Pride Flag and Bisexual Flag will be shown by East Devon District Council

Thursday’s full Council Meeting was very busy and Owl is still catching up.

Daniel Clark 

East Devon District Council will fly the Pride Flag and Bisexual Flag outside its Blackdown House HQ to coincide with Pride Month in June and Bisexual Visibility Day on September 23.

Councillors on Thursday night almost unanimously voted to back the two motions that had been put forward by Cllr Luke Jeffery and seconded by Cllr Joe Whibley.

The rainbow Pride Flag will be flown during Pride Month, June, and on the same day as any pride events which take place within the district, while the council committed to engage with local LGBT+ charities and advocacy groups to see how EDDC can better support its LGBT+ community.

The Bisexual flag will also be flown outside of Blackdown house on Bisexual Visibility Day to promote awareness around the specific challenges faced by the bisexual community, and the council will also include specific materials about the bisexual community in any equalities training it runs for staff.

Putting forward his motions, Cllr Jeffery, who is the youngest member of the council, said that he was concerned that the number of hate crimes against people in Devon and Cornwall on the basis of their sexual orientation rose by 9.6 per cent and against transgender people hate crimes rose by 26.5 per cent in 2018-19.

He added: “No-one should have to experience hate or have their validity of their existence questioned, which is something many LGBT+ people will have experience of. The council can show solidarity with the LGBT+ community and we can make a public statement of support for the community and it would mean a great deal as a gesture.

“It is important that East Devon shows solidarity with its LGBT+ community who make up such an important part of our community. As openly bisexual, we do face specific challenges in the LGBT+ community, for example, frequent bi-phobia, being confused or extremely promiscuous, or that we simply don’t exist. I should know as I have heard them all myself, and given the challenges that go unnoticed, I proposed this to combat bi-phobia, as ignorance of the issues is the greatest issue.”

Cllr Whibley, supporting the motion, added: “I was saddened to learn that flying the Pride Flag was not done as a matter of course. It gives hope to people that they are not alone, isolated, or without support.

“I grew up gay in a rural environment where a homosexual was considered as rare a beast as a Scottish Conservative, but I was lucky enough that family and friends showed understanding and compassion and my sexuality mattered not one jot, but not everyone is that lucky. This is helping to drag the council into the 21 st century kicking and screaming and this is the right thing to do.

“People may say if we do this, then we have to do it for all the other minority groups, so I say, let’s do that, as that’s a great idea.”

Cllr Paul Millar added that this was vital to be supported as discrimination against the LGBT+ communities still exists today.

He said: “I was in my first year at Exmouth Community College when I first faced homophobic bullying from classmates. At that point I had just turned 13. Children by their very nature tend to bully other children if they show any difference to any area of vulnerability, and I was a posh sounding Oxford boy in a Devon town.

“The teachers were silent of challenging homophobia against me and others in the classroom, and homosexuality was not mentioned in any sex education or part of the curriculum. Being LGBT+ was not a way of life that held any bright future for anyone with no positive role models or anyone to look up to.

“For me, quietly coming out in my late 20s without any fanfare, I compared it to how an elderly octogenarian would feel if they decided to ride a bike for their 82 nd birthday. I was somewhat confused and slightly out of my depth, and I still struggle with my identity today.

“As much as society has changed, discrimination against the LGBT+ still exists in much subtler forms – that’s why we don’t have an openly gay or bisexual footballer, even though they must exist.

“I was in my local pub last year and overheard a man say ‘I hate it when they hold hands – keep it in your own backyard’. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have challenged that and may have nervously laughed along or shamefully joined in. But now I can challenge it, I did challenge it, I’m glad I challenged it, and we should all challenge it, as you don’t know who might be in earshot who is bottling up their life, and that was me once.”

Leader of the council, Cllr Paul Arnott, added that he was delighted to be backing the motions and that he will be there when the flag goes up outside Blackdown House, while Cllr Andrew Moulding, leader of the Conservative group, added that his group would be supporting the two motions.

There were 46 votes to three abstentions, in favour of the celebrating pride in East Devon motion, while the tackling Bi-phobia motion was passed by 44 votes, three abstentions.

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Jeffery said: “I am delighted to see EDDC approve these two motions, it shows how EDDC is determined to show solidarity with its LGBT+ community who make up such an important part of our community. As an openly bisexual councillor I am especially pleased to see the motion recognising the specific challenges faced by my community and look forward to seeing the bisexual flag outside Blackdown house in September.”

Cllr Whibley added: “I am delighted and relieved that EDDC councillors do indeed live in the 21st Century and recognise the importance of this motion, and the positive benefits of recognising such important causes.”

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