Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster must say sorry for hurt caused by DUP

By Gavin Boyd

That Arlene Foster has accepted an invitation to attend a PinkNews event in Stormont next week is a good thing.

The Rainbow Project has consistently extended invitations to the DUP, including to the international Tolerantia Awards, which we hosted in Belfast in 2016.

LGBT issues do not belong to any party or tradition. We want all political parties to engage with the LGBT community so, of course, we welcome Arlene's attendance at the PinkNews event.

Her attendance will be difficult for many members of our community to accept; people who have been terrorised in school, shunned from their families or suffered serious assaults for the crime of daring to hold their partner's hand in public.

A simple Google search will reveal the bile, scorn and malice that has consistently been shown to our community by DUP elected representatives - without any form of sanction or censure - since the party's creation.

DUP members have called us "poofs", "perverts", "abominations", "repugnant", "loathsome", "wicked" and "vile". We have been told that we are worse than those who sexually abuse children, and that hurricanes have been sent by God in judgment of our existence. Of course, most famously, the party had called for us to be imprisoned for our relationships with its Save Ulster From Sodomy campaign.

It was only in 2015 when then-leader Peter Robinson said that criminalisation was no longer the policy of the DUP. He was compelled to make this declaration after one of the party's councillors had called for the reintroduction of criminalisation. In 2015. The DUP has opposed every single extension of rights for LGBT people.

It has opposed our equal age of consent, employment protections and protections in accessing services.

It has opposed the open service of LGBT people in the UK armed forces and the Gender Recognition Act. To this day, the party remains opposed not just to marriage equality, but civil partnerships as well.

We have always reached out the hand of friendship to the DUP because we want to create a society that affords dignity to everyone.

Of course we welcome Arlene accepting PinkNews' invitation.

It is right that she attends. But she should not see this as an end in itself, but the start of a process of reconciliation.

Arlene must apologise for the hurt and pain caused by her party.

She must not engage in whataboutery and chastise LGBT people for our valid criticisms of her party.

She must recognise that the antipathy of LGBT people towards the DUP is not merely because of their opposition to marriage equality, but because they have consistently mocked, maligned and marginalised us.

She must acknowledge that the DUP's homophobia is not our "perception". It is the reality.

In spite of every harm that has been visited upon LGBT people, we remain joyful. We sing and dance through the streets.

We laugh at hypocritical condemnation and look after each other when we've been abandoned by everyone else. I hope Arlene enjoys being with us next week.

Gavin Boyd is policy and advocacy manager with the Rainbow Project

Belfast Telegraph

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