Writing for PinkNews, Mathew Hulbert, a Borough and Parish Councillor for the Liberal Democrats, says there is an important need for local authorities to do more to encourage LGBT candidates to stand for election.
I’m proud to be an Out Borough Councillor.
Being gay is an important part-though not the whole of who I am.
I believe I add something as the only out member of the authority I’m elected to, which isn’t brought to the table by any of the other Councillors (though, of course, they bring different qualities and experience.)
I believe, for Councils across the Country to be truly representative of the people they seek to serve we need more LGBT elected members.
I’d like to share a little bit about my experience.
I came out aged 31 in February 2011 and stood for and won election, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, in May 2011.
Though my standing for election wasn’t the reason I came out, I’m personally glad I was fully open and fully me when I presented myself to the electorate.
Which, let me be clear, is not me suggesting that all gay politicians must come out before standing for election; as we know, coming out is a very personal situation which can depend on circumstances, etc.
People should have the space to come out as and when they feel comfortable to do so.
However, there certainly shouldn’t be anything standing in the way of them doing so.
I have a number of roles on the Council I’m elected to, from being Vice Chairman of the Licensing Committee to its Children and Young People’s Champion.
But I also have an unofficial role, which I feel very passionately about, which is being a champion for my Borough’s LGBT community within the corridors of power locally.
On that basis I’ve done a number of things, from requesting the Stonewall School Survey be linked to from the Council website, so that local young people had easy access to filling it in.
More recently, I’ve requested the authorities Scrutiny Commission- of which I’m a member – does a piece of work looking at how the Council deals with diversity issues and specifically those faced by members of the LGBT community in the area.
If I hadn’t have called for this to happen, it wouldn’t have happened.
That’s the kind of difference having an LGBT elected representative can make.
I’m also very proud to be on the Management Committee of a local charity which recently launched the Borough’s first LGBT Advocacy and Advice service, called Proud Generation.
There’s much more work to be done, of course, but I’m really proud and pleased of the start that’s been made.
So, I believe local authorities and political parties need to be doing much more to encourage LGBT people to stand for office; all the way from Parish Councillor to MP.
In the Liberal Democrats, I’m a member of the ‘Out to Win’ Committee of the Party’s LGBT+Lib Dems group.
We work to help Out candidates, by going to campaign for them, providing literature, etc.
Again, there’s always more you can do, but I’m glad we do this work to help Out candidates.
LGBT issues, of course, aren’t the sole area I do work in, or even the majority of my work, but if I wasn’t on the authority it’s unlikely this work would be being done at all.
I hope, in the coming years, to see many more LGBT candidates standing for election.
Who knows, maybe even the next Prime Minister will be from our community.
Mathew Hulbert is a Borough and Parish Councillor for the Liberal Democrats in Leicestershire. He tweets at @HulbertMathew,