Philip Baldwin / Photo Credit: Leah Takata
Philip Baldwin / Photo Credit: Leah Takata

To mark the start of LGBT History Month (February), we caught up with LGBTQ+ rights activist Philip Baldwin to chat about the progress being made within the community as the fight for equality roars on...

Hi Philip - can you tell us a bit about LGBT History Month?

LGBT History Month takes place every February and is a celebration of LGBT history and culture. This year's theme is Peace, Reconciliation and Activism. Straight or gay, LGBT History Month allows us to re-evaluate the role of LGBT people in history, challenge prejudices, as well as look to the future. Every year I learn something new.

Stuart Milk, Harvey Milk's nephew and the co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, will be discussing international human rights in London and Bedford. To find out about events near you, please check out the LGBT History Month website: [hyperlink: https://lgbthistorymonth.org.uk/event-calendar/]

You left your job in the City and are now a full-time LGBT rights and HIV awareness activist - what is a typical day like for you?

Every day is different, which I really enjoy. Sometimes I participate in protest marches. A significant portion of my time is spent writing, as I have a number of magazine columns. I really enjoy my work as a Stonewall Role Model. This involves going into schools to speak about Coming Out and faith inclusion, as I'm gay and Christian. An ideal day for me would be visiting a school with Stonewall in the morning, writing a column in the afternoon and then, over dinner, being interviewed by one of the lovely team from Female First.

What progress have you seen during your lifetime for the LGBT community?

I was born on May 22 1985, making me 33 years old. In 2000 the age of consent was equalised for same-sex partners at 16. The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 achieved marriage equality for most LGBT people. During those 13 years a complete transformation took place in terms of LGBT rights. We now live in a much more tolerant and open society.

What do you feel still needs to change to bring equality for the LGBT community?

There is still much that needs to be done to achieve full equality. In July 2018 the Government launched a comprehensive LGBT Action Plan. This addresses issues including conversion therapy, reform of the Gender Recognition Act and ensuring that all schools introduce compulsory and same-sex inclusive Sex and Relationships Education. Where the Plan fell short was on LGBT asylum.

The Home Office is continuing to lock up lesbian, bisexual and trans women who are claiming asylum in immigration detention centres alongside the very people they are seeking to escape, exposing them to harassment and abuse. The Plan fails to protect lesbian, bisexual and trans asylum claimants, who are among the most vulnerable women in the UK today.

You have a lot of well known supporters - who in the public eye inspires you?

I am really inspired by the comedian, actress and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig. She came out as gay in 1994, one of the first women in public life to do so. She is not ashamed of who she is, bravely standing up for what she believes in. As well as campaigning fiercely for LGBT rights, she is also highly intelligent, compassionate and funny.

What do you hope to achieve through the activism work you do?

My greatest goal is to bust the myths and challenge the oppressive stigma associated with HIV.

Philip Baldwin takes part in the Red Run 2017 for World AIDS Day
Philip Baldwin takes part in the Red Run 2017 for World AIDS Day

For anyone in the LGBT community that may be struggling or being bullied, what advice can you give them?

When I was at school I was bullied for being gay. I only had a few friends and became very introverted. Once I left school this all changed. I met new people and gained acceptance around who I am. If you are a young person and are being bullied, I would advise you to reach out to a teacher or speak to someone else you trust. Don't isolate yourself. Ultimately though, if your classmates make Coming Out difficult for you, if they won't accept you for who you are, maybe their friendships aren't worth having?

As an adult, living with HIV, I benefitted massively from peer support. Talking to other HIV positive people gave me objectivity. This lesson applies beyond just those who are HIV positive. Don't be afraid to reach out to a charity, support group or faith organisation.

As a Stonewall role model you visit schools and delver regular speeches on your own journey - what has been the highlight of this for you?

At one school, after finishing my speech, a young man stood up and came out in front of his entire year group. He said that I had inspired him to do this and I felt very privileged to be involved.

Philip Baldwin is a LGBTQ+ rights activist. Keep up to date with his journey on social media - Instagram @philipcbaldwin