The voice of LGBT+ members of the PCS Union

Tag: LGBT

LGBT History Month – Blog #4

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.

Proud Future?

Each year LGBT History Month offers an opportunity to reflect on the achievements and progress the LGBT community has made over the years but also to reflect on the battles still to be won. So as we mark the end of this year’s History Month I’m going to look at just some of the inequalities still to be tackled and how you can play your part.

Over the past decade or so we’ve seen the introduction of civil partnership and later same sex marriage, providing legal recognition for same sex couples. Many referring to the latter as “equal marriage” but the fact is it was and to this day is not equal.

By law employers are only required to pay same sex survivor pensions on contributions from 2005 onwards, the year Civil Partnerships came into being. While some employers backdate to 1988 as they would for opposite sex couples, this is discretionary and can mean contributions by LGBT workers will not be paid in full to their surviving partner leaving many older LGBT people struggling in later life.

In education, the teaching of LGBT issues remains inconsistent at best despite the final repeal of Section 28 in 2003 across England, Wales and Northern Ireland – Scotland did so in 2000. Many young LGBT people still experience discrimination and bullying on their way through our education system, leading to higher rates of mental health related issues, self harm and even suicide among young LGBT people.

As a Trade Union these issues should concern all of us as the youth of today are the workers of tomorrow and adequate training on equality issues at a young age will help prepare young people for life after school, protect their wellbeing as well as helping tackle much of the negative attitudes we experience in workplaces and communities today.

Even protection from discrimination is not assured for all LGBT people, despite the Equality Act. Last year the Westminster Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee produced a report with over 30 recommendations the Westminster Government should undertake to help improve equality for the Transgender community, something they are yet to do.

More generally we must all stand up against the rise in LGBT related hate crime reported over the past year, but not only that but the rise in all other forms of hate that have been seen since the EU Referendum and the election of President Trump.

After all many who identify as LGBT will experience multiple discrimination as they may also be black, or disabled, or female or any combination therein as well as of varying ages which can bring its own issues. For those who intersect equality strands we cannot discount one characteristic in favour of another and we must stand against ALL forms of hate and discrimination.

So what can you do?

Well I’m of course going to say join Proud (and PCS if you’re not already a member) and get involved. Proud members set the agenda for our National Committee through our Annual General Meeting which this year is taking place on Saturday 4th March in Birmingham. You could also stand for the Proud National Committee with various roles available for those interested, including equality and regional based roles.

With this also being AGM season, why not submit a motion? If there’s an issue you want PCS as a Union to take action on then submit a motion through your Branch to go to Annual Conference for debate. In addition, make sure to check out the Conference agenda once it is published, attend your Branch mandating meeting and make sure your delegates will be representing you at Conference.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, Conference has previously debated and successfully carried a range of motions in relation to LGBT and all areas of equality and that is only through the action of PCS members raising such motions in the first place.

If you are interested in getting more involved but have any questions then please feel free contact Proud and we will be happy to discuss more with you. Our email address is proud@pcs.org.uk and all contact will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Thank you to everyone who has supported Proud, PCS’ LGBT members and the wider LGBT community this History Month, we appreciate your continued support and look forward to continuing to work together as we look to the future. Solidarity.

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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.

Proud Allies

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.

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LGBT History Month – Blog #2

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.

Proud Hearts

‘People with homosexual tendencies deserve to be treated with the same degree of sympathy and understanding as anyone else with personality or sexual problems… The labour movement would best serve the interests of its homosexual members by providing counselling and the appropriate psychiatric help.’

For this week’s LGBT History Month blog, and in recognition of Heart Unions week, I thought I would reflect on a little bit of history for LGBT equality within PCS, a show of solidarity that helped to set the path to where we are today.

For many years homosexuality was seen as a mental disorder however this theory, thankfully, began to change in the 1970s. You may be surprised then that the quote above in fact comes from the December 1989 letters page of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation Assessment, the IRSF one of PCS’ predecessor Unions.

Back then Thatcher’s Section 28, banning the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality and condemning many LGBT people to lives of misery and despair, had recently been introduced. Fear and mistrust of LGBT people was spread by the mainstream media, portraying us as perverts intent on corrupting society.

So was this the reason for the letter? No. It was in fact an act of solidarity from the IRSF. The previous month’s newsletter reported the Executive Committee decision to remove Scarborough as a potential location for their Annual Conference as the local council had banned any use of their facilities by the Federation Lesbian and Gay Group.

It would be a decision which helped set some of the first steps to what has today become PCS Proud. In September 1990 FLAGG relaunched with a formal action plan to organise and campaign for lesbian and gay members, supported by the National Union. One of their key issues became the prevention of discrimination based on sexual orientation, a major risk at the time as legislation to ban the practice did not come into effect until 2003 meaning they were putting their own livelihoods at risk as well.

By the mid 90’s the merger of the IRSF and National Union of Civil and Public Servants was underway with FLAGG and NUCPS members agreeing on the formation of the new Public Services, Tax and Commerce Union group – PTC Proud, eventually becoming PCS Proud in 1998 following the further merger of PTC and CPSA, that would campaign on behalf of all LGBT members.

Since its formation Proud, our members and allies have continued the tradition of organising and campaigning set out by those who went before us. Our National Committee have organised activities such as the launch of the Proud Charter which has been used during elections to push candidates to pledge their support to LGBT equality.

We’ve also had international success with campaigns such as the #IAmGay campaign, launched in response to LGBT phobia in Russia which reached millions through social media and even drew a response from the Russian Kremlin.

Within PCS there has also been a lot of progress for LGBT equality. Annual Conference has debated and successfully carried motions on a range of issues including supporting same sex marriage, ensuring appropriate support for LGBT victims of domestic violence, austerity and its impact on LGBT homelessness as well as the creation and rollout of trans awareness training, the first of its kind among the Trade Union movement.

Indeed we have seen many great advances for LGBT equality since that letter was published in 1989, yet the fact remains many LGBT people today still face similar attitudes. It may be in their workplace, at home or on the street.

That show of solidarity the IRSF showed in 1989 remains just as important today as it did back then so why not get involved?

Join PCS and Proud and help to support the fight for equality, not just for the LGBT community but for all, so that one day everyone is able to be themselves without having to face discrimination and hate just for being who they are.

*Parts of this piece have previously appeared in OR&CLE, the R&C Group magazine. I’d like to record my thanks to David Eales who carried out the initial research on this subject*

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Political Concern – CARE

Political concerns

The media has recently reported/exposed the links between Stephen Crabb MP, the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and CARE, a Christian group that has actively campaigned against same sex marriage and has campaigned for the definition of marriage to between a man and a woman.

Whilst PCS Proud has contacted Mr Crabb to confirm whether or not the alleged links to ‘gay cure’ groups will impact our members, we are yet to receive a response. However, the purpose of this briefing is to set out our position quite clearly.

Marriage equality?

PCS Proud do not believe that equal marriage has been achieved. People of the same sex are not allowed to marry in the Church of England or Church in Wales. In Northern Ireland same sex couples are not allowed to marry at all. In addition to this, there are still massive pension inequalities for surviving partners/spouses. There have also been implications for trans members and gender recognition that have seen people forced conform to a convoluted system that does not cater for people who should have their true gender legally recognised.

Definition of marriage:

Whilst CARE believe that the definition of marriage should specify one man and one woman, we believe it is grossly unfair. Why is it unfair? Gender is not binary. People do not necessarily identify as male or female. We believe that marriage should be between two people that are prepared to formalise their relationship. Love does not have a gender, love does not have a religion or belief, a race or any other protected characteristic.

The way forward:

Regardless of the way that our new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions thinks about marriage, sexual orientation or gender identity, equality legislation is in place to protect people with certain characteristics. It is of incredible importance that any instruction, concern or issue that contradicts this equality legislation is raised with PCS immediately.

PCS Proud continues to campaign with members and community groups around the UK to raise awareness of LGBT issues. For more information about Proud, contact Proud@pcs.org.uk or follow @PCS_Proud on twitter.

 

Dorion Griffiths          Eddy Nixon

Proud Chair                Proud Secretary

Download a copy of this briefing in a word document here: CARE briefing

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Proud and the strategic review

cropped-Proud.jpg

 

Members will know that PCS is undergoing a strategic review. It is important that we understand why this is. It is incredibly important that we take stock from time to time to look at how we work and whether there are areas in which we can become more effective. Secondly, the Government make no secret of the fact that the Civil Service and wider public sector is going to be smaller than we have known for many, many years.

It therefore follows that PCS needs to make sure that members are protected, that inequality and injustice in the workplace is dealt with effectively.

PCS Proud’s National Committee is asking members to read the PCS strategic review consultation document (which can be accessed here) and to provide your views to form the PCS Proud response.

When considering this we would also ask members to consider the following:

  • How do you think the union could change the LGBT seminar/training that’s provided?
  • Would you do anything different in terms of providing people with LGBT training?
  • Is there anything you would do to introduce or change equality in your branch, region, group?
  • Do you think there could be any changes to the way Proud is structured?
  • Are there any questions you would ask the Proud NC?
If you would like to contribute to the Proud NC response then either complete the form below or email Secretary@pcsproud.org.uk.

 

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PCS LGBT Seminar

Members may be aware that PCS as a union is undergoing a strategic review which will look at every aspect of the union’s work both as a union and as an employer. Members will have an opportunity to contribute to the strategic review consultation in the coming weeks as an individual and as part of your branch, group and via equality networks.

Such a review during sustained attacks on us by a Government intent on changing our terms, conditions, pay and pensions for the worse is not only appropriate but absolutely necessary. 

For the time being the National Equality Seminars will not be taking place in 2015. Information behind this decision will hopefully be released in due course. However, if you have any concerns please do not hesitate to contact Proud Secretary Ste Heyward on Secretary@pcsproud.org.uk 

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