Last week, I had the privilege of attending events commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). This is a global annual event that celebrates sexual and gender diversities. There were activities in countries across the world including Poland, India, New Zealand and Iran.
In the North West, we cannot be complacent as we have seen appalling examples of homophobia and transphobia in our region.
In 2008, Michael Causer, an 18 year old gay man, was brutally murdered in a homophobic attack on Merseyside. Michael’s case galvanised the Merseyside LGBT community and led to Liverpool Pride being held for the first time. This was in no small part due to the courage and love of Michael’s family who responded bravely to their loss by mounting a high profile community campaign.
Last year, Lucy Meadows, a primary school teacher in Accrington, killed herself after her gender reassignment became national news. The Daily Mail’s Richard Littlejohn was prominent in the hounding of Lucy and the coroner criticised the conduct of the press, saying “shame on you”. I hope that Lucy’s death will lead to a renewed fight to defeat transphobia in the media, and we must have zero tolerance of transphobia inside the trade union movement.
The TUC’s most recent Equality Audit shows that generally it has been getting more difficult to get employers to address equality issues. We are in a difficult political climate, where Government policies such as the so-called ‘Red Tape Challenge’ are undermining fairness, equality and rights of workers. There has been a reduction in the number of meaningful Equality Impact Assessments being completed.
Equalities bargaining and self organisation is not on the margins of what we do but central to our work at branch and regional level. Equalities aren’t additional to the fight against austerity and for rights at work. They are central to that fight.