DIVA magazine publisher Linda Riley interviews Angela Rayner
BY LINDA RILEY
Angela Rayner truly proved she is an LGTBQI icon at the first ever LGBT+ Labour hustings in Manchester last week. Walking out onto the stage wearing rainbow braces and tartan Dr. Martens, she’s evidently in touch with our community in a way that very few politicians are today.
Angela is a British Labour Party politician who has been MP for Asthon-under-Lyne since 2015. She has served in the Shadow Cabinet of Jeremy Corbyn as Shadow Secretary of State for Education since 2016.
Speaking during the hustings, she passionately talked about the issues faced by the LGBTQI community, taking positive approaches to issues such as sex and relationship education in schools, the roll out of prEP and the Gender Recognition Act, and in her backstage interview her knowledge as an ally really shone through.
The hustings event was hosted by LGBT+ Labour, presented by PinkNews and supported by DIVA.
LINDA RILEY: What would you say are the biggest concerns for LGBTQI voters and what will you do as deputy leader to address them?
ANGELA RAYNER: I think the concerns of the LGBTQI community are concerns that the rest of the community have. The lack of police, homelessness, the cuts to councils and public services, cut to the National Health Service. There are some specific issues as well, like the Gender Recognition Act. We’ve got to make sure that we’re supporting each person in our community so they can support each other and get the resources they need, which are not currently there at the moment.
How will you reassure the LGBTQI community in a post-Brexit UK that their hard fought for freedom is safe?
I’ll keep doing what I’ve done, and that’s fight for them. I’m proud of what Labour has achieved and I want to continue that. Whether that’s through the acts of Parliament or making sure that our Labour Party is a safe space. I’ll make sure that everyone feels valued and that we have systems in place, that mean people can get by in the Labour Party and are encouraged to. When there is bullying, when there is homophobia, when there is discrimination, we have to get it out of the party as quickly as possible.
How will you make sure that all identities and all voices under the LGBTQI umbrella are listened to?
We’ve got to make sure that everyone feels that it’s a safe space. At the moment, I don’t think the Labour Party’s felt like that, especially for my trans sisters. It has felt very hostile for them. We’ve got to make sure that everybody feels that they can be valued in our party. We have to set our bar really high and I want hard targets so transgender women are women and should be entitled to stand on all women shortlists as well. That’s why I signed the labour pledges to ensure that everyone feels safe and secure in our party.
Do you think the Labour Party is doing enough to challenge transphobia within the general ranks?
No, I think there’s more we can do. Some people think that transgender rights inflict on women’s rights. It’s just not true. The LGBTQI community know about safe spaces, they know what hostile environments are, they’ve faced it for decades. Working together, we can look out for each other. We need to make sure we learn the lessons of the past, but we celebrate where we are now. At the moment it feels quite hostile. We’re a big party. We need to make sure we reach out and we stop bigotry or hatred in our party. I want to really hammer this home and set that watermark really high, so people feel they’ve got a place here. If you look at the amount of suicide rates, the amount of self-harm, the amount of mental health issues amongst our LGBTQI community, we are not getting it right at the moment. We’ve got to push further.
Do you plan to expel trans exclusionary radical feminists from the party and do you consider their theories hate speech?
I’ve signed pledges and I’m very clear that and there’s no acceptance of hate speech at all in our party. Anyone who’s transphobic or anybody who is racist or anti-Semitic should not have any place in our party. I will not accept our party being racist, anti-Semitic or discriminatory in anyway. Transgender women and men deserve to be protected and I will absolutely protect their rights.
What are your thoughts on the Birmingham riots regarding sex and relationship education in schools, and what would you do as deputy leader to stop this from happening again?
I was at the forefront of that as the Shadow Education Secretary. I saw Andrew Moffatt in Parliament and gave him a huge amount of support. He is a hero to me and many kids that he saved and safeguarded. The No Outsiders programme is not a problem. The problem is the homophobia and the discrimination. It wasn’t about consultation, that’s a myth. I led that fight, we’ve got to have the exclusion. We’ve got to protect kids, we’ve got to make them feel loved. We’ve got to ensure that people know the equality act is law, and people need to understand that. We need to push forward on that basis. In me, there will always be an ally. I reported our MP. It’s the only time I’ve spoken out against one of my colleagues because it was the right thing to do. I always speak about what’s right and I’ll continue to do that.
How would you protect the children of the LGBTQI community?
This is one of the reasons why I’ve been so outspoken, because I’m worried that as the Shadow Education Secretary, those children have looked on my timeline, looked at what people like me say, and they search for validation. They absolutely need the support. All families need support and families are different shapes and sizes. It’s important that people see that. Acceptance is needed in our society to make all children, regardless of what their family is, regardless of their sexuality feel valued and loved.
Who are your lesbian heroes?
It’s got to be Emmeline Pankhurst. However, one of my absolute closest friends is Eileen Best. She’s an activist and she’s a hero to me. She’s got a lovely family. She’s pushed boundaries. She’s of an older generation. I hope she doesn’t kill me for saying that. She comes from a particular background that meant she’s not had an easy road, but she goes out there and she advocates. She taught me to never be quiet, never be silent, to get out there and speak the truth.
Why do you think LGBTQI women should back Labour?
Because it’s your home. Labour is you, you are labour, and we’ve got to make sure the party is inclusive, supportive and is a safe space. You should definitely see Labour as not something you back, but something you are in and something that’s by you and for you.
DIVA magazine celebrates 26 years on the newsstands in 2020. Get behind LGBTQI media and help us celebrate another 26, at least. Your support is invaluable. Get the latest issue here now.