Mayor of London Sadiq Khan warns fight for LGBTQ+ equality is far from over as UK slips backwards

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan waves during Pride in London 2019

Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the UK’s first-ever Pride march in London, the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan writes for PinkNews about the rise in far-right hate across Europe, London being a beacon of hope and how the Tory government is letting LGBTQ+ people down.

As mayor, I’ve always been a vocal supporter of the rights of LGBTQ+ Londoners.

I want to make it clear that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia have no place in our city and send a message of solidarity to all LGBTQ+ communities around the world.  

Our capital has been made richer by the contributions of LGBTQ+ Londoners over the decades. Here we don’t merely tolerate difference – we celebrate it. I’m looking forward to marking Pride in London’s landmark 50th anniversary later this summer with Londoners and visitors from all over the world. 

Since the first Pride march in 1972, life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Londoners has changed for the better. The hard-won victories like the end of Section 28, equal marriage and improved representation mean more LGBTQ+ people are able to live openly and thrive in all areas of society. 

But the struggle for equality is not over. 

Across Europe, we’ve seen a rise in far-right extremism that seeks to undermine the fundamental rights of LGBTQ+ people. In Poland, sickening “LGBT-free zones” have been established, while in Hungary legal recognition for transgender people has been revoked. Far-right parties with anti-LGBTQ+ values are gaining ground in France and Spain. We have to realise, before it’s too late, that the progress that has been made in the past century can be reversed if we’re not vigilant. 

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan on stage during Pride in London 2019

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan on stage during Pride in London 2019. (Mike Marsland/WireImage for Pride in London)

The UK is no exception. For the third year in a row, the UK dropped in Europe’s LGBTQ+ rights ranking. Our government has been too slow to act on banning harmful conversion therapy and made the wrong decision in excluding transgender people from protection against this harmful practice.

Trans people in the UK continue to face discrimination. Promises to shorten years-long waiting lists for life-saving healthcare have been abandoned. We’ve seen politicians and others in the media talk regularly about the trans community in a dehumanising way that has left many Londoners deeply worried for the future of trans rights. 

Research found that 69 per cent of trans Londoners experienced violence or threats of violence in 2020. This is unacceptable and I will continue to speak out against transphobia and work with the Met Police to keep all of our LGBTQ+ community safe.

I’m also concerned by how the government’s new asylum policies could affect LGBTQ+ refugees. Human rights experts have argued that refugees deported to Rwanda could face inhumane treatment. For those who have fled their countries of origin due to persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, it’s unacceptable that the UK will be placing them in danger again instead of providing sanctuary. 

Let me be clear: I will always stand for the rights of LGBTQ+ people. London is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly places on earth, with the largest and strongest communities of any city. Our capital is a beacon to people around the world and I’ll do everything in my power to guarantee the happiness and safety of LGBTQ+ Londoners.