From the Tory-DUP alliance to the bigotry of Trump, there are many pressing issues that threaten LGBT equality, writes MARIA EXALL
AT London Pride this weekend we will see on the streets the diversity of our LGBT+ communities. We will be reminded about the freedom we have.
At the TUC LGBT conference taking place today and tomorrow at Congress House we will be discussing the freedom we have still to achieve, the threats to our equality and the opportunities for us to progress.
On the agenda of the conference are many of the challenges of the year ahead. Up front is the fact that the Conservative government is in power through an alliance with the homophobic DUP.
This is a party that has blocked progressive legislation on same sex marriage using a “petition of concern” when the rest of the UK and Ireland have moved forward.
This is a party is at the forefront of a reactionary fightback against our equality, with bigotry cloaked as the pursuit of religious freedom.
With DUP votes crucial to maintaining this Tory government, it is also worth remembering that the majority of Conservative MPs did not support same-sex marriage in the last Parliament.
We have no guarantee at present that there is a progressive majority in the House of Commons for defending our equality or pursuing future positive change.
More socially liberal Conservatives are conveniently keen to forget the details of their homophobic, biphobic and transphobic recent past and promote the business case for equality — something we as LGBT+ workers know is shallow and ineffective.
This year the TUC has conducted a LGBT+ workers survey which has shown the persistence of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in the workplace.
Prejudice still massively affects our working lives and our private lives. Shockingly many LGBT+ people of all ages still find it hard to be fully out at work.
The progressive social change of the last few decades has not altered the experience of many LGBT+ people in the workplace, of isolation, of verbal and physical abuse, with consequences for our mental health.
Too often we face a choice between being ourselves and being secure at work. The corporate agenda cannot deliver, whether promoting employer-controlled “employee networks” or working with those campaigning groups that do not challenge the economic status quo.
It is only by building up strong working-class LGBT+ organisations supported by the wider labour movement that we can tackle the persistent homophobia, biphobia and transphobia we see in our workplaces and in society.
The international agenda for LGBT+ rights will also be discussed at the conference. We will consider the volatile and hostile approach to our rights in the US under a Trump administration, and the need to pursue a worldwide approach to LGBT+ equality in all the Commonwealth countries as the 2018 meeting of the Commonwealth heads of state in London approaches.
The results of the Brexit negotiations also threaten our future equality. We know the Tories want Brexit so they can undermine workers rights and cut “red tape” on working conditions.
We have to make sure that the “Great Repeal Bill” does not roll back the laws from Europe on LGBT+ employment rights or equal treatment in access to goods and services. We need to ensure we do not fall behind European legal standards.
We need to maintain close relations with those in the European trade union movement who are fighting the same battles for equality at the workplace and defend freedom of movement for LGBT+ workers in Europe.
Last year the TUC LGBT conference met on the day of the Brexit referendum result. There was fear and concern about the future, and one year on many of us have the same concern.
Since then we have seen a massive increase in hate crime against LGBT+ people but also against immigrants and foreigners, against those with disabilities. An injury to one is an injury to all — we need to fight back for our rights and those of all working people.
As a country we appear to be going backwards towards a politics of hate. Our society is more brutal and more narrow-minded.
Whether it be the rise in hate crime, the regular homophobic, sexist and racist abuse on social media and in public and political life, or the passive acceptance of increasing economic inequality with foodbanks, real wages falling, and public sector pay held back.
We need to stand in solidarity when individuals and groups are scapegoated and oppressed, it is through the practice of this solidarity that we show there is another way we can live together in freedom.
At this year’s conference we will be considering a proposal discussed at the TUC Youth Workers Forum.
The Youth Workers Forum recognised that equality and respect have not been successfully embedded in our society. We support their call to have a movement-wide campaign to defend workplace equality rights and advance the case for equality.
The upsurge in support for the Labour Party at the last election gives us grounds for hope, that as a society that can turn its back on the failed austerity of the last seven years and pursue a new deal for working people, one that has equality centre stage. The future is there for us to claim.