We at School OUT UK are appalled that the government have let down the LGBT+ community with their latest statement on conversion therapy. All the consultations — and there have been many — have made it clear that there is a clear majority who support a complete ban on conversion therapy. So to now declare that they are only planning to ban conversion therapy for lesbian, gay and bisexual people and not others under the LGBT+ umbrella — including trans and asexual persons who are especially harmed by such ‘therapy’ — is a stinging betrayal and a reminder of the worst days of anti-LGBT+ prejudice in this country. Moreover, it completely ignores the Government’s own consultation processes. We can only hope that the massive negative reaction to this will convince them to think again. They must speak out against harmful and coercive practices that unfairly target LGBT+ people across the spectrum.
Here we are at the beginning of Hate crime Awareness week, twenty-two years on from The MacPherson Report, a ground breaking report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence by racists and the subsequent lack of prosecution of the killers due to institutional racism.
The House of Commons Home Affairs committee on sexual orientation has produced a report looking at what has changed in the intervening two decades. I am pleased to see that there is recognition that some things are better however there is still much to be concerned about.
The report itself does not in my view tackle the needs of BAME/BME people in a holistic way. Evidence was taken from young black people in London, which was shocking, indicating their lack of trust in the police force and therefore the unlikelihood of them considering becoming police officers. This is a vital need given the lack of real representation of BAME/BME officers in forces around the country. The report stated, ‘The Peel principles that have underpinned British policing for nearly two hundred years are based on the understanding that the police are the public and the public are the police. These principles apply to everyone: it cannot be the case that they apply to some communities and not others based on the colour of people’s skin. As long as police forces remain so unrepresentative of local communities these vital principles are being undermined.’
However, the report does not effectively look at the wider protected characteristics of BAME/BME people. I was deeply disappointed that little awareness was explored or expressed in the diversity of experience of women, disabled people, those who have undergone gender reassignment, those married or civil partnered, pregnant, in the LGBT+ community, nor of class and/or regional difference. What was clear was that victims of hate crime were less satisfied with the way they were treated compared to other crimes. So the report said ‘The Home Office must commission research into the reasons behind lower levels of confidence among hate crime victims and ensure that figures on the victims can be broken down by monitored hate crime strand. Police forces also must improve the recording of hate crime offences so that data is accurate and consistent and must collect better information’…….
‘the failure of successive governments to require data on confidence to be collected at a local force level by ethnicity, shows that increasing trust and confidence in policing in the Black community is not being treated as a policing priority or as a Ministerial priority today.
We need this government to take all forms of hate crime seriously and be given the tools and resources to do that. Online hate crime is on the increase and it is blatantly clear that the police do not have the skills, training or resources to deal with it effectively as the report says, ‘Our greatest concern going forward is that the Government and police forces are being left behind by the rise of online racism and racist crimes as the rise of social media means patterns of race hate crime are changing. Currently the police do not have the digital capacity, training or systems in place to be able to keep up with monitoring, investigating and charging serious cases of racist and hate crimes committed online. Social media companies and platforms need to do far more to tackle online racist abuse’
I would add that all forms of online abuse need tackling at this moment in time – anti-trans abuse is a particular worry, with the negative atmosphere in the country supported by some media to be particularly poisonous.
Schools need particular support and awareness in dealing with hate crime, often erroneously called bullying. Schools hopefully keep a log of all reported incidents and how they were dealt with. I am always suspicious of schools and indeed councils that deliver low or nil reports of hate crime. This smacks of a lack of confidence in reporting such issues, usually because the victims don’t feel anything constructive happens to support them. They are often seen as the perpetrators, not as the victims they actually are. All too often a victim having to deal with hate crime on their own, snaps, and it is their retaliatory behaviour that is noticed and punished, not the provocation that triggered it.
Hate Crime Awareness Week, along with the many other designated days and months throughout the year, is a perfect opportunity to discuss bigotry, analyse it then educate out that prejudice – usualising all the protected characteristics across the National Curriculum. Thus we will enable pupils to recognise and see as every day the diversity of the population and understand the appropriate language to describe everyone.
Professor Emeritus Sue Sanders
Chair, Schools OUT United Kingdom
What is Ace Week?
Ace Week is an international campaign dedicated to raising the awareness and expanding the knowledge of asexuality. It will be held between the 24th October – 30th October this year.
What is Asexuality?
Asexuality is a sexual orientation and it describes experiencing little to no sexual attraction to others. There are different identities on the asexual-spectrum, such as:
- Asexual: someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction.
- Grey-asexual (or grey-ace): someone whose experiences are related to asexuality but are not fully described by the word asexual. This can describe a specific identity or used as an umbrella term and can describe a range of experiences, e.g. experiencing sexual attraction rarely.
- Demisexual: someone who only experiences sexual attraction when a strong emotional bond has been formed. This is an identity under the grey-asexual umbrella.
The word “ace” can be used to describe a person on the asexual-spectrum (ace-spec is also used).
Some research suggests that approximately 1% of the population is asexual, but it could be more than this. One study by the Trevor project showed that 10% of queer youth identified as asexual or on the asexual-spectrum.
Some people identify on the asexual-spectrum and identify as other LGBTQ+ identities. For example, someone can be panromantic and asexual (experiencing romantic attraction towards others regardless of gender, and experiencing little to no sexual attraction).
Asexuality is an often misunderstood and lesser-known sexual orientation.
There are many assumptions, such as:
- It is a choice
- A person hasn’t met the right person yet
- It needs to be ‘fixed’
- It is because of a fear of intimacy
- Asexual people do not experience oppression or prejudice. Read more about hate crimes towards asexual people on Galop’s website.
- It is the same as aromanticism, which is when you experience little to no romantic attraction (note that although these identities describe different experiences, some people are both aromantic and asexual)
Here some dates from asexual history. Note that our way of describing people on the asexual-spectrum and the language we use has changed over time.
The first time we see any references to asexuality was in a pamphlet which was given out by Karl-Maria Kertbeny in protest to Prussian Sodomy Law. “Monosexual” was a term used in this pamphlet, in which Kertbeny also coined the terms heterosexual and homosexual.
Category “X” is part of the Kinsey Scale by Alfred Kinsey and it describes people who report no socio-sexual contacts or reactions.
Lisa Orlando and Barbara Getz published The Asexual Manifesto, distributed by the New York Radical Feminists.
“My life as an amoeba” is an article published by Zoe O’Reilly in which many found they identified with it.
The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) was set up by David Jay. The website has the biggest online asexual community and signposts to resources. This is where some of the community language developed, for example demisexual was coined by user sonofzeal.
The asexual flag was created through a competition on the AVEN forums, created by user standup. It features a black stripe (representing asexuality), grey stripe (representing grey-asexuality), white stripe (representing non-asexual partners and allies) and purple stripe (representing community).
Credit: Wikicommons; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Asexual_Pride_Flag.svg
In the same year, there was the first Ace Week (originally named Asexual Awareness Week) which has been held every year since on the last week of October, started by Sara Beth Brooks.
The DSM-5 was published this year in which asexuality was specified to not be a disorder for the first time. Even though this was a step in the right direction, there are still issues with DSM-5.
The UK had its first openly asexual local election candidate, George Norman. In an interview, he talked about how asexuality should be included in the UK equality laws. There are some US states which have asexuality included in their equality laws.
Yasmin Benoit creates the #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike hashtag on social media to increase the visibility of asexual people and to show the diversity of asexual people. In the same year, she appeared on the cover of Attitude, becoming the first openly asexual woman to be featured on a magazine cover in the UK.