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A message from the First Minister

No ground was ever gained for progressive causes without struggle. Whenever the case for change is made, defenders of vested interests and the status quo emerge. Nowhere is this clearer than in the struggle to secure the rights of LGBTQ+ people. The modern history of LGBTQ+ liberation extends over more than 50 years. The cumulative human cost involved in confronting entrenched prejudice has been enormous. The efforts of pioneers have secured really significant advances. But the need for constant vigilance remains. Discrimination and prejudice may no longer be legally or socially acceptable, but they have certainly not disappeared, nor is the effort to secure further advances over.  

That is why this ambitious, cross-government LGBTQ+ Action Plan seeks to tackle the existing inequalities experienced by LGBTQ+ communities, to challenge discrimination, and to create a society where LGBTQ+ people feel safe to live and love authentically, openly, and freely as themselves.

This Plan is a statement, a powerful statement, of our determination to go on, walking down that road together here in Wales, to build on a movement of formidable courage. We are determined that, by working together and standing up for what we know to be right, we can create that equal and beautiful Wales we all want to see.

This is our first Plan to focus on responding to the specific needs, diversity, and vulnerabilities of our LGBTQ+ communities. For the first time, we have brought together our existing commitments and set out how we intend to advance LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion, to make a real difference to the life chances, prospects, rights, and outcomes for LGBTQ+ people, into the future.

We have also strengthened the ways in which we will deliver the Plan and be held accountable for it. We have secured a realistic budget and evaluation strategy to monitor success during this Senedd term. Our aim is to close the gap between publishing an Action Plan, and seeing it implemented. In fact, work to implement this plan has already begun.

We know that issues being faced by LGBTQ+ communities are often multidimensional: that is why this Action Plan has a focus on intersectionality. It aligns closely with all our work to advance human rights and reduce inequality relating to gender, disability, faith, age, and race; how this intersects with LGBTQ+ rights with no-one left behind, will be key to this Plan’s success.

I hope you will enjoy reading the Plan for what it is, the accumulation of the efforts of so many people here in Wales but still only the first step in a journey which certainly does not end here.

Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS.

First Minister of Wales.

Ministerial foreword

The Welsh Government stands together with and within our LGBTQ+ communities in Wales. That's why LGBTQ+ rights are embedded in our Programme for Government, are a key component of the Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru, and why we have developed this bold Action Plan. This plan strengthens protections for LGBTQ+ people, promotes equality for all, and helps co-ordinate actions across Government, communities and the country in order to achieve our ambition of making Wales the most LGBTQ+ friendly nation in Europe.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, these values are even more central to creating a fairer, more prosperous and a more equal Wales. Support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, intersex, asexual, aromantic, queer and questioning people (LGBTQ+) is at the heart of this commitment.

We want Wales to be a nation where everyone feels safe to be themselves, to be open about their sexual orientation, gender, and gender expression, at home, in work or at leisure, without feeling threatened. This Action Plan must form part of our collective commitment to create a Wales where everyone feels free, supported, and safe to be, and live their lives as, our authentic selves.

A Wales where people like me don’t need to wonder whether it is safe to hold our partner’s hand in public; a Wales where slurs and snide remarks, whether online or on the streets, is no longer commonplace, and a Wales where hate is consigned to history. We’ve come a long way in the past few decades when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, but LGBTQ+ people can still face discrimination and harassment, whether in the workplace, education, family settings, healthcare, social care, and more. However, we are in an age where it can feel like we are under attack, and that our rights are at risk of being rolled back: whether that is around the world or, sadly, slightly closer to home, with the apparent regressive position on LGBTQ+ rights being pursued by the current UK Conservative Government. There is a sense of history repeating itself, from the language of vilification, fear and othering targeted at the trans community to the toxic mix of misogyny and homophobia that many of us are all too familiar with.

This must change, and the work on creating that change has begun.

The LGBTQ+ Action Plan has been developed in collaboration with a wide range of communities and organisations across all parts of Wales. The goals and actions have been shaped jointly with LGBTQ+ people and we made ‘Nihil de nobis, sine nobis’ (‘nothing about us without us’) one of the values that underpins this Action Plan and our approach. We are incredibly grateful to everyone, particularly the LGBTQ+ Expert Panel, for their contribution to this work, and the willingness of LGBTQ+ people to extend their trust in believing in the possibility of positive change.

Together, in the past few years, we have already made progress in Wales. We have pushed forward with curriculum reform, embedding LGBTQ+ inclusive education. We established a gender identity service to help our trans communities be their true selves. We became the first nation in the UK to offer PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, an anti-HIV drug) free on the NHS. We have supported Pride Cymru and grassroots Pride events in communities across Wales.

We published the HIV Action Plan for Wales for consultation in 2022. The plan aims to reach the target of zero new HIV transmissions by 2030, to tackle late diagnosis in Wales and HIV-related stigma, and improve the quality of life of people living with HIV. We continue to develop our gender service in Wales, which reports shorter waiting times for first assessment than comparable NHS gender services in England and is committed to reducing waiting times further. We are also committed to improving the pathway for supporting transgender young people in Wales. The Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee, responsible for the service, will look at available evidence to further define the clinical service model for the future, and community voices will be front and centre of this work.

Our commitment to support LGBTQ+ people seeking sanctuary in Wales and demonstrate our international duty to show leadership on equality has never been more important. We have called out the UK Government, expressing our horror at their plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. This would be devastating for LGBTQ+ people, placing them at risk of ill treatment, discrimination, arbitrary arrest, and detention. Our place in the world and LGBTQ+ issues beyond our borders remain important to us, we have a duty to do what is right at home, including challenging and working with UK Government and abroad, using our platform to engage and influence.

Here in Wales, we are committed to leaving no stone unturned when it comes to banning conversion practices for all LGBTQ+ people. Working with Plaid Cymru as part of the Co-operation Agreement, we have started complex work, including seeking legal advice to determine all the levers we have for a ban in Wales, developing our campaign to raise awareness of support services and the horrors of conversion practices, and we have established a Working Group of experts to advise government. We are proud of our progressive approach in Wales, doing things differently and working together in partnership with Plaid Cymru towards creating a more inclusive and supportive society, politics and nation.

We know we need to ensure the voices and lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people need to be not just heard but acted upon. The way in which we developed this Plan made sure that these personal stories and experiences were written into this work. People generously gave their time, and many shared their experiences of discrimination and hostility as citizens in Wales. They also shared their achievements as advocates, workers, and leaders; as researchers, experts, and professionals; and as communities. This Plan is a culmination of an effort to sustain open and dynamic dialogues within and between the Welsh Government, local government, academics, activists, community groups, and individuals from the breadth of the LGBTQ+ communities in Wales.

During a visit to meet with the Digon group from Ysgol Plasmawr in Cardiff, I asked the students what message they would want us to share in a statement to mark Pride Month 2022. The message was clear:

“I don't just want to be tolerated, I want to be celebrated”.

The greatest tribute we can pay to the pioneers that paved the way for people like me, is to continue to work together in common cause, to speak up, stand up and play our own part in achieving a fairer future where we feel safe, supported, and celebrated. Together in Pride and towards progress, we can create the Wales we want to be and become the most LGBTQ+ friendly nation in Europe.

Hannah Blythyn MS.

Deputy Minister for Social Partnership.