Sexuality, Equality and Local Governance

Broadening Horizons: Sexuality, Equality and Diversity

11th March 2010, Newcastle University


Presentation Outlines


Living with Equality? LGBT Lives across the Generations

Brian Heaphy, University of Manchester

What difference does sexualities equalities work (and the legislation and local government initiatives that underpin it) make to LGBT lives? This presentation addresses this question from the perspective of different LGBT generations. It draws on past and current research on LGB families, LGB ageing and civil partnerships, and distinguishes loosely between ‘young’, ‘middle’ and ‘old’ LGBT generations. Viewed from the perspective of research on LGB families, sexualities equalities work has been relatively successful in promoting the kinds of ‘inclusion’ and ‘citizenship’ that some sections of the middle generations sought. However, a more complex picture of the successes of this work emerges when it is viewed from the perspective of research on older and younger generations. While sexualities equalities work has made some inroads into promoting the kind of everyday citizenship that old LGBT generations are concerned with, it can be hampered by a limited vision of equality and by resistances to ‘full’ equality. Also, while couples in civil partnerships are thought to access the ‘fullest’ citizenship available to LGB people in law, new research on young couple’s civil partnerships suggests that there is some distance to go in promoting and enabling ‘full’ relational citizenship in practice. Sexualities equalities work is currently serving some more successfully than others. The challenge is to learn from its successes to address its failings.

LGBT Equalities Work in Local Government: Changes and Challenges

Diane Richardson, Ann McNulty Newcastle University, and Surya Monro, University of Huddersfield

In recent years the UK has seen a raft of new legislation concerning equalities and human rights, including protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. This legislation, and broader policy and cultural changes, have meant that work around lesbian, gay and transgender equality has become a normalised aspect of the local authority remit to a degree. However, development is patchy, and institutionalised heterosexism, and in some cases overt homophobia and biphobia, are still apparent in some cases. This paper reports on an ESRC-funded research project of the impact of recent policy changes, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, on sexualities equalities initiatives. It highlights some of the key issues for policy makers and practitioners, as well as strategies used, and examples of interesting practice. The paper is set in the context of current challenges, including the impact of the recession.

Formal Equality and Real LGBT Lives: Extending the Reach of Governance

Chris Creegan (National Centre for Social Research)

The last decade has seen an enormous change in the legislative framework on sexual orientation. Just 22 years on from the passage of the infamous Section 28 and its notion of 'pretended family relationships', not only has it disappeared, a raft of progressive legislation on equality has taken its place. Sexuality, once seen as the preserve of the 'loony left', is now part of the fabric of local governance. But how far does the reach of legislation and policy extend? What relevance does formal legislation and policy have in the informal worlds we live in, particularly in the spaces where our private and public lives intersect - at work, at leisure and on the street? Evidence suggests that we have become more liberal, but how much has the formality of legislation and policy transformed the 'appreciative context' of society. This paper draws on the author's experience of research, policy and practice on sexuality for more than 25 years, and asks not only whether such a transformation has really taken place, but whether we can reasonably expect legislation and policy to reach into the 'spaces between words.'


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