Justine Greening opens up about coming out while winning Politician of the Year at PinkNews Awards
Education Secretary Justine Greening has opened up about coming out, while winning the award for Politician of the Year at the PinkNews Awards jointly with the SNP’s Hannah Bardell.
Greening became the first out woman to serve in the Cabinet when she came out during last year’s Pride in London celebrations.
And she said that she did so because “I realised I needed to be part of moving things on.”
Greening told the audience: “I received so much support. It really inspired me to do all I can.”
She also paid tribute to her colleagues in Parliament, saying: “The best thing is, there are now so many politicians in our Parliament who are part of this cause and changing things for the better.
“In the end, that moves things on.”
Greening revealed: “I’m not someone who ever wanted to go into politics, but I decided to make a difference.
She added: “I passionately believe that a country’s greatest asset is its people and you can only be your best if you can be yourself.”
And presenting the Broadcast Award to Maajid Nawaz and Lorraine Kelly, the Education Secretary emphasised that the media portraying LGBT people turns ‘them’ into ‘us’.
Receiving her award, Hannah Bardell joked that “it was a really appropriate time to decide that I was going to deal with my sexuality – when I was up for election.”
She added: “I am proud to be part of one of the gayest parties in the gayest Parliament in the world, making it just a little bit gayer.”
Bardell, 34, also praised the progress which has been made since she was young.
“I would never have contemplated coming out at school – and I didn’t.
“For the next generation and the countries where it is still a fight: we must all work for those people who can’t have marches.
“It is for them that we are here, and that we accept these awards.”
The PinkNews Awards, which took place in Westminster today, celebrates the contributions of politicians, entertainers, businesses, campaigners and community groups to improving LGBT+ life in the UK and beyond.
The event was addressed by all the major party leaders – Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable and SNP leader Ian Blackford.
At the event, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow presented the Politician of the Year award jointly to Education Secretary Justine Greening and the SNP’s Hannah Bardell.
As Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, Greening has championed LGBT rights, pushing forward with plans to make sex and relationship education mandatory in schools, and championing LGBT-inclusive education.
She has also begun work to reform the Gender Recognition Act, which allows transgender people to gain legal recognition, in order to make the process more accessible and inclusive.
She picked up the award jointly with the Scottish National Party MP Hannah Bardell, who has been a strong voice in Parliament during cross-party work on LGBTI issues.
Ms Bardell first came out while standing for Parliament in 2015.
She said: “I only came out to myself and to my family during the election. I then chose not to say anything publicly because I had just got elected and I didn’t want it to be one of the first things I said about myself as an MP”.
Ms Greening came out on the day of Pride in London in 2016, tweeting: “Today’s a good day to say I’m in a happy same sex relationship, I campaigned for Stronger In but sometimes you’re better off out!”
In an interview with the Evening Standard, Ms Greening revealed that she has been in a relationship with partner Tess for “several” years but had not chosen to make it public until she rose to the Cabinet.
Earlier this year, Ms Greening urged the Church to “keep up” with modern society’s acceptance of same-sex marriage.
Greening said it was “quite important that we recognise that for many churches, including the Church of England, that was something they were not yet willing to have in their own churches.”
However, she added: “I think it is important that the Church in a way keeps up and is part of a modern country.
“I wouldn’t prescribe to them how they should deal with that.
“But I do think we are living in a country where people broadly recognise that attitudes are in different place now to where they were many, many years ago.”
Greening continued: “We have allowed same-sex marriage, that’s a massive step forward for the better.
“For me, I think people do want to see our major faiths keep up with modern attitudes in our country.”
The senior cabinet member last week told the PinkNews Parliamentary Summer Reception that there are “too many pockets in our country where LGBT rights are seen as something that are a mistake.
“They think things have gone too far, and should go back to where they were.
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“We need to keep on pushing, and there are lots of steps I want to see us as a government take going forward.”
The Education Secretary also said: “Since 1967 we have taken many steps along that road that we can be proud of, whether it’s more recent steps like same-sex marriage or steps taken by governments before, like the repeal of Section 28.
“All of these were important milestones that set out the journey that our country was on, not just in Parliament but in public, and the fact that attitudes have changed.
“Britain now is genuinely a much more inclusive country than we’ve ever been, but we’ve got a long way to go.”