Visible Women

SNP MP Hannah Bardell on what it’s like to experience homophobic abuse

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Moya Crockett
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Speaking on Stylist’s new political TV show Women of the House, MP Hannah Bardell described a disturbing recent encounter. 

In 1976, Labour politician Maureen Colquhoun became the first openly gay or lesbian British MP. She didn’t choose to make her sexuality public — she was cruelly outed by a Daily Mail gossip columnist, and subsequently deselected by the Labour Party for her so-called obsession with women’s rights. It was not an auspicious start to the UK’s acceptance of LGBTQ politicians.

At last year’s general election, however, 45 MPs who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual were returned to parliament by voters, representing 7% of the House of Commons – a record for both the UK and the world at large. Generally speaking, the UK is a good place to be a LGBQ politician (although we’ve yet to see a transgender person be elected to parliament).

But, says Hannah Bardell, that doesn’t mean that queer MPs don’t also have to deal with homophobia. During an appearance on Stylist’s new political TV show Women of the House, the SNP MP said that she and her girlfriend were recently subjected to homophobic abuse in public.

“I was walking through my local park not that long ago with my girlfriend, holding hands, and we were verbally abused by three guys,” said Bardell, who represents the constituency of Livingston in Scotland.

On Stylist's new political TV show Women of the House, SNP MP Hannah Bardell talks about receiving homophobic abuse

SNP MP Hannah Bardell on Stylist’s Women of the House

The politician, who came out publicly after winning her first election in 2015, said that neither she nor her girlfriend had encountered aggressive homophobia of that sort before.

“I have to say it was quite a shocking experience because so often when we’re going around, there is no issue,” she said. “We’re still in that nice place where people actually smile at us most of the time.

“So it was the first time that anything like that had happened, of that severity.”

Bardell and her girlfriend reported the incident as a hate crime, she said — and a short time later, they had another experience that reaffirmed their faith in humanity.

“We had a couple of teenagers come past us and be like ‘LGBT!’ and put their thumbs up, and we stopped them and chatted to them and they were so lovely,” she said. “One of them was bisexual, and the other one’s dad was gay.”

Bardell added that it was “incredible” to have “such a horrible experience and then have such a positive experience”.

MPs Kemi Badenoch, Hannah Bardell and Jess Phillips on Stylist's new political TV show Women of the House

MPs Kemi Badenoch, Hannah Bardell and Jess Phillips on Stylist’s new political TV show Women of the House

The SNP MP appeared on Stylist’s brand new political TV series Women of the House alongside her fellow female politicians Kemi Badenoch (Conservatives, Saffron Walden) and Jess Phillips (Labour, Birmingham Yardley).

Women of the House is part of Stylist’s Visible Women campaign, launched ahead of the 100th anniversary of women being able to stand for parliament. Bored of watching female MPs be spoken over or shouted down on traditional panel shows, we’ve created a “safe space” for women politicians of all parties to come together and talk about the issues that matter most to them.

Over the course of 25 minutes, Bardell, Badenoch and Phillips discussed everything from the impact Brexit is having on women’s rights to the pressure placed on Theresa May to be likeable – and whether they’d rather go on holiday with Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg. The end result? A political TV show that’s funny, warm and insightful, not boorish and point-scoring.

Find out more about Women of the House and watch the first full episode here.

Stylist’s Visible Women campaign aims to raise the profiles of women in politics – and inspire future generations to follow their lead. See more Visible Women stories here

Images: Getty Images

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk, where she is currently overseeing the Visible Women campaign. As well as writing about inspiring women and feminism, she also covers subjects including careers, podcasts and politics. Carrying a tiny bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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