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Brighton & Hove Councillor Calls Out Hatred Of Transgender People

Monday, 20 May 2024 06:51

By Sarah Booker-Lewis, Local Democracy Reporter

Councillor Raphael Hill

A transgender councillor has spoken out about outpourings of “hatred” that put people off standing for public office.

Brighton and Hove City Council’s first elected transgender councillor Raphael Hill made the comments in a debate about the council’s “Diverse Councils Action Plan”.

The plan was approved at the “annual council” meeting at Brighton Town Hall yesterday (Thursday 16 May).

Councillor Hill, the Green group’s diversity ambassador, said that mentoring, counselling and other schemes could only go so far when it comes to improving diversity.

In a passionate speech, the Roundhill ward councillor said:

“I want to draw members’ attention to the barriers transgender people like myself face.

“Ultimately, the main thing that is stopping us is we are so thoroughly hated by politicians in both major political parties.

“And in the face of that hatred most people in my community not only do not want to stand for public office, they have given up on democracy entirely because they feel utterly unable to fight back against this hate.

“I want more transgender people like myself to be able to hold public office and participate in society and our democracy. But the hatred we experience is, I think, so much the most significant barrier.

“There’s always political capital to be gained whenever Labour or the Conservatives argue for banning trans woman or other trans people from various different basic amenities such as hospital wards – and also for outing transgender children to, for instance, abusive parents.

“Because our existence is so thoroughly dehumanised by the cabinet and shadow cabinet, that is not considered to be a problem.

“Our current Conservative government and our future Labour government treat transgender people at best as a political problem.

“At worst they treat us as a threat to society at large – a disease to be extinguished in order to safeguard others from the perceived harms that transgender people simply being alive cause.

“I don’t believe it is unique to trans people that this is the case. I think it is the responsibility of all of us to call out bigotry within our own parties and in others.

“Loyalty for our parties should not come at the expense of allowing hatred.

“If there are people like me who come to me asking, can I stand for public office, I would ask them to caution and think about their personal safety because it is something, frankly, we have to experience on a daily basis, this hatred.

“We need to look right to the top of the people in Westminster who are actually causing a lot of this so I hope that this is something that we consider.

“I just want to be honest in saying that this is something that’s really made it hard for me to be a councillor personally.”

Labour councillor Emma Daniel, who proposed adopting the “Diverse Councils Action Plan” at the meeting, praised Councillor Hill’s courage.

The Labour group has also appointed a diversity ambassador, Councillor Leslie Pumm.

The action plan asks all political groups to set targets to encourage and support candidates from under-represented groups to stand for election.

National data found that 96 per cent of councilllors were white, 88 per cent heterosexual, 16 per cent had a disability or long-term condition, 36 per cent had caring responsibilities and 36 per cent were female.

In Brighton and Hove, the 54 councillors more closely reflect the ethnic heritage and background, gender, sexual orientation, faith, disability, caring responsibilities and armed forces backgrounds when compared with the 2021 census.

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