DIVA magazine publisher Linda Riley interviews Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan

BY LINDA RILEY

In her own words, Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan is: “Current MP for Tooting, Labour deputy leadership hopeful, and an all-round fabulous lady.” 

She has served as MP for Tooting since the 2016 by-election, and Shadow Minister for Sport between October 2016 and January 2020. 

At the LGBT+ Labour hustings in Manchester, Dr. Rosena spoke of her personal experiences as a doctor and how they have informed her understanding of the LGBTQI community, standing up for trans rights and standing in support of an independent complaints process. Backstage, she told DIVA more about how she will let the LGBTQI community be heard if she becomes Labour’s next deputy leader. 

The hustings event was hosted by LGBT+ Labour, presented by PinkNews and supported by DIVA. 

LINDA RILEY: What are the biggest concerns for LGBTQI voters and what would you do to address them? 

DR. ROSENA ALLIN-KHAN: I think there are a number of really key issues at the moment that I take incredibly seriously. First of all, the issue of transphobia is one that I find deeply upsetting and it needs to be targeted directly. It’s very important that we elevate this discussion to front and centre and say that we will not tolerate any transphobia in the Labour party. Moving aside from that, some of the issues that really concern me at the moment is the rise in homelessness amongst LGBTQI communities, mental health issues, and a real lack of access to help and support. We need to make sure that we are campaigning for people to feel as though they can report any abuse against them as a hate crime. It should not and must not be tolerated in our society.

Do you plan to expel trans exclusionary radical feminists from the party and do you consider their theories hate speech? 

There must be no room whatsoever for hate speech in our party. I fully support an independent complaints process where people feel empowered to complain against any example of where they feel as though they’ve had hate-speech directed at them. We need to deal with racism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, with the same energy and vigour going forward. We can’t be the party of equality, but then decide, “Oh, well, we just don’t like that group, therefore, we’re not gonna campaign for their equality.” As far as I’m concerned, trans rights are fundamentally human rights. 

How would you reassure the LGBTQI community in a post-Brexit UK, that their hard-fought freedoms are safe?

The real work starts now. We have a sexist, racist, misogynistic, homophobe, as the leader of our country, not just here, but in America. The acceptance of hate-speech from our top politicians has become ever-more acceptable in our communities. It’s about making sure that there is no watering down of rights. We have to work to reform the Gender Recognition Act, it’s about leading from the front. It’s about asking the community and empowering the community to have a say. What we don’t need is politicians, like myself, telling people how they should feel or what they should want. I want to hear from our communities. I want to be a voice working with you to take what you need and want forward.

What do you think of the riots in Birmingham last year regarding sex and relationship education in schools and how would you plan to stop that going forward?

It’s all about promoting tolerance from day one. I have two daughters and I am so proud when they come home and they say to me, “Mum, when I grow up, I’m going to have a wife or a husband.” It’s become very normalised for them to accept that. This has to become accepted and taught in schools so that it starts young. It’s going to take a generational shift to make moves, but it has to start now, and it has to start in schools. The only way that we create a more tolerant, inclusive society is by starting young and making sure that everyone feels that there’s a safe space for them. 

How would you protect the children of the LGBTQI community? 

I still work in A and E on our front line and I see children exactly like that coming in who self-harm, who have mental health problems, because of that very issue. I campaigned on those issues as a doctor, and I do so as a politician as well. It’s about saying, not “how do we support them by putting the services in place”, but “how do you prevent it in the first place?”

Why should LGBTQI women back Labour? 

I’m not entirely sure that they feel like they can. At this point in time, we can’t automatically assume that people support Labour just because they’re from our LGBTQI community. We can’t take that for granted. We have to make our parties a safe and welcoming space where they feel nurtured and celebrated, not just accepted or tolerated. My pledge to you is that if I’m not deputy leader, I’m going to make sure that I can work my socks off to make this party welcoming 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.

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