Over the weekend, a video quietly dropped on YouTube in which revellers at this summer’s London Pride explained why they are backing Jeremy Corbyn for the next Labour leader:
“He supported gay rights before anyone else supported us,” one young man explains, pointing out that Corbyn has “never voted against gay rights.”
He’s right. Corbyn has voted against every anti-LGBT bill and for every advance in LGBT equality since he entered parliament in 1983, making him the only candidate who both opposed Section 28 and supported equal marriage. That’s an impressive ally, which is one reason why prominent LGBT activists from Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners’ Mike Jackson to the Guardian columnist Owen Jones have publicly backed Corbyn’s campaign.
Like them, I’m proud to support Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader. And like them, my support is for reasons far beyond up-and-down votes for our equality. Mr Corbyn unequivocally opposes austerity, which is much more than can be said for his opponents, none of whom walked through division to oppose the Tory Welfare Bill, a chainsaw massacre of the welfare state and public services which leaves the most vulnerable in British society out in the lurch.
At first blush, this may seem inconsequential to our community; equality and austerity, you shrug, are separate issues. Two studies conducted over the last three years, though, suggest otherwise. In 2013, UNISON—the public sector trade union—commissioned a study on how austerity has effected the LGBT community. The findings were startling: not only did LGBT people face “greater financial hardships from redundancies, real term pay cuts and changes to benefit rules,” but that austerity had led to “greater feelings of marginalisation and invisibility as specialist LGBT services and support disappeared.” Last year, the Trade Unions Congress, in their own commissioned report, found that LGBT volunteer and charity services were especially hurt by cuts in public spending, with “their already more than averagely impacted service users… particularly vulnerable.”
Among the most vulnerable are LGBT youth experiencing homelessness. The UNISON study found that cuts to housing benefits, especially amongst the young, were especially difficult on young LGBT people “as they may find it difficult to find a safe and comfortable shared accommodation with flatmates accepting of their sexuality or gender identity.” The Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity which supports LGBT youth experiencing homelessness, earlier this year found that nearly a quarter of homeless British youth identify as LGBT. When the Guardian cited this study in its expose on homelessness amongst LGBT young people back in May, the government hadn’t yet slashed housing benefits for those under 21 and denied under-25s the minimum wage. This is disastrous for young LGBT people who have been kicked out of their homes by homophobic or transphobic parents and may find it difficult to find supportive flatmates, let alone a way to make rent.
This is but one way austerity has negatively impacted our community. LGBT people are more likely to suffer suicidal ideations and mental health issues, largely due to homophobia and transphobia, than their peers, making cuts to mental health services particularly concerning to our community; even before the Tories had a majority, austerity measures had cut £253 million from the NHS’ Mental Health Trusts. And zero hour contracts have been notoriously bad for our community, especially; the UNISON study reports a trans woman who could no longer afford her transition because she made less on a zero hour contract.
Which is why Corbyn, with his pledge to end austerity and bring about a more equitable society, is so appealing to so many, especially young people, at a time when youth unemployment is at its highest since the 1990s and LGBT people still face so much discrimination in employment. Corbyn has a vision that resonates, not just with those on the lower rungs of the social ladder, but with those at the top, as well. He is in every respect the peoples’, including LGBT peoples’, candidate.
This may seem somewhat shocking considering last week I referred to him as having “all the electability and relevance of a Womble.” And my concerns about his abilities as a leader, not just of the Labour Party but of the country, remain. The same can be said, however, for his comeptitors. Not a single one of these candidates inspires confidence. Owen Jones can see Mr Corbyn as a future prime minister. I’m, from a purely strategic point, not sold yet, if only because he is an unproven leader with unproven results. Mr Corbyn has never sat on the front bench, let alone been in government. How he manages to wrangle the Blairites and Brownites within the party is of utmost concern. (But with grand pronouncements from Liz Kendall about refusing to serve in his shadow cabinet and dire predictions from Tony Blair, if the party splinters, it likely won’t be Mr Corbyn holding the sledgehammer.)
Still, I have more faith in him than in Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, or Andy Burnham. They expected to trample over him, and in all fairness, Mr Corbyn didn’t enter this contest expecting to win. Yet here we are, with the MP from Islington North—a 30+ year backbencher—leading by double digits. Which, when you consider the mood of the British public, shouldn’t surprise any of us.
As Vice reported last month, Mr Corbyn’s positions on a whole host of issues—from renationalising the railways and utility companies to dismantling Britain’s nuclear arsenal—are more in step with public opinion than any of the other three contenders. And as I wrote in my post-mortem after Ed Miliband’s throttling in the general election, Labour lost because they didn’t run far enough to the left. In these regards, he is just the candidate Labour needs to reclaim Number 10 in 2020.
And that’s what is most important to the LGBT community. We need to roll back austerity in order to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. We need a champion who has been on our side his entire political career. We need someone with clarity of vision and purity of heart.
That man is Jeremy Corbyn.
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Skylar Baker-Jordan is THEGAYUK’s political contributing editor and has bylines at HuffPost, The Independent and the Daily Dot.