Pride has come a long way, but this is the year to take it further

Tim Roberts marks Year of LGBT+ Workers in his latest blog

Posing for a photo at an Year of LGBT+ Workers event at Ipswich Borough Council

Pride month takes on a special significance in 2024, UNISON’s Year of LGBT+ Workers.

It’s a chance to celebrate the amazing strides forward we’ve made, while of course recognising the work still to do.

When I started work it was still perfectly legal to sack someone for being LGBT+. This wasn’t like the supposed right to shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow in Chester, this was a real threat to millions of workers.

People were terrified of coming out because it meant risking dismissal or being denied promotions.

Right up to the turn of century UNISON members in schools, councils and the NHS were dismissed or forced out of their jobs if their employer found out about their sexuality or gender identity.

Today LGBT+ staff are still more likely to face hostility, with over 20% of LGBT+ NHS staff reporting experiencing physical violence from patients or relatives compared with 13% of heterosexual staff.

But we have come a long way.

Discrimination on grounds of sexuality and gender identity by employers, landlords and service providers outlawed. Same sex couples had rights enshrined through civil partnership and then marriage. Parental and family rights are enshrined in law.

In the same way 60 years of race equality legislation hasn’t eradicated racism — the legal changes in the last 25 years have not eliminated homophobia, biphobia or transphobia.

You only need to look at how ailing politicians stoke up culture war bigotry rather than talk about their dreadful record over the last 14 years to see that society has a long way to go.

We will have members in our region right now delivering vital public services that do not feel safe to be out about their sexuality or gender identity.

Many will work in employers without inclusive policies or where language fails to recognise the full variety of human relationships.

It is the job of every UNISON activist to make sure public services workplaces are as fair and equal and safe as possible.

And it’s up to every activist to make sure our union fully embraces our diversity.

During Year of LGBT+ Workers, we’re encouraging every branch to have an LGBT+ officer, but we also need more branches to have LGBT+ secretaries, chairs, green reps, health and safety officers and other posts.

That’s how we can ensure LGBT+ voices are heard and really build a legacy for the year.

We all need to roll up our sleeves and unfurl our rainbow flags and get busy delivering equality. We can all work together to deliver change and I look forward to seeing the fruits of all our fabulous labour!