UNISON IOW members are very concerned that the long promised reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) may not be going ahead, despite their importance to the well-being of trans people and widespread public support.
A protest was organised on Saturday 11 July by branch Equalities Officer Yve White BEM and Sydney Cardew, LGBT+ Officer for the IOW Labour Party. All attendees were encouraged to wear face coverings and observe strict social distancing measures throughout. Disappointingly, some of the publicity in the build up to the event attracted a number of transphobic and homophobic comments, but these were challenged with positive and educational replies from supporters of the trans and non-binary community.
Yve began the event by speaking about UNISON’s ongoing demands for equality for all trans and non-binary members, stating ‘as a fully inclusive union there are no glass ceilings for women in UNISON. Trans women are referred to as women in UNISON – because that is what they are.’ The 40+ people attending the event then took part in a minute’s silence to remember the three men from Reading who were murdered in Forbury Gardens last month. James Furlong, David Wails and Joe Ritchie-Bennett were much loved in the LGBT+ community and are sadly missed by their friends and family. Martin Cooper, CEO at Reading Pride said “A big thank you for showing respect and solidarity to the situation in Reading. It is humbling to see the support we have received from our fellow LGBT+ organisers and LGBT+ peers. Thank you very much for your support and love to all on the Island” Sydney then gave a powerful and informative speech, talking from the heart about what it is like to be a trans woman today and what the reforms to the GRA would mean for her and other trans and non-binary people. The speech was received with a thundering round of applause. Among those attending was local MP Bob Seely, who has since invited the organisers to meet with him in person so that he might get a proper understanding of the issue from those best placed to explain it.
Organisers were delighted with the positive feedback and the way in which different organisations across the island came together in solidarity with the trans and non-binary community. Yve and Sydney are now looking to build on the momentum generated by the event by holding a series of further meetings. Yve said “I am so proud to have been able to have been part of this important event. It is vital that our trans and non-binary community have a voice in relation to the reforms of the GRA as it will affect them the most. I am pleased that our MP came along to ensure he is fully informed about the issues faced by trans and non-binary people on a daily basis and we look forward to working with him on the Bill. Sadly, there have been several incidents of transphobia on the Island recently and we cannot allow this to happen – people should be allowed to be who they are without fear or discrimination.”
If you’re a UNISON member who identifies as part of the LGBT+ community then you’re very welcome to join our private Facebook group where you can meet new friends and find out what’s happening in your region.