From the TUC

Young and LGBT – be out, be proud and be part of a trade union

02 Jun 2016, By

Coming up to Pride season, you’d be forgiven for thinking that being young and LGBT has never been more acceptable.

Young LGBT role models in the media? Check. Music and fashion icons pushing the gender binary? Check? LGBT stories part of the media narrative? Check.

See: Tom Daly, a young, charismatic Olympic swimmer coming out.

See: Jaden Smith, challenging the gender binary, recently named the new face of Louis Vuitton’s womenswear campaign.

See: recent LGBT characters in mainstream soap operas and media.

See: the number of lesbians in fronting mainstream TV shows including Claire Balding and Sue Perkins to name a few.

It is trade unions campaigning and organising that has won many workers rights for young LGBT people.

Young workers are often vulnerable. Young people are often in jobs that are low paid and insecure; a large number of younger workers are based in retail, hospitality and other low-paying sectors which typically employ staff on zero hours contracts.  Instead of protecting young workers the Government has introduced a ‘National Living Wage’ which excludes workers under 25, and made no attempt to limit the excessive use of zero hour contracts by employers such as Sports Direct.

These issues are exacerbated for young LGBT workers who may face homophobia and transphobia in the workplace and beyond.

LGBT workers face bullying and discrimination. As a direct consequence of workplace prejudice, gay and bisexual men, and lesbian and bisexual women in particular reported higher levels of psychological ill health across all sectors of employment.

LGBT people experience much higher levels of mental ill-health. 44 per cent of young (16-24 year old) LGBT people have considered suicide. 55 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have experienced direct bullying. Those who are bullied are at a higher risk of suicide, self-harm and depression. 41 per cent have attempted or thought about taking their own life directly because of bullying and the same number say that they deliberately self-harm directly because of bullying.

Figures released by the Home Office shows that hate crime against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people has soared. On sexual orientation there was a 22 per cent increase from 2013/14 to 2015 and a 9 per cent increase for transgender hate crime during that same time.  These figures tell us only a small part of the story; like all forms of hate crime – disability related, race – victims do not always come forward: often too frightened, ashamed, or lacking confidence in services. This can have a lasting impact on the victim’s mental health.

Oppression based on sexual orientation and gender identity can be compounded for young people from faith communities. Imaan, a charity working with LGBT Muslims, have reported of the threat of “honour based violence” for these groups. In these instances being an LGBT young person is seen as bringing “shame” and “dishonour” to the family and young people are at risk of violence, forced marriage and even death. Last year the Forced Marriage Unit reported that 29 victims identified as LGBT.

LGBT young people experience inequality in housing. When they come out to their families they may experience homophobia, biophobia, transphobia and even violence. These discriminatory and bigoted attitudes may also manifest in other housing settings. It is estimated there are about 80,000 homeless young people and young LGBT people make up 24 per cent of them.

It is trade unions who are fighting young LGBT worker’s corner, organising in the workplace bargain for equality.

Statistics show that where young people (aged between 16 and 24) are in a union they are 38 per cent better paid. It was Unite the union that took action against Pizza Express who were stealing staff’s tips; the union won and now the – predominantly young- workers take home 100 per cent of the tips they earn. BECTU helped young workers in the cinema industry win living wages and USDAW took action at TESCO to make sure young workers were paid the same rate as their older colleagues.

Unions support young LGBT in the workplace by fighting for better LGBT inclusive workplaces, negotiating effective mental health and wellbeing policies and fighting for legal recognition of non-binary people.

During Pride London, it will be trade unions from across the country marching for LGBT equality and rights, forging links with local LGBT community organisations. If you’re young and LGBT, what are you waiting for? Join your union today.