It’s easy to think how good things are for LGBT people in Britain today, particularly when compared to Russia, with Putin’s law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’, or Uganda, Nigeria, or Brunei, where the government just introduced stoning to death for adulterers and those caught having homosexual relations.
Here in Britain we can now get married!
Our position has been transformed in just twenty years. We have progressed from being outcasts, plague-carrying, child-molesting corrupters of everything decent in society to being people not just with full legal equality (well, nearly) but also to being ‘respectable’ members of parliament, vicars, police officers and TV presenters.
But there is disturbing evidence that this transformation is not as secure as we would like to think.
The Trade’s Union Congress (TUC) was part of a project investigating the experience of being lesbian, gay and bisexual in many different workplaces.
Through the project we found that lesbian, gay and bisexual workers were more than two and a half times more likely than heterosexual colleagues to be bullied or harassed, and were more vulnerable to ill mental health.
Worryingly, many employers had no idea how to deal with this. Among heterosexual colleagues, stereotyping and a failure to recognize that their behavior constituted harassment was widespread. Most of these people denied being homophobic – but their behavior contradicted this.
In London alone, 1,000 people reported they were victims of LGB hate crime last year. Since most of us are still reluctant to go to the police, this suggests a much larger real number.
The perpetrators obviously don’t see us as equal members of society. Trans people are even more likely to face attack.
Young LGBT people are disproportionately likely to be homeless (because many can’t go back to mum and dad) and are much more likely to face mental illness.
Stonewall’s School Reports and now a study from the National Union of Students show that the problem of homophobic bullying in schools, colleges and universities is bad as ever.
As England’s footballers head off for the World Cup, our national sport still does not boast a single ‘out’ professional player – the USA’s National Football League has beaten us to it.
We may wish to thank the coalition government for giving us marriage with one hand, but on the other hand some might argue the same government is making our lives worse.
Cuts are reducing health provision, especially in mental health, scaling back services provided by local authorities for our communities and weakening the specialist police teams that know how to establish trust from LGBT people.
If you’ve studied any history, you know that in bad times, some people turn to extremes: Blame the migrant, blame the asylum seeker, blame the benefit claimant.
In fact, blame anyone except the people that caused the crash. Sadly there are plenty of examples of politicians in central and local government that have not resisted this scapegoating.
LGBT people have never had it so good in Britain – but there remains an enormous reservoir of ignorance, prejudice and intolerance.
To change that, we must first recognize it. Trade unions say: Work with us for a fairer society rooted in a fair economy, decent public services and equal treatment for all.