During November 2023, our LGBT+ Branch Officer Yasmin Perez attended UNISON’s National LGBT+ Conference in Liverpool. Read her report on the Conference below to find out more about what was discussed and debated ahead of UNISON 2024 Year of LGBT+ Workers.
This was my first National Conference as a Branch Officer, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found out over the course of the Conference is that UNISON is filled with passionate, empathetic, and determined individuals who are excited about working together to bring about real, lasting change across our workplaces and society as a whole.
It’s clear that the LGBT+ community and most especially the trans, non-binary, and gender diverse community – are currently living through unacceptably dangerous times as protection and support is withdrawn, and harmful rhetoric has been ramped up during the 10+ years of the Conservatives being in power in Westminster.
In 2023, the United Kingdom fell to 17th place in the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (ILGA) Europe ‘Rainbow Europe’ report and there is still no ban on conversion therapy. We heard from many worried but defiant trans and gender diverse individuals who spoke about how vital it is that we continue our efforts to support each other and collectively address the challenges that we face. It was encouraging to hear that UNISON’s campaign on trans equality has trained over 1,000 members to be trans allies in the workplace while our national LGBT+ committee’s young LGBT+ worker campaign is continuing to grow with over 100 young LGBT+ members in a network who are now getting involved in their branch and regional groups.
We heard a keynote speech from Dame Angela Eagle, the Labour MP for Wallasey and co-chair of both the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights and the Parliamentary Labour Party LGBT+ Group. She spoke about Labour’s commitment to supporting the LGBT+ community as part of a new Government if they get into power, including their promise to ban LGBT+ conversion practices, a pledge the Conservatives have long held and have never followed through on. Although Angela herself spoke firmly in support of LGBT+ rights, she was questioned about why the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has not been as forthcoming in his support, particularly for trans people.
As we head into UNISON’s Year of LGBT+ Workers next year, there was also considerable focus given to encouraging more self-organisation amongst lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender plus workers. We also need the support of committed allies who are willing to continue the ongoing fight against homophobia, bi+ phobia, and transphobia in our workplaces, branches, and regions. Even if you yourself don’t identify as LGBT+, it’s important to remember that we all play a vital role in making sure that our workplaces are inclusive environments for everyone!