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On 15th October, Big Tent Digital hosted its first Queer Debate, where members of the LGBTQ+ community from around the world will meet to discuss a wide range of issues facing its members and find constructive ways through which to increase inclusivity, improve mental health and promote individual freedom.

The first event was chaired by Linda Riley, the publisher of DIVA Magazine and former Board Director of US based LGBT campaign group GLAAD, who introduced the evening by noting the impact that COVID-19 has had on many members of the LGBTQ+ community, whose usual difficulties have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Topics discussed throughout the session included ways in which the NHS could improve the provision of its services to LGBTQ+ patients, the role of businesses in promoting minority rights in the UK and globally, and the recent appointment of a new chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. All attendees expressed concern about the shifting nature of the public discourse around trans rights both in the UK and around the world.

Baroness Ruth Hunt, former CEO of LGBT human rights charity Stonewall, discussed the work she had undertaken which looked at health disparities between lesbians and the general population, saying there were still gaps to be fixed. She also urged participants to take extra steps to reach out to and support other members of the community, and volunteer to support the most vulnerable as we enter the winter months.

Councillor Pav Akhtar, NHS Diversity and Equalities Lead, and Preston Councillor and governor of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, discussed how LGBTQ+ groups need to work together with the NHS to help health leaders understand how policy development might impact minorities. He stated that he is optimistic about the opportunity for communities to get a seat at the table given recent progress within the health service.

Michelle Tea, award-winning author and essayist, joined the event from LA, California and expressed great concern over the current situation in her home country. She shared her experiences of coming out in the 1990s and how conversations around queer issues has changed since then, and why supporting members of the trans community should be a priority at this time as they’re currently the most vulnerable.

Bobbi Pickard, the co-chair of BP Pride Transgender Group and founder of the corporate collaboration network “Trans in the City”, highlighted the role businesses can play in championing queer rights both abroad and in the UK and the importance of young professionals to assist each other to affect change both in the workplace and society overall.

Please follow Big Tent Ideas to get updates of upcoming events in our Big Queer Debate series, and let us know if there are any topics you think we should prioritise.

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