No young person should have to fear coming out the way I did
By teaching LGBT acceptance in schools, we show our children that the UK is a free and tolerant country where they can be who they are – this must be defended, writes Daniel Kawczynski
One afternoon, some years ago, I was on the train back home to my constituency of Shrewsbury and Atcham and I was sitting on some big news. It was news I was scared to tell, even to my closest supporters in the local Conservative Association – so much so that I was quietly praying the train would break down so I would not have to impart it. The news was that I was now in a same sex relationship.
Upon my arrival in Shrewsbury I addressed the Association, and at the end made my announcement. Full of apprehension, I looked up at the faces of the people I had spoken to, fifty of the most senior members of my local Party and awaited their reaction. Almost immediately, a gentleman in the front row stood up and said, “I think that’s marvellous news, well done” and began clapping. He was soon followed by the rest of the room who afterwards came up to me with hugs, well-wishes, and offers of drinks at the bar.
The kindness and humanity of people on occasions like this restore your confidence in our society and the warmth I felt from my Association members that night will stay with me forever. As someone who came out in their forties, I never want young people today to have any of the reservations, concerns or fears that I had. I want them to be proud and open with their families and friends about who they are. No child should feel that they are sinful or wrong for being gay.
Years later, I am holding a Westminster Hall debate on the topic of LGBT acceptance. This debate is so important because it will showcase both Parliament’s view and that of the wider country. It will demonstrate that we are staunch defenders of LGBT rights and will work diligently to create a Britain where telling someone you are LGBT is no more of a surprise than telling them you are left handed.
I have considered holding a Westminster Hall Debate on this topic for some years, however two recent events have spurred me to act. The first was the recent spate of protests against teaching children about LGBT people, and the second was one slightly closer to home. My junior researcher recently told me about how a close friend of his had come out to him and had done so through tears. Whilst I was delighted to hear that my researcher had reacted in the way we’d all hope – by embracing his friend and not caring in the slightest – I was still saddened to hear that this young man felt so fearful and apprehensive about coming out, even to a close friend.
With regards to those who are protesting outside Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham, I would appeal to their humanity, and ask them to try to understand the importance of giving young people confidence, of making them feel accepted, and allowing people to be free to be who they are, regardless of their sexuality. Britain is a nation of tolerance, of respect, of freedom, and we must hold these values high as a beacon for the rest of the world to follow.
It is of huge importance that we do set this example because while we are fortunate enough to live in Britain, there are many nations which do not share this view and do not share our values of liberty and tolerance. There are still at least six countries around the world enforcing a death penalty for homosexual acts, and many more handing down harsh prison sentences for nothing more than the ‘crime’ of being in love. The only way we can combat this is to prove that there is another way, a better way – having this education in our schools can only help us to promote this aim and to champion LGBT rights worldwide.
Daniel Kawczynski is Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham. His Westminster Hall debate will take place on Wednesday 4 September.