TRUE equality for gay people is still a long way off, according to the chief executive of a Darlington charity.
Despite the recent legalisation of same sex marriage, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) population still faces a struggle for equality, according to Emma Roebuck, chief executive of GADD (Gay Advice Darlington/Durham).
Ms Roebuck today warned that equality will never be achieved through legislation alone, as she appealed for more volunteers to help the charity deal with an increase in demand.
In 2013, GADD helped more than 2,000 people, offering support and advice on a variety of issues, including hate crime, workplace discrimination and access to health and social services.
Ms Roebuck stressed that improvements in law do not automatically lead to improvements in the lives of LGBT people, many of whom still face a struggle for acceptance.
In 2013, more than 200 LGBT people were victims of hate crime in the Darlington and Durham area.
Ms Roebuck believes the true number of people attacked for their sexuality or gender identity is probably much higher.
She said: “People do not bother reporting it because they don’t see it as important. “For many same sex couples and trans people, facing abuse is still an everyday thing. “As a transwoman walking down Skinnergate, you know you will get verbal abuse or idiotic comments if you are spotted.
“Going out on an evening, you run the risk of abuse and life becomes a risk assessment.”
She added: “A lot of people say laws allowing same sex marriage will level the playing field but to put it into context, the legal frame work is just coming into place.
“The fight still needs to be fought and it is also about cultural change, rather than legal change.
“We need to make it safe so all relationships are accepted on an equal footing and those who question their gender identities or sexual orientations can do so in a safe way and be accepted as part of society.”
GADD will host volunteer training sessions beginning in February. Anyone interested in volunteering or supporting the charity should call 01325 252522, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit gayadvicedarlington.co.uk.