26 August 2021 – Press Release:
Council refuses to listen to vulnerable
Well-respected local community group Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance have gone public with their ongoing concerns about transphobia within the local Labour party and in the publicly held office of deputy mayor. Said a spokesperson for the group,
“Sadly, as we approach the annual event of Hastings Pride, when local people can show support and solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community, it has been shown exactly why we need such an event- not just to celebrate and have a good time, but to meaningfully stand together against oppression. In 2021 we still do not have real support for the whole LGBTQIA+ community from those who hold public office”.
This is an ongoing issue which they have been trying to tackle for several months. In May, Councillor Ruby Cox was elected as Deputy Mayor of Hastings by all but one of the Labour Party Councillors. All councillors were whipped to vote in favour, but only one, Claire Carr, was brave enough to abstain, in the face of significant pressure from party leaders. She did so because of concerns over harmful transphobic posts that had been shared on social media by Councillor Cox.
From then on, the two major groups in Hastings that represent and support the LGBTQIA+ communities (Hastings Pride and Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance), worked together to try and engage with Hastings Borough Council who refused to meet, despite numerous attempts. Pride and Rainbow Alliance even engaged a professional mediator to try and persuade the council to simply meet to discuss the issues. Again, they refused.
We exist in a media landscape of harmful transphobic rhetoric. This comes from all sides: anti-trans posts on social media from transphobic groups and individuals, as well as in legacy media such as The Times, Daily Mail et al, which increase the likelihood of verbal and physical attacks on this vulnerable section of society. There have recently been reports of hate crimes committed locally, including by one (now ex) Labour party member spitting at a child he perceived as being trans.
Eventually, through the HRRA chair’s persistence, and circumventing the official channels to the obstructive Borough Council, Councillor Judy Rogers agreed to a meeting. At this meeting things looked promising: Cllr Cox had agreed that she would issue a public apology.
However, although Cllr Cox drafted an apology, it was ambiguously worded. She said that, at the time of posting the anti-trans comments and links, she “did not understand the complexities of the issues surrounding trans rights”.
HRRA and Hasting Pride then asked her to acknowledge that trans men are men and trans women are women, and should be treated as such. Councillor Cox refused.
As a result, HRRA and Hastings Pride have both been forced to take a stand. The mayor’s office, and any councillors who voted for Ms Cox, are now unwelcome in an official capacity at any Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance or Hastings Pride events- including Hastings Pride this Sunday. In the words of their spokesperson, Chrissy Brand,
“We will celebrate Hastings Pride on Sunday. However, the local campaign to ensure basic human rights for a vulnerable part of our LGBTQIA+ community will now ramp up. We will not rest until those that are elected to serve the people show support to some of the most vulnerable. We thank those few councillors such as Judy Rogers and Claire Carr who have shown true and unequivocal support and solidarity throughout. This is what we hope to see from more councillors moving forward as we challenge the actions of the council leaders and try to find a resolution. We ask everyone to take a stand in defence of members of the LGBTQIA+ community- as one community, enriched by our differences, strengthened by our solidarity.”
Rainbow Alliance and Pride joint statement can be found on the Hastings Pride website – https://hastingspride.org.uk/hrrahp/
Article in Hastings in Focus – https://www.hastingsinfocus.co.uk/2021/08/26/trans-rights-standing-together/
Update – 27 August 2021:
We have been overwhelmed by messages of support since our statement about transphobia and Hastings Borough Council went out (see above) and it has been made clear that many councillors had no idea of Councillor Cox’s views and wouldn’t have voted for her as a representative of the town had they known.
So now we ask the other councillors at Hastings Borough Council to do what Ruby Cox wouldn’t and publicly agree to our Pride Pledge, as follows:
“I fully support the LGBTQ+ community in all its diversity, and will represent them with a strong voice.
I believe that
* trans folk deserve to live with dignity, support and acceptance, as their authentic selves, in line with their gender identity
* trans rights are human rights!
I stand in solidarity with Hastings Pride and Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance.”
We had to take a strong stand against the Hastings Borough Council leadership after months of refusing to engage with us, but we don’t want to stop anyone who truly supports our community coming out to show it, so please:
– post the pledge
– tag us so we know you’re with us (or email us so we can share on your behalf)
– then stand with us on Sunday against transphobia, homophobia and oppression, in solidarity and with pride.
Hastings Online Times Article – https://hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk/hot-topics/campaigns/stand-together-for-trans-rights
Update – 2 September 2021:
Hastings Independent Press Article – https://www.hastingsindependentpress.co.uk/news/pride-and-prejudice-2/
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