Mark Argent
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Politics:: articles since 2015 General Election
A moent of acceptance

19 June 2015, first published in Liberal Democrat Voice

In the election campaign I was touched, but not surprised, to see Sal Brinton post a link on facebook to an interview with Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett where he spoke of his experiences growing up gay, and self-identifying as an HIV+ parliamentary candidate. My suspicion was that many would encourage someone in Adrian’s position to “be discreet”: but seeing him being so open and the party President support him so clearly made me proud to be a liberal democrat.

From a gay perspective, it’s been encouraging in the present leadership election to see doubts over Tim’s support for LGBT people raised as a cause for concern, and to see him act quickly to counter them.

Recently I had a very positive surprise when I read an article picking up on Norman Lamb’s piece in Pink News where he moved the whole debate on a stage by saying:

until every young person is proud of who they are, who they find attractive and who they love, our fight will continue.

The shift feels significant: from accepting a minority (which keeps them as a minority whose acceptance is to be fought for) and something genuine. It calls to mind the slogan of the LGBT-majority Free Community Church in Singapore: “welcome home”

As a reminder of the other side, a friend posted a “joke” on Facebook about four men talking of their sons: the first three were very proud of their straight sons’ successes in business, but the fourth sadly admitted that his son was gay and worked in a bar. My friend’s point was that this reflected the experience of many LGBT people who find themselves under-achieving and being under-valued for a host of reasons.

That feeling of being unacceptable is so deep-seated as to be almost invisible. What moved me about that interview with Norman was that it’s the opposite: a message of acceptance that is just as deep-seated. There is something profoundly transforming in being valued for the whole of who one is.

I remember reading a book called Society against itself, which is critique of the dysfunctional end of political correctness and makes some sharp points about the failure to recognise difference. Under the pretence of acceptance it can end up being brutalising.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the idea of no-one being “enslaved by conformity” from the preamble to the Liberal Democrat constitution keeps coming to mind. That is about not pushing everyone into the same mold, but refreshingly and vibrantly celebrating diversity.

Norman’s interview spoke powerfully to me. But this isn’t a gay-only approach: it’s there in his support for people with mental illness (another group society often treats as if they should not be different) and and gender balance. I am surprised at how much that message of liberty and acceptance speaks to me.

I don’t know how far it is appropriate to link this to one leadership candidate or the other. It may be more about looking at this part of our core values now, and see the embracing of diversity as something which enables us come together and support whoever emerges as leader.