Transgender campaigner praises DUP leader Arlene Foster after meeting at PinkNews Belfast reception
Trans Pride NI campaigner Adrianne Elson has praised DUP leader Arlene Foster’s engagement with the LGBT community, after meeting the politician at a PinkNews reception.
Foster, whose party has traditionally been strongly opposed to LGBT rights, became the first DUP leader to attend an LGBT event on Thursday (June 28) when she spoke to activists at the PinkNews Belfast summer reception, sponsored by Citi.
The DUP leader delivered a speech at the event that attempted to chart a middle-ground of respect for LGBT rights while defending her stance against same-sex marriage.
She also spent time meeting with many of the LGBT activists who were present.
Adrianne Elson, a campaigner with Trans Pride NI, was one of those who spoke to the leader at the event, and photographs of the pair lead the Irish News and Belfast News Letter.
Elson spoke to PinkNews at the event about her meeting with Foster.
She told PinkNews: “I was pleasantly surprised that this event was going to take place and she was going to take place and she was going to speak at it. I’m transgender and I’m a unionist, and symbolically it was a huge event for me personally.”
Elson said that Foster had thanked her for messages they have exchanged privately previously.
Of Foster’s speech, Elson said: “I think a few people were expecting more, but I knew what background she was coming from.
“The very fact she was here I am happy with – I’m not disappointed at all. I’m really pleased that she came, and I was really pleased with [Ulster Unionist Party leader] Robin Swann’s address too. His talk was very encouraging.”
Elson added that LGBT Unionists can often feel excluded due to the comparatively-traditionalist stances of both the DUP and UUP.
She said: “It’s quite difficult because I don’t feel I’ve got a tribe as such that I can readily identify with or that I’ve got a sense of belonging. I feel stuck in the middle.”
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John Miscelli, a former chair of Stonewall and an old acquaintance of Foster, also met with her at the event.
He told PinkNews: “Arlene was very brave to come along. She has a journey to make, and I think she recognises that you’re either part of the steamroller of change or you’re part of the roadway.
“She has that decision to make. Her voter base are probably of the older generation, but if you talk to the younger generation, they say this insignificant.
“It was good that she came along tonight and it was brave of her given the road they’ve got to travel.”