UNISON fights discrimination and prejudice in the workplace on behalf of its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members. We do this by building local and national groups of LGBT members, negotiating with employers and offering individual support to anyone experiencing discrimination. We also provide access to practical advice and legal information. This is important work for all Branches. However, it is probably true that for this Branch it is especially important that we reach out to our LGBT members. This is because Argyll and Bute is largely rural and so many of us live in smaller and sometimes more socially conservative communities where attitudes to LGBT people are perhaps slower to change, whether that be perception or reality. Sometimes just the fear of the latter is enough to keep someone from coming-out or to persuade someone to climb back into the closet when they move to a community they perceive to be socially conservative. Important to remember too that, for some LGBT people, their personal decision to be open about their sexual orientation to family, friends, colleagues, neighbours is taken from them because they may fit the stereotype to a greater or lesser degree.
Too often it’s camp effeminate gay men or butch androgynous lesbians who are on the front line when it comes to being victim to misunderstanding, prejudice and hatred. Non-binary or gender fluid identifying people are similarly affected. The same dynamics play out for LGBT people in the workplace, even now in 2017 when LGBT people have a suite of legislation designed to protect them from discrimination, prejudice, hate and violence. We still don’t have true equality e.g. in Northern Ireland equal marriage still seems out of reach for the time being. There are still too many LGBT people who, because of their lived experience of being on the receiving end of prejudice and discrimination, are affected by low self-esteem, loneliness, social isolation, family breakdown, mental ill-health and suicidal ideation. The world is changing, true equality is tantalisingly close for LGBT people in the First World, but there is insufficient change still and what change there is still not coming fast enough to positively impact the lives of LGBT people here in Scotland and in the rest of the world. Moreover, in the workplace particularly, LGBT people are sometimes less visible for fear that being out at work will colour what others think of them, will affect promotion, will make them the butt of jokes and so-called banter, will give people permission to ask embarrassing inappropriate questions about their sex lives and their lifestyle etc etc. If, when reading this, any of it chimes with you, mirrors your experience or makes you feel angered about the glacial pace of change at times then UNISON can offer you an opportunity to make a change, to get involved, to become active, to help us make your workplace and your community more LGBT friendly.
Many LGBT people now enjoy happy, liberated and fulfilling lives, but there are still too many who don’t. Too many of our political and faith leaders still actively disagree with our human right to live and love freely, this level of public discourse fuels the status quo and keeps us shackled to inequality. We need more change, faster change and it can’t come quickly enough. So, UNISON Argyll and Bute Branch has a self-organised-group (SOG) for LGBT members. The group is small at the moment but we’re hoping to grow it so please, if you are LGB or T, get involved. The group exists to:
- discuss local terms and conditions;
- build a support network for members facing problems at work;
- provide a forum for the debate of issues;
- assist members in gaining the confidence to get involved in other levels of the union.
At the moment we have a ‘blind’ email contact list for everyone involved but we’re hoping to create a social network group where active and dynamic conversations can take place and where members can access support and gain the confidence needed for greater involvement in the Branch. Our previous Branch LGBT/Equalities Officer was David Wharrie, he has since moved on to work with UNISON Scotland – based in Glasgow – to work as a Local Organiser (he still has a supporting/developing role and will be actively working to improve membership within our Branch until end February 2018).
For more information about the LGBT SOG, becoming a Steward, taking on a Branch LGBT Officer role or to discuss any workplace issues affecting you then please contact Mary Watt, Branch Secretary on 07585903684 or email her at:
LGBT members matter to UNISON Argyll and Bute – please join us to fight with you for greater equality here in Argyll and Bute. We don’t have enough ‘out’ visible LGBT Stewards – we need you. For more information click here; to be inspired click here