LGBT – the + factor

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2019 Local Government Service Group Conference
22 February 2019

Conference celebrates UNISON’s work over the past 25 years to promote women’s equality and participation and to tackle sexism and sex discrimination at work, in our union and across society.

Like other service groups, the local government service group has a majority of women members and our rules and practices to encourage women’s participation are vital to achieving our equality objectives. Likewise, in our negotiations, it is vital that we demand employers consider the impact of policies and practices on women workers and take active steps on equal pay and to tackle all forms of workplace discrimination. Considerations of gender and monitoring of women’s progress or experiences are key to much of this.

Conference notes however that an overemphasis on gender where gender has no relevance can have the effect of reinforcing gender stereotypes, which can in turn reinforce gender job segregation and the ‘glass ceiling’ and have no recognition for workers who do not identify as women or men.

Conference believes that workers should be able to attend work according to their gender identity, whether this is female, male or non-binary. This may mean small but important changes to systems and facilities so that they are inclusive, such as inclusive gender and title options in electronic records and non-gendered dress codes.

By becoming more inclusive for our members we also become more inclusive to the people we work with.

Conference notes that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) self organised group (SOG) has always sought to be fully representative of its diverse membership, in line with UNISON’s rules. It notes that the LGBT group works with inclusive, umbrella definitions of bisexual and transgender. Its bi network is for all members who feel attraction to more than one gender, and its trans network is for all types of self-identifying trans people; for people with trans backgrounds and members whose gender identity does not fit into the gender binary i.e. non-binary members.

However, despite these inclusive definitions some members who the LGBT group considers to be part of the group are put off. The LGBT group hears repeatedly that when members attend its meetings, they feel welcomed and included, but before they attend they had been unsure. This is particularly the case for members who do not personally use the label LGBT about themselves, for example members who identify as queer. It is clear that there must be many other members who are put off and never get over that barrier.

Conference notes that the national LGBT committee undertook consultation during 2018 on making the LGBT SOG fully inclusive. This followed a motion from the national young members’ forum to 2017 LGBT conference highlighting the growth in the number of people, and young people in particular, identifying their sexual orientation and gender identity in many different ways beyond a binary definition, and expressing their preference to see the LGBT group move to organise on an LGBT + (plus) basis.

The overwhelming majority of the consultation responses were in favour of the proposal to change the group’s name to LGBT plus (+).

Putting the + in the group’s name would not change its existing remit of being a self-organised group for all members who experience prejudice because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, but would demonstrate an inclusiveness beyond that conveyed by the current name so that people who the group consider to be members are not put off from participating.

Conference calls on the service group executive to:

1)Continue to encourage the negotiation of inclusive language in local government agreements and policies, and of inclusive practices and procedures across our local government workplaces:

2)Gather good practice examples from branches organising in the local government service group of inclusive employer policies and practices;

3)Encourage support amongst local government members for the rule change from LGBT conference to national delegate conference on the LGBT group changing its name to LGBT+;

4)Circulate the national LGBT committee’s briefing on the group’s name becoming LGBT+, LGBT bargaining factsheets and how to be a good trans ally leaflet to branches organising in the service group.