LGBT+ History Month is back again this February and we are encouraging all our members to join the celebrations. Though we are still restricted by the lockdown there are some terrific events planned and lots of resources available for branches.
After a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is “more important than ever” to celebrate LGBT+ History month this February, according to Lucy Power, co-chair of UNISON’s national LGBT+ committee, and an activist from Kent Police.
“During the lockdown, people have struggled with social isolation, perhaps not being out at home, or at work, and having no outlet with LGBT+ friends,” Ms Power said.
“LGBT+ History month is an opportunity to celebrate our community, our past and our goals for the future. Let February be a commemoration and rejoicing in our diverse community.”
Britain’s first LGBT+ History month took place in 2005 and was organised by the charity Schools OUT UK; February was chosen specifically, as two years earlier this was the month that the then Labour government abolished Section 28. Schools OUT UK is the successor to the Gay Teachers Group, which was formed in 1974 after a teacher was dismissed from their job for no other reason than that they happened to be homosexual. Over the last 16 years LGBT+ History Month has become an important educational and cultural movement and is now an annual part of the school curriculum.
Equal rights for the LGBT+ community has long been an important cause for the trade union movement, but few other unions have played such a vital role as UNISON and its predecessors NALGO, NUPE and COHSE. We have been on the frontline of every battle, being the first union to join Labour’s Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights, and later teaming up with colleagues at the National Union of Mineworkers to get LGBT+ rights on the Labour manifesto. Other memorable moments include the campaign to decriminalise same sex relations on the Isle of Man, the struggle to abolish Section 28, and the election of the first openly gay leader of a union when Mike Blick became General Secretary of NALGO in1991. We have a proud history indeed – but we’re not stopping yet!
UNISON continues to fight for equality and an end to discrimination, and since 2005 each region has had its own LGBT+ Self Organised Group (SOG). The South East’s own LGBT+ SOG has a tremendous reputation within UNISON, supporting Prides across the region, campaigning on a range of issues, and even winning a prestigious award for Best Recruiters at the 2019 National LGBT+ Conference! The SOG always welcomes new members, and you don’t need to be ‘out’ in your branch to get involved. The group gives LGBT+ members a genuine platform to tackle the issues they care about, and is also a great way to make new friends. Members can also join our confidential e-network to receive the latest news, events, and campaigns; to find out more please email our SOG Secretary firstname.lastname@example.org .
We are delighted to be running two online events as part of this years commemorations, and all members are welcome – including allies! There will be a webinar at 12:30pm on the 24 February: ‘UNISON’s Role as a Champion of LGBT+ Equality’, and the SOG will also be running an LGBT+ History Month Quiz at 7:30pm on 18 February, with lots of great prizes!