There’s a long road to true LGBT equality…
Pride in London has issued a call for politicians to support a pledge, a commitment to the steps needed “to make London the best LGBT+ city in the world”. The TUC warmly welcomes this, the first time that Pride in London has done anything like this.
Pride London naturally focuses on the capital city but its priorities are the same everywhere else. It is a recognition that despite the enormous legal changes of the past decade and a half, and the shift in popular opinion that accompanied them, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people still confront significant attitudinal and cultural inequalities expressed in the shape of (at worst) hate crime, but also endemic bullying and harassment (especially in schools) and responses based on false stereotypes that are expressed in poorer health outcomes and daily experiences of discrimination and prejudice that go largely unreported.
The changes in public opinion reflect the fact that LGB and T people have (nearly) equal legal rights and much greater positive public visibility than ever before: but the change is from ignorant intolerance to often ignorant tolerance, rather than informed acceptance. The appalling figures for hate crime experienced by the small trans community suggest that trans people have not even secured this much progress.
The TUC was associated with the survey showing how LGB workers face more than two and a half times the harassment as their colleagues (“The ups and downs of LGB workplace experiences”, Manchester Business School 2014). Worse still was the evidence from focus groups of pure ignorance of the impact of stereotyping and failure to recognise their own prejudices.
The Pride pledge rightly calls for effective action on hate crime including proper resourcing, training and awareness-raising. It also recognises the significant issues of sexually transmitted infection combined with inadequate and sometimes unwelcoming healthcare provision, and the rising incidence of mental health problems particularly among young LGBT people, often related to homelessness. The problem starts in schools and Pride London rightly calls for inclusion of same sex relationship education in every London school without exception, as well as recognition of the largely invisible issue of same sex domestic abuse.
The TUC supports all these demands but it is worth observing that they cannot be solved as stand-alone LGBT issues. They all involve increasing resources to our public services (education, local authorities, police and the NHS) and this will involve a reversal of the austerity that led to the weakening of responses to these challenges in the first place. Among the victims of austerity, too, have been many community-based support groups (as revealed in the TUC survey “Staying Alive: the impact of ‘austerity cuts’ on the LGBT voluntary and community sector“, 2014).
Pride London has also made welcome progress towards recognising the diversity of the communities it seeks to represent, too often lost in the outside world’s stereotypes of what being LGBT means, and a mistake too often echoed by our own community’s leaders.
Regardless of the outcome on 7 May, the TUC will continue to support fairness, justice and equality at work and beyond, including for everyone in LGBT communities. The Pride in London pledge is a valuable and welcome addition to the arguments we can use to win that battle.