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Highlights from the TUC LGBT+ Conference

The Musicians’ Union (MU) once again took part in the Trades Union Congress (TUC) annual LGBT+ Conference at Congress House in London. Here are some of the highlights…

The Musicians’ Union (MU) once again took part in the Trades Union Congress (TUC) annual LGBT+ Conference at Congress House in London. Over 2 days, delegates from across the trade union movement - including the MU - attended the two day Conference to discuss issues that matter to the LGBT+ community and different experiences of being an LGBT+ worker. 

MU Delegate and Chair of the MU’s Equalities Sub-Committee, Ian Lindsay, moved the MU’s motion on mental health. In a powerful speech, he talked about the particular experiences of LGBT+ musicians and performers. “Admitting you have mental health issues still very much carries a stigma,” said Ian. “It affects people right across the spectrum, but being LGBT+ carries extra burdens,” he said, citing research by Mind that 25% of LGBT+ people suffer depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies compared to just 2.4% of the general public. The research cited discrimination, bulling, homophobia, bi-phobia and transphobia as reasons. The motion, calling on the TUC LGBT+ Committee to lobby government and the NHS on a number of issues, was one of three on mental health and passed unanimously.

Conference Chair Maria Exall called for a movement wide campaign to defend workers’ rights and campaign against austerity. “We are over 50 years on from the 1967 Sexual Offences Act decriminalising homosexuality. But how far have we come?” asked Maria. “Why do we face the choice between being ourselves, and being safe at work? We deserve better.” “People come to the UK for the freedom we have fought for. We must protect this freedom and those who come here for it,” Maria added. 

Frances O’Grady is optimistic. “For the first time in a long time, it feels like there is hope. Keep the foot on the accelerator and keep the faith,” Frances told Conference. “Labour may not have been the biggest party on the 8th of June, but make no mistake, our politics is changing,” she said. “Theresa May found herself between the devil and the DUP… Where there are policies we disagree with, the TUC will not be silenced.” 

Stephen Doughty MP made a very personal keynote speech, telling Conference that all of us have a responsibility to stand up to the government’s “coalition of chaos”. Stephen called on delegates to “Get out there, organise, be passionate and stand up for what you believe in”, promising “I’ll be proud to walk alongside you every step of the way”. 

MEP Lucy Anderson took an internationalist perspective. “We must not forget that same sex relationships are still prohibited in 74 places in the world,” she said, reflecting an earlier motion proposed by Equity and supported by the MU that focused on protecting workers’ rights when they are abroad. Supporting the motion, MU delegate Ian said “We need to make our members aware for prejudices worldwide… It is not something that you consider when you apply for jobs as a musician, but it can have a major impact on your job”. 

Activist and UK Black Pride Executive Phyll Opoku-Gyimah talked about intersectionality; “We are here as trade unionists. As trade unionists we are also gay, Black, lesbian, bi, trans, disabled and everything else we need to protect…. If your prides are not intersectional, then they are not for me. We must be dealing with inclusivity. I am a proud Black lesbian woman and trade unionist. I don’t just want to talk about one of my identities and leave the others at the door. We must have space to be able to talk about all of this. We need to have the conversation about difference”.

Phyll also looked to the future. “I make no apologies for standing up for who I am and our rights. We do our bit so the next generation don’t have to suffer,” said Phyll. “In an ideal world, we wouldn't need Pride at all. Or a Black Pride. But we won’t live in an idea world until the hate in society is gone.”

Play your part – get involved. There are lots of ways to get involved in the MU’s Equalities work, from spreading the word about who we are and what we do, to taking part in our Equalities events, to representing MU members on our Equalities Sub-Committee where what you discuss makes a real difference to MU members. Find out more and get involved via theMU.org/Equalities.

Published: 20/07/2017

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