A month ago Get Real. published my article on LGBT+ rights abroad and the appalling questioning process that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) carries out. Treatment of LGBT+ asylum seekers in the UK has received much criticism in the last few years. The Home Office has now released guidance that caseworkers must not “stereotype the behaviour or characteristics of lesbian, gay or bisexual persons,” and that, “it is important to recognise that some individuals may hold a completely different perception of their own sexual identity from those implied by the term LGB, or may be unaware of labels used in Western cultures.”
The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) is pleased the Home Office has released this information. Executive Director Paul Dillane has welcomed the “positive framework in which the asylum claims of lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum seekers can be determined.” They also pointed out that this is however only the first step in remedying the faults in UKBA decision-making regarding LGBT+ people, as these changes will need to be implemented.
The LGBT+ community in Cork has been put on alert since local Louise O’Donnell posted on Facebook warning that a gay person, who remains anonymous, was tricked on a dating website into going to a meeting place where a group of homophobic men jumped out of a van. The post stated: “there is a group or groups of young people in Cork carrying out organised beatings against members of this community. Posing as young men and women on different sites including Tinder, Plenty of Fish and Grindr, they aim to get young gay and lesbians alone in secluded areas of the city to carry out vicious assaults.” This is a very similar tactic to the abuse of dating websites that is widespread in LGBT+ attacks in Russia. James Upton of University College Cork’s LGBT+ society stated he has seen a rise in queerphobia in the last six months, suggesting that it may be in reaction to the coming same-sex marriage bill in May 2015.
In a country typically seen as more conservative towards LGBT+ people, Ireland has recently shown some progress. Polls suggest the same-sex marriage bill should pass without problem and the government is currently looking to reconsider its blood donation ban. Irish Education minister Jan O’Sullivan recently launched Respect, an LGBT+ guide for primary school teachers, in order to prevent homophobic bullying. The guide aims not only to tackle homophobia but also rigid gender roles, commenting: “no game or colour or activity is a boy’s or girl’s game/colour/activity. Everyone can do everything!”
December last year, the government released a draft of a bill that was to allow greater recognition of trans rights, as currently sex assigned at birth is the only gender that is legally recognised in Ireland. Unfortunately, the bill included the demand that a heterosexual married couple (recognized as one male and one female under the eyes of the law) would need to divorce if one of the partners wished to change legal gender, as they would not allow a same-sex marriage. Moreover, sixteen and seventeen year olds would have to obtain permission from their legal guardian and the court to change their gender, which could prove impossible in some cases. The bill was recently condemned by Linn Boylan, the MEP for Sinn Féin, who stated it was “disgraceful”.
At the very least a same-sex marriage victory would certainly prevent the need for divorce of certain couples. Let’s hope it happens.
Elliot Fitzgerald (GR. Columnist)