Labour leader Keir Starmer doubles down on support for trans people’s right to self-identify at the PinkNews Awards 2020

Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer called for unity against homophobia and transphobia as he spoke on the second day of the PinkNews Awards 2020.

The Labour leader pledged that he and his party would continue to fight for LGBT+ equality, but warned “there is still a long way to go” – particularly on trans rights.

“The GRA (Gender Recognition Act) is in desperate need of reform to introduce self-declaration for transgender people,” Starmer said.

“Trans people are still facing daily oppression and discrimination. That isn’t acceptable.

“It is vital that steps are taken to produce the equality, the services and the support that trans people need.

“We must stand together against homophobia transphobic and discrimination wherever it rears its head.”

Starmer declared himself a “proud ally”, and expressed his hope to celebrate in person with the LGBT+ community at next year’s PinkNews Awards, acknowledging the ways in which the community has suffered as a result of the pandemic this year.

Thursday (3 December) saw four awards handed out, with Drag Race UK star Divina de Campo, BBC LGBT correspondent Ben Hunte and The Circle’s Freddie Bentley on hand to announce the winners.

Campaigner of the Year: Melz Owusu.

The BBC’s LGBT correspondent Ben Hunte presented trailblazing activist Melz Owusu with the Campaigner of the Year Award for their work in setting up the Free Black University.

Hunte praised Owusu for their work in “decolonising education and trans visibility”.

“The reason they’ve won is because of the Free Black University,” Hunte said. “They plan to redistribute knowledge among Black students with the needs of those who are queer and trans at the very heart of the work.”

Accepting the award, Melz Owusu thanked the amazing team at the Free Black University for their work, and also thanked their loved ones and friends for their support.

They said that queer Black people are “always the people that are doing the work”, adding: “In order for us to be able to live in this world, in order for us to be able to survive, in order for us to be able to live our actual lives, peaceful lives that are meaningful and for people who come like us in the future, we have to resist, we have to fight, weh have to challenge the way things are today.

“That’s what really drives me, that’s where all of the work that I do comes from, this desire to have more people like myself.”

Film Award: Dating Amber.

Drag Race UK star Divina de Campo presented the Film Award to Dating Amber, a powerful coming-of-age film set in 1990s Ireland.

“Now this year, I think more than any other year, has shown us just how important community and supporting each other really is,” de Campo said.

“The LGBTQ + community is amazing, and I have never been so happy to have been born a queerdo as I am right now,” she added, before presenting the award to Dating Amber stars Lola Petticrew and Fionn O’Shea.

“We want to thank you guys so much. It means the absolute world to us and we are incredibly, incredibly overwhelmed,” Petticrew said.

O’Shea thanked the film’s writer and director David Freyne, saying he was a “huge inspiration” to everyone involved in Dating Amber.

Petticrew added: “This is a film about finding your tribe and your community and having the love and support and space to explore your queerness, so this award means an awful lot, so thank you very much.”

Ad Campaign Award: Global Pride Crossing.

Freddie Bentley, star of The Circle, presented Global Pride Crossing with the Ad Campaign Award, saying they had worked “extremely hard” to bring Pride online in a year in which celebrations were cancelled across the world.

Accepting the award, Arnaud Robin, innovation director at We Are Social Singapore, said: “The whole team is so proud to have contributed to the LGBTQI+ community. Global Pride Crossing is all about giving people a new space to express themselves and we are so happy it did.”

Meanwhile, Max Vedel, co-founder and creative director of Swipe Back – the studio that produced Global Pride Crossing with We Are Social Singapore – said: “Seeing the community take the assets we created, make them their own, and use them in creative ways we did not even imagine is more than what we could have ever wished for with this campaign.”

Role Model Award: Annie Newman.

The PinkNews team presented Annie Newman with the Role Model Award for her tireless work as leader of GSK’s staff LGBT+ network, Spectrum.

Newman reflected on her own coming-out journey in her acceptance speech, and spoke of the inequality still facing LGBT+ people across the world today.

“What drives me in this work are the stories of individuals around the world who are living in countries where LGBT is either illegal or they face discrimination,” Newman said.

“I’m also driven by the enormous strides forward we have taken, but also the frustration when we take a step back.”

Newman continued: “You may think that as an individual you don’t have anything to offer to make a difference to the LGBT community. You couldn’t be more wrong.

“What we need are people who are willing to be visible, to stand up and be counted, to make a difference, and are wiling to give their time to listen and support others. You have the power to make a difference to the LGBT community, whether you’re an LGBT member or an ally.”

The PinkNews Awards 2020 in association with Amazon concludes Friday (4 December)

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