Monro, Surya (2008) Engaging Complexities: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equalities Initiatives and Local Democracy in the UK. In: Seminar, AHRC Research Centre for Law, Gender and Sexuality, 27th February 2008, University of Kent, UK. (Unpublished)

A number of the recent developments in local government provide powerful levers for the revitalisation of local democracy with regards to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. However, these directives exist in contradiction to the centralising tendencies inherent in New Labour’s approach to local government, which emphasises top-down management and financial efficiency. New Labour’s drive towards locality-based democratic renewal also sits in partial contradiction with the interests of LGBT people, whose identities are not necessarily defined by where they live. In addition, there are tensions between LGBT interests and those of the faith and BME communities, and a need to examine the ways in which these play out in the democratic arena. Further issues concern the way in which the democratic processes that are taking place as a result of the local government modernisation agenda may provoke clashes between the representative and formal participative structures found in the statutory sector and the flatter types of organisation that are more typical of community groups. Lastly, there are ongoing debates about universalist, as opposed to particularist, approaches to democratic participation. Do gender and sexual minorities require methods of engagement specific to their sexed/gendered identities, or are mainstreamed approaches that amalgamate groups and emphasise alliances more appropriate?

This paper explores the above debates, drawing on two empirical research projects: A completed central government funded project about equality and diversity in local government in England, and an ESRC funded study of LGBT equalities in local government, which is currently in its early stages.

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