Category: LGBT+ Inclusive Workplaces

Martin Hartley

Pride and LGBT+ equality, protection, and security

Martin Hartley, TSSA Executive Committee member

As summer progresses, we have seen our LGBT+ communities reflect on and celebrate Pride.

This should always be a reflection of how far our community has come, in terms of legal rights, recognition and protection.

It is also right we remember how Stonewall and the LGBT+ movement marched 50 years ago in London to protest against a society where we were not safe or legal, unable to be ourselves. Thankfully today’s LGBT+ generation do not suffer as much as our society did, say in the 1980s.

As someone who identifies as LGBT, it took me a long time to feel comfortable coming out to work colleagues and indeed union colleagues. I didn’t feel safe or confident in being able to do that for some years, and working in the railway industry, a ‘man’s' industry’, didn’t help.

I was afraid of what would be said - jeering and name calling, or the sly homophobic ‘dig’ comments that I had witnessed so many times about other colleagues, who people assumed to be gay or lesbian. Thankfully that didn’t happen to me. I feel I have the respect of work colleagues and feel they accepted me.

It’s never going to be perfect for everyone, as we are all individuals and, of course, deal with our sexuality in different ways. Some people are more private and may feel harassed or bullied about those challenges from wider society.

That is why it is important as trade unionists that we ensure equality, protection, and security for our LGBT+ members. We fight for those safeguards and stand up to employers who don’t have safeguards in equalities, and who allow our LGBT+ people to be left vulnerable.

While it is great to see businesses of all sizes displaying the Pride flag and changing their logos, it means nothing if they are not protecting their employees identifying as LGBT+ with rights and equalities that our heterosexual friends enjoy.

I attended the Scottish Trades Union Congress LGBT+ Workers’ conference in May, at Clydebank. The theme was Pride Through Education. It was an excellent two days with colleagues from our sibling unions, addressing some very important key issues in LGBT+ rights.

While we celebrate our rights of our gay, and lesbian friends, we must now turn to people who are non-binary, bisexual and people who are trans. We need to educate through schooling, so that our next generation understand the different terminologies.

This means knowing what it means to identify in these ways, as these individuals do. This is one of the key reasons people use pronouns. Through comprehensive education we would hope to pave the way for better understanding and a less bigoted society.

While school is important for education, employers must also educate their staff, and importantly managers, in the same way. As trade unionists we must assist them with this.

It is also important to bear in mind that not all people who are LGBT+ live ‘normal lives’, we should remember those who have mental health challenges, and people who are disabled. At the STUC we heard a great speech from a BAME refugee who was gay, and the huge challenges he faced with his citizenship status in the UK, and the bigotry from the authorities at ground level.

Rightly the TSSA has an affiliation with Stonewall, and I’m proud that we continue to make very visible our Inclusive Rail campaign, and challenge all employers we work with to embrace this.

That’s not just on the railway, but all our recognised industries where we have collective bargaining. Across the board we will continue to support and campaign for equality, security and the protection our LGBT+ members deserve.

As the Executive Committee member for TSSA in Scotland, I ensure that this campaign is applied in the Scottish Division, and at our Head office when directing the General Secretary on The Union’s strategic plan.

Those of you who are attending any Pride event or march, fly that flag, make yourself heard, loud and proud however you identify sexually. Stay safe and enjoy.

Martin Hartley

TSSA Executive Committee Member Scotland.

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