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Brexiteers want £500,000 to make Big Ben bong. This is how many vulnerable LGBT people that money could help

Emma Powys Maurice January 14, 2020
Big Ben

Prime minister Boris Johnson wants people to "bung a bob for Big Ben" (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

Boris Johnson is considering setting up a public fund to raise £500,000 so Big Ben can symbolically ‘bong’ ten times on the night Brexit is passed – because he apparently can’t think of anything better to do with the money.

The world famous clocktower is currently undergoing renovation and would require the installation of a temporary floor for the 13-tonne bell to ring on January 31.

Although the ridiculous idea was nixed by parliamentary authorities due to the massive financial and logistical issues – “You are talking about 50 grand a bong,” said speaker Lindsay Hoyle, pointing out that it wouldn’t even be heard by anyone outside of Westminster – that hasn’t stopped the prime minister urging people to “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong”.

But imagine a world in which £500,000 of publicly donated funds went *not* to a non-essential vanity project celebrating something the majority of Britons now object to, but – hear us out – something that could drastically improve the lives of LGBT+ minorities.

What a concept!

667 LGBT+ youths protected from homelessness.

Young LGBT+ people are disproportionately at risk of family abandonment, homelessness, and human trafficking.

AKT (formerly the Albert Kennedy Trust) is a charity that supports LGBT+ people aged 16-25 who are facing homelessness. Assuming the cost of ten bongs (or one Big Ben Brexit bong) is £500,000, the same amount could pay for a month of safety in emergency accommodation, including food and travel vouchers, for 667 LGBT+ youths over the winter.

Alternatively, it could provide 50,000 at-risk youths with three square meals, or give 10,000 of them special Winter Packs to help them survive the colder months, including thick coat, waterproof boots, and hat and scarf.

10,000 teachers trained to tackle LGBT+ bullying for the cost of a Big Ben Brexit bong.

LGBT+ bullying is the most common type of bullying in schools. Almost three-quarters of teachers have witnessed homophobic bullying in schools, and more than eight in 10 students have witnessed their peers making homophobic or transphobic comments.

This abuse leads to higher suicide rates in the LGBT+ population, and research shows it continues in the workplace, as more than a quarter of LGBT+ people are bullied by colleagues.

A one-off £500,000 donation to Stonewall could cover the cost of training 10,000 teachers to tackle anti-LGBT+ bullying, giving young people support and protection they need at school.

It could also give 10,000 schools a School Role Model to educate and inspire children on LGBT+ lives and the need to celebrate of diversity – something the government has admitted is vital for the curriculum.

A year’s PrEP for 125 men.

PrEP – or Pre-exposure Prophylaxis – is the most effective protection against HIV. If taken correctly it is more than 99 per cent effective at controlling the spread of the disease, and allows HIV positive people to have safe sex with HIV negative partners.

PrEP provided on the NHS in Scotland and on a trial basis in Wales, but is not easily accessible in England and Northern Ireland. Factoring in the decreased numbers of people on lifelong HIV treatment, the medication could save the NHS a total of £1 billion over 80 years.

The same amount of money it would cost to have Big Ben bong for Brexit would allow the NHS to fund the life-changing treatment for 125 men for a full year.

Run the Mermaids helpline for three years.

Thirty per cent of trans and non-binary people people between the ages of 13 and 24 have attempted suicide. For comparison, the figure is less than six per cent for heterosexual youth.

Transgender and non-binary children desperately need support and understanding to explore their gender identity. The Mermaids helpline provides a gateway to the parents and teens forums, information about current legislation and protections under the law, plus signposting to training and resources.

A Big Ben Brexit bong could cover the helpline’s costs for three years and serve around 30,000 contacts from people in need across the helpline, web chat and email services.

Reform Scotland’s Gender Recognition Act.

Last month Scotland launched a fresh consultation to reform its gender recognition laws, setting out a new process to replace the UK-wide system and end the need to provide medical evidence to a gender recognition panel.

The current process is so “bureaucratic, invasive and humiliating” that only one in ten trans people actually obtain the gender recognition certificate needed to change the sex on their birth certificate, Stonewall found.

The total cost of setting up a self-declaration system is just £300,000, according to the government’s plan – less than the Scottish government’s annual expenditure on office stationery. The cost of a Big Ben Brexit bong is nearly enough to reform the Gender Recognition Act twice over.

Alternatively, instead of a Big Ben Brexit bong…

If Brexiteers really must mark the big day with a bong, perhaps they’d like to consider this far cheaper (and cuter) solution instead.

More: Big Ben, Boris Johnson, brexit, gender recognition act, GRA Reform, LGBT homeless, PrEP

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