RMT marchers on London Pride 2012
Beware the “shy homophobe”: Pledge to support LGBT people everywhere on IDAHOBIT 2015
It’s a nice, safe, feeling when every political party says it’s committed to equality for LGBT people and against prejudice and discrimination. No reason to expect a Vladimir Putin-like neo-section 28 in Britain, then. But over the last year, there has been plenty of evidence that Britain’s commitment to accepting us is sometimes only skin-deep. Only a minority now say in public that same sex relationships are evil – but beware the “shy homo/bi/transphobe” whose true views come out in pub corners, at football grounds, in school playgrounds, on the street late at night and – as a major survey disclosed in 2013 – in thousands of workplaces where many of our colleagues reject an allegation that they’re prejudiced but continue to treat us through prejudiced stereotypes and routine harassment.
UK opinion polls failed to record many voters’ real intentions last week so let’s hope that Irish ones are more reliable in reporting a majority for equal marriage in the republic’s referendum on 22 May. In the USA, a Supreme Court ruling may soon either confirm, or derail, massive progress on the same issue. Meanwhile, ‘suspected homosexuals’ are hurled off rooftops by ISIS while many African leaders promote their credentials by threatening not much less for their own LGBT citizens, and central Asian and East European governments (despite signing EU treaties) are being pushed to add to the number of states still criminalising our communities. Trans people are, in nearly every case, even more prone to persecution.
Back in the 1980s, we had to fight for everything, and often lost, but won in the end. Now, complacency dominates and anyway now you can go to law (if you can afford it). We can’t conjure up new life for a long dead “LGBT movement” but everyone can continue to campaign, pressurise politicians to act on hate crime, homelessness, mental ill-health, bullying in schools and in sport, and challenge employers to transform workplace cultures.
Pride London took an important step when it published a pledge, outlining key areas where LGBT people need big changes such as those listed above. A good starting point is to recognise that large parts of our communities are currently excluded – young, disabled, trans, bi, people from BME communities, for example. Hopefully, Pride, which represents our one opportunity to come together as a community each year, is now serious about addressing this. But you come together not just to be together, but in order to do things. Those things are both to make a positive challenge to popular prejudice, and to give practical support to those in our communities who need it, here and globally.
For years now, LGBT trade unionists have debated not just workplace rights, but the attacks faced by LGBT communities everywhere: because the solution to the one is the same as the solution to all of them and it is summed up in the word “solidarity”. That is what trade unions are about. As we mark IDAHOBIT Day 2015 this Sunday (17 May) we should commit ourselves again to making this slogan real.