaruddin thanked PinkNews for “shining a light on the plight of the LGBT+ community” in her speech, and congratulated her co-winner.

She also reflected on her experience of transitioning in the workplace, and said colleagues and patients at her practice were happy for her.

“It was such an uplifting experience for me,” she added.

Kamaruddin dedicated her award to “all the trans people who have suffered in trying to get better access to healthcare”.

Business Equality Award: Presented by Duncan James and won by Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

Duncan James presented the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) with the Business Equality Award at the PinkNews Awards 2020, thanking them for their contribution to LGBT+ life.

In his speech, James spoke of the huge strides that have been made in LGBT+ rights in recent years – but he noted that there is so much more to be done.

Elliot Vaughn, MD and partner at BCG, accepted the award, and said inclusion has always been a core value at the company.

“We believe everyone should be able to bring their full selves to work, and we feel a duty to show up for our community and to express our values externally as a firm,” Vaughn said.

“We’re also hugely energised by the work ahead, work to become more inclusive and diversify ourselves as a network – inclusive of women, of bisexual colleagues, of queer people of colour, of trans and non-binary colleagues, pushing the envelope in the more challenging places that we work in around the world, and engaging allies deeply in our work.”

The Public Sector Equality Award: Presented by Phyll Opoku-Gyimah and won by De Montfort University.

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, also known as Lady Phyll, presented the Public Sector Equality Award to De Montfort University at the PinkNews Awards 202o.

Opoku-Gyimah, executive director of the Kaleidoscope Trust and founder of UK Black Pride, praised De Montfort University for doing “amazing things” to make its campus a safe space for LGBT+ staff and students.

Antonia Jackson, senior diversity and inclusion officer at De Montfort University, accepted the award, saying they were “absolutely thrilled” to have their work recognised.

“We have a long history of being an LGBT-inclusive university, and this is something that is really part of our DNA, we’re really proud of this,” Jackson said, before speaking about the university’s work around LGBT History Month.

“We know this year has been a really, really difficult year for everybody, but it has been more difficult for some who haven’t been able to be fully themselves during the pandemic due to difficult home lives.

“DMU absolutely stands in solidarity with the LGBT+ community. We want our campus to be a safe space where everybody feels like they can be themselves in a supportive environment which allows staff and students to explore their identity.”

Third Sector Equality Award: Presented by Lorraine Kelly and won by Victim Support.

The Third Sector Equality Award was presented by legendary television host Lorraine Kelly, who also doubles as a steadfast ally to the LGBT+ community.

In her speech, Kelly thanked the LGBT+ community for supporting her and for fighting to make the world a safer and fairer place.

“I’m very honoured to be presenting the Third Sector Equality Award,” Kelly said, before naming Victim Support as the winner.

Closing out her speech, Kelly said: “Sadly, we all know that homophobic and transphobic incidents are on the rise, and Victim Support are the winners of this award not just for the inclusive internal policies in LGBT+ network, but also their work against hate crime and domestic abuse that affects the LGBT+ community.”

The award was accepted by Diana Fawcett of Victim Support, who said they have worked to ensure that LGBT+ people feel “enabled and empowered” to access their services.

“We also recognise the impact of the pandemic on the way LGBT+ people experience crime, for example the terrible increase in online hate that we have seen.

“We have therefore worked hard to ensure that LGBT+ people who have been affected by crime have been able to continue to access our support in an accessible and inclusive way.”

Fawcett concluded: “We want to ensure that all LGBT+ people know that we stand with you, and we are here to support you.”

Community Group Award: Presented by Joe McElderry and won by the LGBT Foundation.

X Factor winner Joe McElderry presented the Community Group Award to the LGBT Foundation in recognition of its tireless efforts to support the LGBT+ community throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

“Before I announce the winner, I just wanted to say a huge shout to to all of the nominees this year for this award,” McElderry said. “All of your work and stories are fantastic, and especially in this troubling, crazy time that we all face at the moment.”

Accepting the award, Paul Martin, chief executive of the LGBT Foundation, paid tribute to the other charities nominated in the category before addressing the challenges facing the LGBT+ community throughout the pandemic.

“Almost overnight, and at a time of great uncertainty, fear and anxiety for many LGBT+ people, we had to radically redesign how we deliver our services,” Martin said.

“Through the dedication and hard work of the remarkable people who make up the team LGBT Foundation, we did this within a few short days, and we also developed new and innovative services to ensure that our charity continued to be a beacon of light and a refuge of hope to those most in need.”

Martin noted that calls to their helpline have doubled when compared to this time last year, and said they have seen a surge in demand for substance misuse and domestic abuse services.

“Everyone at team LGBT Foundation takes our mission of being here if you need us seriously. We were here before the pandemic, we’ll be continuing to support our communities during the pandemic, and we’ll still be here for LGBT+ communities long after we’ve learned how to live with this pandemic.”

The PinkNews Awards 2020 in association with Amazon continue Thursday and Friday (3 and 4 December).