There are many ways councils can support LGBT+ residents and staff.
I represent a ward with a rich LGBT+ history, from the Bloomsbury Group living in its squares to the Gay’s the Word bookshop.
I also serve as Camden’s LGBT+ champion, helping to inform and shape the council’s approach to LGBT+ residents, colleagues, and the wider community.
In June, like many other councils, we celebrated Pride Month, and at the start of July we also marked UK Black Pride (2-4 July).
Like most LGBT+ people, I went through a journey of self-discovery and accepting myself. Growing up in a South Asian family, where being LGBT+ was a taboo subject and not understood, I have a lot of sympathy and understanding of the challenges faced by LGBT+ siblings of colour.
When you factor in the role that faith and heritage play, this creates some truly difficult situations for many LGBT+ people.
That’s why, now I am a proud, openly gay, British Indian man, I feel I have a responsibility and an opportunity to try to make that experience a little less difficult for other LGBT+ people of colour.
Local government has a rich history of being at the forefront of fighting for and championing LGBT+ rights.
Being increasingly visible and openly LGBT+ presents a positive change, but there is new and further work to do – such as tackling the rising hate crime faced by our community, ensuring that council officers and our partners (including the police and health professionals) are trained to take action when they see it, and designing council services and pathways that actively take into consideration LGBT+ lived experiences.
For instance, I’m a trustee of a fantastic charity called Opening Doors London. It supports LGBT+ people over 50 to lead full, vibrant and respected lives, free from isolation, loneliness, discrimination and prejudice.
This requires thoughtful policy work to ensure that services and facilities open to older people actively think about the needs of LGBT+ people. We still see too many older LGBT+ people going back into the closet in adult social care settings.
Councils also need to ensure that their workforces are inclusive and that services think about the specific needs and challenges faced by the LGBT+ community. From pro-active licensing policies to protect LGBT+ venues – which are of even more importance to LGBT+ people of colour – to ensuring that we eradicate the long shadow of Section 28 in our schools, there needs to be active consideration of our community.
Intersectionality has become an inclusion buzzword in recent times, but, in reality, we have always had LGBT+ people of colour, diverse genders and of all the protected characteristics.
For me, intersectionality in a local government context means we simply have to better understand and give more active thought to the different actual and lived experiences of the communities we seek to represent.
Only then can we hope to tackle some of the specific challenges and difficulties faced by some of these communities.
Right now, when considering varying vaccination uptake rates, you really need to dig a bit deeper to understand that within the black, Asian and minority ethnic community there are different uptake rates, and what the factors are causing these.
“Learn about the challenges facing the LGBT+ community”
Only then can you hope to tackle the different causes and reach our desired outcome of higher uptake of vaccines.
Another thought on this for me is about sponsorship. At Camden, our Executive Director of Corporate Services, Jon Rowney, acts as a sponsor for the staff-led networks.
While there is a lack of diversity in the upper echelons of local government officers, sponsorship can help ensure that the diversity of views and lived experiences of our diverse colleagues get heard and factored into thinking at the highest levels of local government.
I have three asks of all local government colleagues. First, learn about the barriers and challenges facing the LGBT+ community by engaging in Pride, LGBT+ visibility days and LGBT+ History Month, and by speaking to your LGBT+ colleagues and constituents.
Second, ensure that you factor the LGBT+ community in its entirety into your work. It’s not sufficient for your council to have a staff network or change its logo at Pride – we need to cover the hard yards of thinking about what this means for policy and the services we provide.
Finally, recognise that while a huge amount of progress has been made, there are significant sections of our community – specifically our trans siblings and LGBT+ people of colour – who face specific and complex challenges.
As leaders in local government, it is both our job and our duty to give support and be an ally of those who need it most.
This article is an edited version of an interview Cllr Madlani undertook for the LGA’s LGBTQIA+ and BAME Staff Networks.