The themes of standing together and building inclusivity in the union continued to flow through this year’s UNISON LGBT conference in Llandudno today, with a motion on language creating an excellent, positive debate.
Many delegates spoke about how important it was to remember the context in which words are used, and that nobody should be “policing identities” as that would be counter to building both the union and togetherness in the wider LGBT community.
On reclaiming words such as ‘queer’, James Anthony drew laughter when he recalled marching through Birmingham with LGBT friends, chanting: “We’re here, we’re queer – we’re not going shopping!”
Another debate stressed the importance and value of using Pride events to “promote what we do best as a union”.
For the national committee, Sean Bowler reminded delegates that recruitment continues to be essential – “we need to recruit just to stand still.” Better yet, he continued, [we need to] recruit two members for every job lost in order to “make a net gain”.
“Without numbers on the ground, our employers will never take us seriously.”
He urged them to leave conference recharged and ready to take the challenge back into their workplaces and branches.
“Not only will we recruit new members, but keep the ones we have, and empower them,” he told them.
In a motion titled #AskMyPronouns, Alex explained how misgendering by using the wrong pronoun is often a matter of a lack of understanding or confusion.
Simply asking which pronoun is acceptable can help to promote inclusivity and make people feel safe.
Angela Dennis for the national committee told delegates that “we’re always striving for absolute equality for all UNISON members”.
Jenny Harvey from Staffordshire health branch stressed how important the issue of pronouns is for “trans and non-binary people” and how much misuse of pronouns can be more hurtful than obvious bigotry as it is counter to inclusivity.
Zoe Watts from Lincolnshire Police pointed out that asking pronouns is more inclusive for everybody.
And Siobhan Cannon from the national young members’ forum urged delegates to “be honest with ourselves” in making sure that the union’s LGBT group challenges any discriminatory behaviour or attitudes within the LGBT community.