February 20, 2017
LGBT History Month – Blog #3
As part of LGBT History Month our Learning and Regional Organiser, Kris Hendry, will be writing about LGBT history and reflecting on the next steps for LGBT equality in PCS.
You can read his previous blog here.
In my first blog for LGBT History Month I reflected a little on my experiences since getting involved in trade unionism and learning of the importance of solidarity and allies. And it is this aspect that I wanted to focus on this week as without the support of allies to the LGBT community it is doubtful we would have achieved the progress that we have so far for LGBT equality.
The partial decriminalisation of homosexuality itself, which took place 50 years ago, was originally introduced in the Commons by an MP who lost their seat before reform was passed. In his absence the case for reform was taken up by Labour MP Leo Abse.
Leo, who was married, cited his professional experience (a solicitor who witnessed gay/bi men being blackmailed due to their orientation) as well as personal connections (his wife was an artist so he socialised with LGBT individuals) as the reason behind his support for and ultimately achieving decriminalisation across England and Wales(It would take over a decade for Scotland and then Northern Ireland to follow suit).
In 1994, three years before Labour and the introduction of many of the LGBT friendly policies we take for granted today, the age of consent for same sex couples sat at 21 despite being 16 for those of opposite sexes.
An amendment was put forward to have this equalised and although unsuccessful, it was at least able to achieve a part reduction to 18, saving many young individuals from a criminal record until full equalisation took place in 2001. The proposer of the amendment? Married, mother of two and Conservative MP, Edwina Currie who as a Jewish, Scouse woman said “I knew enough about discrimination and could never see the justification for it.”
Of course a few years before, the seeds of solidarity had been sown between the LGBT and Trade Union movements through the support of LGSM for miners who were on strike at the time. This support built bridges between two communities that, although different, recognised that they had a common enemy and cause.
I’m sure everyone is familiar with the story of LGSM (do check out the film Pride if you haven’t already!) but it’s important we remember it as their act of unity ultimately led to the Miners Union using their power to commit the Labour Party to supporting LGBT equality and without it then who knows where we could have been today.
I’ve touched above on a few of the more major examples of allies and their impact on LGBT history and equality but the fact is there are countless allies in our history whose support is no less monumental.
Coming out was, and still is, a terrifying thought and experience for many and just acknowledging and supporting someone, whether it be a family member, a friend or colleague, coming out as LGBT can mean more than anything to that individual. Creating an environment that is supportive of LGBT equality and challenges inappropriate behaviours can have huge benefits to the health and wellbeing of LGBT individuals, whether they are out or not.
There remains much still to be achieved for LGBT equality and it’s still as important as ever that PCS’ LGBT members and our allies stand together as we continue the fight to achieve true equality.
Proud offers both Full Membership for LGBT members of our Union as well as Associate Membership for those who do not identify as LGBT but wish to stand in solidarity with our LGBT members and the wider community.
You can join today, just select the ‘Join Proud” option at the top of this page and sign up to support Proud and stand against LGBT inequality and hate this LGBT History Month.