Comment: Why we must continue to stick together through tough times, and push for equality
Writing for, Peter Purton, the TUC’s LGBT officer says despite moves forward like same-sex marriage, issues like workplace discrimination are still faced by members of the LGBT community.
A good time to be LGBT – but not for everyone!
If you’re gay in Brunei, you can get stoned to death, in Uganda, imprisoned for life. In Russia, you can be arrested for saying that being LGB or T is fine. But in Britain, like in France, and much of the USA, we can marry our loved one (unless you live in Northern Ireland). Why shouldn’t the LGBT community celebrate Pride in London on 28 June as a big joyous party?
Unions have long supported Pride and we’ll be there (and at many other Prides over the summer) to join the party. But also to promote our message to the community – life isn’t all that pretty for many of us and the same government that gave us same sex marriage has also, through its policy of continuing austerity, caused much suffering to many in our community.
The largest ever survey of the experience of LGBT people at work confirmed that we are more than two and half times more likely than heterosexual colleagues to face discrimination at work, usually in the form of bullying or harassment. It was the same story across every sector of the economy. Employers with good equality policies were as likely as any not to have a clue how to deal with it. And lots of heterosexual people who say they’re not homophobic didn’t recognise that their bullying behaviour was wrong. So there’s a long way to go before many LGBT workers can feel secure and equal at work. In education, the picture continues to be bleak as homophobia is rampant – even in universities thought of as beacons of tolerance, LGBT students report growing prejudice.
This is bad news for our health and in particular our mental health, but government cuts have slashed mental health services. It’s even worse if you’re young. Young LGBTs are massively overrepresented among people with mental ill health. They’re also more likely to be homeless, victims of a housing crisis created by government policies, but often unable to seek shelter in parental homes. At the same time, hate crimes have risen – a five per cent increase in London last year. But specialist services to help victims have also been subject to spending cuts.
Benefit cuts, in-work poverty caused by low pay and zero-hours contracts, high rents and squeezed public services and with worse still to come, the tough times are set to continue. When life is hard, as it is now for millions, people look for someone to blame, and minorities are always vulnerable.
But there is an alternative. Join us in fighting for a better world and a fairer Britain where all of us can celebrate the big steps we’ve made towards equality. Check out the campaign here.
Peter Purton is the LGBT officer at the Trades Union Congress.
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