An Indian-born trans woman and equality campaigner has been named Outstanding Campaigner of the Year at the inaugural LGBTI Awards in Glasgow.
Mridul Wadhwa, who has been a leading advocate for equality and inclusivity within domestic abuse and rape crisis services, was honoured at the awards ceremony last night – which was organised and hosted by the Equality Network, a leading Scottish LGBTI charity.
Wahdwa has been instrumental in implementing new LGBTI-inclusive resources and training programmes for Rape Crisis Scotland, including detailed advice for LGBTI survivors of sexual and domestic abuse. She has also been a consistent voice in support of intersex rights.
In what was arguably the highlight of an eventful night, Wadhwa’s powerful acceptance speech wowed the 400 attendees and the assembled media. Speaking of both her work and her own experiences in overcoming adversity, she talked of the many barriers that still stand in the way of full equality – including many vulnerable women being denied help from publicly-funded bodies. Wadhwa also referred to the particular problems facing migrants – something she feels can be “more traumatising than transitioning” as control is very often taken away from individuals.
When she drew from her own experiences and spoke of “fearlessness” being at the heart of her work, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. It was a courageous speech from a courageous woman.
Other nominees in the Outstanding campaigner category included Pride Glasgow’s Alistair Smith, intersex campaigner Alex Gardner, gender identity expert Dr Matthew Waites, LEAP Sports’ Katherine Burrows – who campaigns for trans and intersex inclusion in sport – and innovative pro-equality teacher John Naples-Campbell.
Other notable winners on the night included the broadcaster Lorraine Kelly (Journalist of the Year), which appeared a popular choice, and – in the least surprising announcement of the night – First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Politician of the Year).
In accepting the award “on behalf of all politicians on the shortlist”, Ms Sturgeon said she had “never been prouder in her sixteen years as an MSP” than when the same-sex marriage legislation was passed. She praised the contribution of all the Holyrood parties in ensuring the legislation was passed, and also thanked campaigners for their efforts in making same-sex marriage a reality.
The First Minister also admitted that there was still much to do on the equality front and that same-sex marriage was but one step on the road towards full equality.
The passing of the same-sex marriage legislation was, again unsurprisingly, considered to be the Event of the Year. Labour MSP Margaret McCulloch, who is convenor of the Equal Opportunities Committee, reflected on an achievement that only a few years ago would have been unthinkable.
The Public Body Initiative of the Year award went to the Judicial Institute for Scotland for their transgender equality initiative, while Glasgow’s Waterloo Bar was named Venue of the Year. The Glasgay! Festival triumphed in the Culture Award category, and Glasgow University LGBTQ+ – which is, amazingly, 40 years old – was honoured with the accolade of Student Group of the Year.
LGBT Health and Wellbeing won the Equality Initiative of the Year for its success in removing many of the barriers older people face when accessing services. LGBT Unity Scotland, which supports LGBTI refugees and other migrants, won the Diversity Award.
The Sports Award category contained several deserving finalists including Glasgow Frontrunners, United Glasgow, Saltire Thistle and Auld Reekie Roller Girls – but ultimately it was won by Pride House Glasgow. In accepting the award, LEAP Sports’ Hugh Torrance praised the contribution Pride House had made to encourage LGBTI people into sport and the inclsuive and welcoming “safe place” it provided for many people during the Commonwealth Games.
Beyond Gender, which strives for visibility and inclusion of all trans* identities, deservedly were awarded the title of Youth Group of the Year. Ayrshire LGBTQ were named Community Group of the Year while, in another popular decision, the Gay Police Association were crowned Staff Network of the Year. The GPA’s Alan Sneddon, in another powerful and passionate acceptance speech, spoke of his organisation’s work in making the wider police service more inclusive and of his desire to serve the needs of Scotland’s LGBTI communities.
Two other awards were presented: the wonderful Anne and Joe Patrizio received the Friend for Life Award for their work in developing Parents Enquiry Scotland and supporting parents whose children have “come out”, and Derek Ogg was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of over four decades of activism.
The host for the night was comedienne Karen Dunbar who, shall we say, kept us all in our places and succeeded in making even the serving of tea and coffee incredibly entertaining. Aside from Karen’s joking, entertainment was provided by Michelle McManus and the simply amazing Horse McDonald.
Awards ceremonies are many things, but ultimately this was a celebration not only of diversity but of the many campaigners who make change possible, as embodied by such heroes and heroines as Mridul Wadhwa and Derek Ogg. Many stories were told and experiences shared, but as Derek Ogg said: “our story is good for Scotland…our country is in good hands when you’re all fighting for us.”
More pictures of the night can be found here: