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Opinion: Why gay men must vote at this year's general election

2017-05-21
It’s been one of the most exciting, nerve-wracking and divisive times for politics in the United Kingdom. We’re going through Brexit, we’ve laughed at Diane Abbot’s arithmetic skills, and gasped at our Australian allies failing to award us douze points in Eurovision. But there’s an even more important vote taking place on 8th June and the sequins are (unfortunately) optional. The general election is an opportunity for us to vote for the future of the United Kingdom. As the younger generation, our voice is perhaps the most important, because we’re the ones who are going to be around for the longest. So with that in mind, why are so few of us registered to vote? Politics is an emotive issue. Never bring it up on a first date, that’s what The Guyliner advises and his rule has worked out well for me so far. People tend to get very worked up about it, especially those naïve people who attempt to debate a controversial political point on Facebook. 100 comments and 500 angry emojis later, they finally realise that they’re clearly friends with the wrong people – UKIP supporters don’t bode well amongst my mutual friends. As gay men, it’s hard not to find ourselves talking about politics, given that so many aspects of our lives are dictated by political decisions. The right to marry the person we love, the ability to adopt a child, and the age at which we can consent to sex are all examples of political debates that have taken place over the past decades. Unlike our heterosexual peers, gay men and the wider LGBT+ community cannot simply sit back on chair named Privilege, because there are people debating, arguing and questioning our very right to be treated as equals. What’s more, there are always going to be a minority who wish they could revert the work done by LGBT+ activists. A minority that can quickly become the loudest voice in the room. My friend told me that she’s voting in the general election, as she feels “compelled” to do so. When I asked her why, she talked about the struggle women faced in order to gain the right to vote. If we were to consider our right as gay men to vote in a similar way, would more of us chose to exercise this right? Gay men were silenced under a vile of illegality and stigma for too long, but now’s the time to take the opportunity to influence the future direction of our country. As young people, I think we sometimes feel disenfranchised from the political conversation. Is that why there are still so many of us who haven’t registered to vote? We’re the ones who are going to be living through future decisions, so how can we say we’re not happy about something when we don’t do anything to change it? The general election is an opportunity for us to voice what we want for the United Kingdom. There have been a number of question marks raised above the current and past attitudes of certain political leaders towards LGBT+ people. Whilst I don’t think it’s helpful for me to tell you who to vote for, I’d argue that the future leader of our country must strive to include each and every member of our society. It’s up to you to decide who you believe that is. Don’t let the fact that others are too scared to challenge the status quo, discourage you from voting. If the early LGBT+ activists had become close-minded and comfortable, you wouldn’t be here reading this article. Words: Hadley Stewart