In a comment piece for PinkNews.co.uk, Conservative Party member Tara Hewitt hits back at the recent criticism of her party.
I’m a 26-year-old diversity consultant and a proud Tory women, I also happen to be trans and bisexual.
Last week, I was not shocked to see a Labour activist write an article entitled “Gay Tory an Oxymoron” for PinkNews.co.uk. The reason I was not shocked was because the author is the type of ignorant Labour member who I came across frequently when I was myself a member of the Labour Party.
During my time as Labour Party national student LGBT officer and vice chair of the shadow climate change minister Luciana Berger’s parliamentary constituency in Liverpool, I experienced a lot of that “holier than thou” attitude from members of the Labour Party when it came to issues of equality and the Conservative Party. I remember hearing time and again “the Tories don’t do equality” and “they are homophobic and transphobic” etc. However, as my life has moved on and I’ve crossed the political floor, becoming a Tory myself my experiences have not lived up to this message.
I suffered endless comments during my time in Labour about being transgender, how people would never vote for a trans women and Labour radical feminists telling me I wasn’t really a women. Everything was about pigeonholing you in a box and defining you by what “group” you came from. I left Labour because my politics as a Blairite are now more at home in David Cameron’s modern Conservatives than they are in Ed Miliband’s old Labour; however long before I moved I had become disillusioned at been defined and view by the letters “LGBT” and not by my experience and skills as a campaigner and politician.
Yet since joining the Conservatives I have not received any transphobic comments or been judged on the basis of my sexuality or gender at all. In fact quite the opposite I have been fully supported to get involved in the party, meet ministers such as Theresa May and others and have even become a local campaign coordinator for local government campaigns.
Now I’m not too ignorant to realise that not everyone I meet may fully understand or agree with my sexuality and social life – however I don’t bring up who I’m sleeping with as a regular topic of conversation for people I have just met. What I have found so positive about being a member of the Conservative Party is that no matter who you are you’re judge on what skills you bring to the party and by your actions not your medical history or your love life.
Labour often condemn the Tories for their voting history and historic views that existed in the past; however we are living in 2012 and have a modern progressive liberal Conservative Party – a very different one to the picture that is so often shaped by left-wing activists and Labour members. All parties have in the past not shared the most positive attitudes when it has come to LGBT rights; it took endless campaigning and dragging of feet to get Labour to deliver on the legislation that they introduced while in office – did it mean that prior to that being gay and in Labour was an “Oxymoron” too?
Conservatives have also been criticised by those on the left for the appointment of Theresa May and now Maria Miller as minister for women and equalities. Arm chair politicos have been quick to throw up headline grabbing voting histories in an attempt to label the Tories as homophobic by selecting these two senior ministers for the job.
One has to snigger at this slight hypocrisy of Labour members condemning the LGBT friendly backgrounds of ministers for equality when we don’t have to go back far to see Labour’s appointment of Ruth Kelly to the role, a member of the devout catholic group Opus Dei who have a strong anti-gay doctrine.
My view is simply this, I want the most competent and high profile minister as possible leading the equalities agenda and I will judge them by the job they do not by the different jobs they have done in the past. On that basis we have seen both the Conservative equalities ministers leading on the introduction of equal marriage within a first term of a Conservative lead government, something Labour failed to achieve despite several historic landslide majorities and 13 years in office.
I’m not writing this article to try and tell people that the Conservatives are the only party for you if you happen to be LGBT or ignore the fantastic progress that Labour made whilst in office delivering basic rights and protection for many diverse people within society including those who define as LGBT. I am here to tell you that everyone is an individual and your sexuality and gender doesn’t define who you are, what you can achieve or what political party you should join. Some Tories are gay, bisexual or indeed transgender and its time some people got over it!
Tara Hewitt is a Conservative Party member.
The views expressed in the piece are her own and not that of PinkNews.co.uk