IDAHO, the International Day
17 May 2007
At 7pm, before the Aurora meeting on Thursday 17th May, we held a short IDAHO commemoration.
Welcome to IDAHO 2007!
One difference this year is that we did not hold the one-minute silence for victims of hate crime against LGBT people everywhere. Instead we made a noise: bursting balloons.
This year we are "banging homophobia out of Croydon". But it’s not as simple as bursting balloons. Aurora has had to find ways to contact difficult-to-reach minority groups.
- Last year we found a way to get information to gay asylum
seekers to help keep them free from blackmail and out of criminal
activity, while using the system properly.
Most asylum seekers "disappeared" and were living (and begging or working illegally) without access to public services or the police. They were very vulnerable to criminals and to blackmail. This is a particular problem for gay asylum seekers — many tortured, many fearing for their lives. The few who escaped to this country had long been terrified to let the authorities know they were gay. But if they don't volunteer this information to the UK authorities at the start of their asylum application they will " was intense.
- We advertised the Forced Marriage Helpline because gay Asians
were very concerned about forced marriage.
This issue was one we already knew about but it was confirmed and strongly re-inforced by speaking to gay Muslims. It was they who told us about the helpline and asked us to make it more widely known.
- Community members of Aurora supported the concerns of gay
Christians, defending the Gay Police Association’s advert "in
the name of the father" and we added Aurora’s name to
a letter (along with many Christian groups) that thanked police forces
for allowing their officers to march in uniform in Pride, showing
an even handed support for LGBT people.
Aurora is a meeting of the police with LGBT people. We felt it would damage the impartiality of the police if they took part in these projects, so they represented community members only.
- We found out and published the procedure by which gay men
who had no interest in children, but were nevertheless on the sex
offenders register, could apply to be removed.
This is a common problem from the time before 2004 when the laws surrounding gay activity were very much tigher than for heterosexual offences, and carried much harsher sentences. (The"sex offenders register" does not distinguish between sexual activity between consenting adults and sexual activity involving children.)
- Our transgender working party took on two issues to make
the lives of transsexual people safer and easier, and to encourage
trust in the police.
One was a "first": we preprepared a leaflet that the police later adopted to address the "Which Loo?" issue. Anyone who transitions male-to-female faces (or fears) that first time when they need a public loo. Do they use the Ladies and risk someone accusing them of being "a man in the women's lo"? (This can have far reaching consequences, including having your face and previous ID in the local papers.) Or do this use the Gents and risk assault? To our surprise the Met endorsed our work.
We also made recommendations to the police on a problem with the Gender Recognition Act. It would cause some transsexual people to refuse to appear as witnesses in court, not unreasonably, because the police had not taken the necessary administrative steps. This does not benefit LGBT people but it was a known problem for the police in cases that had nothing to do with LGBT issues. There have been problems with this and it has not yet been resolved.
- And we’re beginning a project to help tackle the bullying of LGBT pupils in Croydon Schools, bullying generally in schools, and to recognise the diversity of people and life-styles for everyone. This will benefit people discriminated against by gender, faith, disablity, ethnicity, age and sexuality.
All these projects required ingenuity and hard work.
We’ve got many more things to do and we need more LGBT people to Contact Us, to raise their own issues, and join us in solving them.
And we have failed to involve more black and minority ethnic people in Aurora. This was the only one of four commitments we made at last year's IDAHO that we've so far failed on. So if you feel you belong to that group of people - now's the time to speak up: we need you!
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are very welcome! See Meetings.