Lords Diary: Baroness Hunt on Pride month and challenging notions of faith and sexuality
I’ve started tentatively coming back to my office in Millbank. I was introduced to the House in October 2019, so what with prorogation, a general election and a global pandemic, I’ve not quite managed to be here as much as I’d like.
Peerhub has been a triumph, though. As a working peer, my “day job” has taken me online. Everything takes longer and I’ve been grateful to be able to watch proceedings in the chamber from my desk at home, and vote via the app. I’ve been able to listen to debates more than I might have done in ordinary times.
But armed with my second jab, it’s good to be able to start coming in again. It means I’ve been able to meet with the Lord Convenor, as well as talk with colleagues on the Steering Group for Change. The group, skilfully chaired by Baroness Donaghy, brings together peers and staff to work on the recommendations of the Ellenbogen report.
There is much that is exceptionally good about the culture in the House of Lords, and much we want to retain and protect. The Ellenbogen report showed us where we might be able to make improvements and find ways of working that enable all of us – staff and peers – to do our best work and enjoy being part of this extraordinary institution. It’s a privilege to be part of the efforts to achieve those aims.
It’s Pride month so I’m taking part in panels and speaking events up and down the country, and across the world, without leaving my office. It’s a different experience speaking into the void that is Zoom and Teams but it does mean I’m able to take part in more discussions and look beyond London.
The paperback version of The Book of Queer Prophets has just been published. I was lucky enough to edit this book, which brings together LGBT+ people from across the globe to reflect on the relationship between faith and sexuality and identity.
Pupils ask about the future of the Lords and what it’s like to be one of the few lesbians here
As a practicing Christian, I was grateful to have the opportunity to challenge the notion that faith and sexuality are diametrically opposed, and to shed some light on a subject that often generates heat. I’m very much looking forward to getting back to The Chapel of St Mary Undercroft. It’s such an oasis of calm amid the usual frenetic pace of Westminster.
The ability to hold conversations across the globe has also provided an opportunity to reflect on the state of LGBT+ rights in the UK and further afield. I’m part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Global LGBT+ Rights. Chaired by Crispin Blunt, we are a group of MPs and peers who work to advance LGBT+ inclusion across the world.
In June 2022, the UK is supporting our first-ever global LGBT conference to tackle inequalities. As a country, we’ve been on an incredible journey from persecution to equality, and have valuable insights about how to achieve and maintain legislative and social change.
We’ll also be able to learn some things, too. For example, unlike the UK, Ireland does not require trans people to confirm their gender with a doctor. Argentina, our partner for the global conference, also has more progressive legislation relating to trans issues.
As well as the more corporate and community group speaker events, I’ve also been able to deliver some talks to schools in partnership with the Learn with the Lords programme.
Secondary school and sixth form pupils ask about the merits of a second chamber, the future of the Lords, and what it’s like to be one of the few lesbians here.
I’m reminded how much the public notice what is being said in the chamber, how it is being said, and who is doing the talking. I return to my portfolio of work with the Steering Group for Change with renewed vigour.
Baroness Hunt is a Crossbench peer and former chief executive of Stonewall
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