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Committee Statements - LGBT+ Conference

Committee statements for TUC LGBT+ Conference

Demanding progressive change to the Gender Recognition Act 

The TUC has a long and proud history of promoting equality for all our members.  

We strive to end all forms of discrimination, bigotry and stereotyping. We oppose any violence or intimidation, bullying or disrespect, towards any group that faces discrimination, from whatever quarter. 

And so it was in hope that in 2017 we saw the government announce its intention to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004. We welcomed the consultation on reforms to the 2004 Act as an opportunity to make progressive change to the law.  

The TUC is a democratic organisation and our policy is set at our annual Congress.  Our 2018 Congress provided that policy direction by approving a motion calling for progressive change to the Gender Recognition Act 200, This policy position was reaffirmed at our 2020 Congress. 

Our democratically agreed position is therefore that the government should introduce a simplified, free, statutory gender-recognition process based on self-declaration, while maintaining the Equality Act 2010 as it stands.  

And that the government must support the rights of gender non-binary people at work and in wider society. 

We want it noted for the record that in the two years the government took to announce its response to the consultation trans people were been forced to continue with a lengthy, humiliating, and expensive process to change their gender.  

The government’s handling of the whole process has had a negative impact.  

The length of time it took the government to respond to the consultation left a massive vacuum. During that time, some of the discussion around gender recognition, in some quarters, became bitterly divisive, with some seeking to divide the LGB members of our community from their trans brothers, sisters and siblings. 

Groups continue to campaign against the proposed reforms to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act and seek to roll back the existing rights of trans people. We must not let this happen.  

We are deeply concerned that the lengthy wait for the government’s response yielded proposed changes that fall far short of the demands in our Congress agreed policy. We do not believe the government’s proposed reforms will come close to meeting the stated aim of making the process of acquiring a gender recognition certificate ‘kinder and more straight forward’ for the trans community. 

Trans people face physical and verbal abuse, prejudice and discrimination, marginalisation and misrepresentation. Unions have worked hard to provide practical support and guidance for reps and trans members, and unions’ commitment to this work will continue. 

Our trans members have raised concerns about the nature, quantity and intrusiveness of the current evidence requirements needed to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate, and the impact that meeting these requirements can have on their mental health. The current process for getting a GRC requires a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.  

We do not believe being trans is an illness.  

The TUC believes the Gender Recognition Act should be amended so the process of getting a GRC does not require such a diagnosis.  

The system also requires an applicant to provide evidence that they have lived in their acquired gender for two years. Our Trans members have told us this ‘lived experience test’ risks reinforcing gender stereotypes in general, and to leaving trans people feeling they must conform to these stereotypes. 

The TUC believes that the government must remove the requirement to live in the acquired gender for two years and make good on its promise to make progressive reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. 

We need a simplified, free, statutory gender-recognition process based on self-declaration alongside meaningful support from government for the rights of gender non-binary people at work and in wider society.

Supporting Non-Binary Members at work  

The trade union movement is founded on solidarity and the principle that a hurt to one is a hurt to all. We know that policies that hurt workers somewhere hurt workers everywhere. To stop that hurt we stand with our non-binary siblings.  

Our non-binary members have told us the positive difference being an inclusive workplace makes in their lives. 

It’s the difference between feeling safe, valued and seen, rather than constantly looking over their shoulder, worried about if it’s safe to come out or if they will be outed today.  

It’s the difference between being themselves and thriving in the workplace or having to make a daily decision on what to fight for that day, or what parts of themselves they have to leave at home. 

Our non-binary members tell us they want their lived experience acknowledged and to be treated with dignity and respect.  These are the values and principles that underpin our movement.  

However, even though the trade union movement supports non-binary members the government’s ‘National LGBT Survey’ found in 2018 that employment rates were considerably lower for trans and non-binary people. 

That same survey also revealed that 76per cent of non-binary people said they had to conceal their gender identity to avoid a negative reaction from others. 

A 2015 Scottish Trans Alliance survey of non-binary people found that: 

  • 52 per cent never felt comfortable being out at work 

  • 32 per cent had avoided situations in workplaces or work opportunities because of fear of being harassed, being outed, or being read as non-binary. 

And we know the pandemic has had a negative impact on the LGBT+ community and that in many instances that impact has been felt more keenly by non-binary people.  

The LGBT+ Foundation found that 60 per cent of non-binary people who responded to their survey said that they would like to access support for their mental health at this time, compared is 42 per cent of all LGBT+ respondents 

Trade unions have an important role to play in challenging exclusionary attitudes and behaviours in the workplace. The TUC and its affiliates have a vital role to play in supporting all members to be non-binary allies and to making workplace policies and practises fully inclusive for all.  

And we have started by creating accessible online training materials for workplace representatives on identifying and challenging practices that exclude non-binary members.   

But we know there is more we can do. This is particularly important as, in September 2020, an employment tribunal ruled that non-binary and gender fluid people are protected under the Equality Act 2010. A case that has strengthened workplace representatives’ hands when negotiating for non-binary inclusion in workplace policies.  

We know that workplace monitoring is vital in identifying worker's' experiences and measuring progress. That is why we are campaigning for people to be able to identify as non-binary in workplace monitoring systems and for the use of inclusive categories on all forms.  

It is with the aim of protecting non-binary members and holding the government to account that the TUC will conduct its own research into the nature of non-binary discrimination at work and campaign for the government to take steps to make all workplaces inclusive in policy, and practice, for non-binary workers.  

The impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of LGBT+ Community 

Everyone has the right to have their health, safety and wellbeing at work protected. But all too often throughout this pandemic, the government has failed to take the action needed to keep workers’ mental health safe. 

Evidence points to government's failure to understand the effect the pandemic is having on the LGBT+ community, particularly in terms of mental health and wellbeing, and to address that impact.  

Pre-pandemic evidence shows that members of the LGBT+ community were more likely to experience a range of mental health problems such as depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and alcohol and substance misuse. Our members and LGBT+ organisations have told us the pandemic has exacerbated these issues.   

The higher levels of mental ill health among members of the LGBT+ community are driven by a range of factors such as discrimination, isolation, and homophobia. This situation is worsened by the dissatisfaction that members of the LGBT+ community feel with health services, with mental health services most often seen as discriminatory.  

In addition, with lockdowns and regional restrictions likely to continue, the effects on LGBT+ people must be recognised. This includes an increase in domestic violence and mental health issues.  

Members have told us about the negative impact that isolation has had on their mental health. This evidence has been echoed by by LGBT+ organisations. 

The LGBT Foundation report Hidden Figures: The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on LGBT Communities found; 

  • 42 per cent of respondents to their survey reported they would like to access support for their mental health at this time. This rises to 66 per cent of BME LGBT people, 48 per cent of disabled LGBT people, 57 per cent of trans people and 60 per cent of non-binary people.   

  • 1 in 4 respondents said they would like support to reduce their isolation, such as a befriending service  

Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of respondents said they would rather receive support during the pandemic from an LGBT specific organisation. This figure was even higher for BME LGBT people, disabled LGBT people, trans people and non-binary people.  

However, this LGBT specific support has not always been available. This is particularly the case for domestic abuse.  

During the pandemic entire families have been forced together, with lockdown restrictions meaning they have spent more time together than before. This is particularly the case for younger LGBT+ people. Social isolation and lack of savings mean that many LGBT+ workers have little option but to move back in with parents or family who are prejudiced or otherwise unaccepting of who they are.   

Having to live in close proximity to family, with very limited access to the outside world has made it harder for people to keep their LGBT+ identity a secret from their family. Being able to choose how and when you come out has never been more important as coming out, or being outed, as LGBT+ can trigger abuse and violent reactions from hostile family members. 

Galop, the LGBT anti-violence charity, reported seeing an escalation in LGBT domestic abuse. They highlighted that, for many people living with their abuser(s), the lockdown conditions caused the abuse to become worse, driving people to flee.  

However, because of the ongoing impact of austerity there have only been a limited number of specialised LGBT+ refuge places for LGBT+ survivors. This has been further reduced with hostels and some specialised LGBT+ refuges remaining closed during lock down and the pandemic. 

As a result, Galop has seen LGBT+ people forced to live in their cars to escape abusers. They have also found that, for those with additional needs such as health requirements, the pandemic made it impossible to flee extremely unsafe environments forcing LGBT+ people to remain in unsafe homes. 

The TUC believes domestic abuse and mental health are workplace issues. The government must; 

  • raise awareness of these issue so LGBT+ abuse victims are not overlooked and can get help    

  • incorporate LGBT+ specific support and resources in all domestic violence and mental health work and 

  • fund LGBT+ organisations to address the key mental health issues effecting LGBT+ community  

The Unequal impact of Covid-19 on LGBT+ workers 

The coronavirus pandemic has shone a stark light on the deep and persistent structural inequalities which cut across our country.   

Working class families have been hit hardest by Covid-19, facing the greatest health risks and now on the front line of rising job losses. 

We are proud of today’s diverse working class. We also know that within it, Black workers, women, disabled people and LGBT+ people have all been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis.  

We know that COVID-19 is having a devastating effect on the daily lives of everyone.  

However, our understanding of the particular impact on LGBT+ workers has been hampered by the very patchy information that is available. This stems from many factors including failure to capture LGBT+ identities within specific research and national datasets, and sometimes a lack of interest. The resulting information gaps can lead to the unhelpful assumption that the pandemic has had no impact on the LGBT+ community.  

We, however, know that this is untrue. The pandemic has had multiple negative impacts on the LGBT+ community and LGBT+ workers.    

Evidence suggests the economic downturn caused by the pandemic is impacting on the arts and culture, travel and tourism and hospitality sectors.  

These are sectors where historically LGBT+ workers have been overrepresented because that have been easier to be openly LGBT+ in.  And, as the recession deepens. it is likely that LGBT+ workers in those sectors will be at risk of redundancy. 

We are also aware that, given high rates of bullying, harassment and discrimination at work pre-pandemic, it is unfortunately likely that LGBT+ workers will be at risk of being unfairly targeted for redundancy.  

TUC research conducted in 2017 found that nearly two in five (39 per cent) of LGBT+ workers had been harassed or discriminated against by a colleague, more than a quarter (29 per cent) by a manager and around one in seven (14 per cent) by a client or patient.  

And despite the high levels of harassment and discrimination, very few LGBT+ workers report it, meaning the bulk goes unresolved and unaddressed by employers. Our research found that only a third of respondents (34 per cent) reported the latest incident of harassment or discrimination to their employer. 1 .

With this in mind, it is not a surprise that, throughout this pandemic, LGBT+ members have told their unions and the TUC that they have witnessed an increase in the levels of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. 

This has particularly been true for LGBT+ key workers. It is unacceptable that workers on the front line should have to experience bullying and harassment at increased levels while delivering vital services for the UK. 

The experiences our members have brought to our attention have been borne out in the limited but high-quality evidence available on the impact of the pandemic on LGBT+ people.  

Galop, the LGBT anti-violence charity, found during the pandemic an escalation in the number reports they received about hate crime and hate speech. 2

Galop evidence echoed LGBT+ members reports, it found fact that the violence and abuse was perpetrated by people who blame the LGBT+ community for the pandemic. The violence often including references to the role of LGBT+ people in the AIDS epidemic and Covid-19 as a ‘punishment’ from God.  

The pandemic has also physically removed LGBT+ workers from wider LGBT+ support groups, limiting their ability to seek help. For many their own homes have been unsafe with LGBT+ workers, often young workers, have been forced to stay in hostile environments with unsupportive family, or in abusive relationships. And there has been a notable increase in violence and crime from neighbours with both the LGBT Foundation and Galop reporting an increase in the severity of hate crime committed by neighbours. 

An LGBT Foundations survey found that 8 per cent of respondents did not feel safe where they were living, and this increased to 17 per cent for trans and non-binary people.3 Galop reported that violence directed towards LGBT+ people mainly in situations that pre-dated the pandemic but the situation was made worse by victims being unable to escape their home or access necessary help and support. 

Calls to LGBT+ help lines have increased dramatically with Galop, Stonewall and the LGBT Foundation all reporting an upsurge in contacts.   

The government’s coronavirus response has not only failed to adequately recognize and address these structural inequalities, in many cases it has made them worse.  The public sector equality duty means that when government is developing policy, they need to be aware of the impact that their decisions will have on different equality groups and use this information to ensure they promote equality, eliminate discrimination and promote good relations – but too often during the pandemic equality has been an afterthought, if not completely forgotten. 

With lockdowns and regional restrictions likely to continue, the effects on LGBT+ people must be recognized and addressed.  

The government and devolved powers must urgently acknowledge and address the significant impact that the pandemic is having on LGBT+ people. It must look especially at the impact on those who are key workers. And employers must take proactive measures to support and protect the health and safety of LGBT+ workers and eliminate harassment and discrimination at work. 

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