LGBT and other equality events, seminars, debates and meetings
- 27 January: Holocaust memorial day and LGBT People
- February: LGBT history month - with tips for events, news and stories
- 17 May: International day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia
- 23 September: Bivisibility day
- 20 November: Trans memorial day
PCS has a history of supporting and engaging LGBT members and causes, such as LGBT HM, because by doing so we are bringing together those whose voices and personal testimonies are often ignored or suppressed. This strengthens our collective power and understanding. We know this because history has taught us that standing together means we are stronger.
We all know that the Nazis hated anyone who did not fit their narrow idea of who or what was ‘normal’. Millions of lives were destroyed or changed beyond recognition because of this hatred. As the Holocaust Memorial Day website says:
“Those deemed untermenschen – sub-human, unworthy of life, included those who did not agree with Nazi views so Jehovah’s Witnesses, political opponents such as communists and socialists, trade unionists and Freemasons... . Those who did not conform to the Aryan ideal were also targeted. Black Germans, gay men and lesbians, and mentally or physically disabled people ...their lives were destroyed or irrevocably damaged.”
Tens of thousands of gay men were arrested under paragraph 175, the sodomy provision of the German penal code, dating back to 1871, with thousands sent to the camps and medically experimented on.
Lesbianism was not technically a crime and so lesbians were generally not treated as harshly as gay men although there are a few reports that lesbians were sometimes imprisoned for their sexuality, most would have been imprisoned for other reasons.
In 2000, the documentary film Paragraph 175 chronicled the lives of gay men and a lesbian – with one witness account of a man seeing his lover eaten to death by dogs released by guards.
In the concentration camps, those deemed to be homosexual were identified by the pink triangle which has since been adopted as an international symbol of LGBT pride. The film Bent portrayed this pride even in a concentration camp, in a striking and unforgettable way.
Estimates of those who died are difficult to ascertain as many records were destroyed; it could be anything from 15,000 to 400,000, some at the hands of fellow inmates. "There was no solidarity for the homosexual prisoners; they belonged to the lowest caste. Other prisoners, even when between themselves, used to target them." This political and personal hatred, contempt and scorn is the same hatred that is used to "justify" the abuse, attacks and killings of so many LGBT people even today, here and abroad.
The post-war years saw the persecution of gay men mainly and some lesbians continue with many being re-arrested on charges that the Nazis had brought. It was not until the 1980s and 1990s that recognition of the persecution of LGBT people during the Holocaust became internationally understood and the survivors officially recognised.
Nowadays, we face very real threats to and hatred of our ‘differences’ from the far right and other extremists on our streets, at the polls, in our workplaces and in our homes. This affects us all. This is why getting LGBT members involved in all union activity, tackling homo-, bi- and transphobia wherever it arises, even at home, and in promoting our diverse stories, lives and achievements are vital to a better understanding of our past, the present and to form a shared direction for the future.
We have a a whole new section devoted to LGBT history month with lots more information on suggested workplace activities, how to get involved, resources, links and articles about the experiences of LGBT people.
News section: LGBT history month
Every year since 2004, on 17 May, members, individuals, human rights, supportive faith, secular and community groups come together to campaign against homo-, bi- and transphobia.
"As much as it is a day against violence and oppression, it is a day for freedom, diversity, acceptance," as IDAHOT organisers declare. These are things that trade unions, and PCS is no exception, firmly believe in.
The date is significant as it marks the anniversary of the World Health Organisation’s decision in May 1990 to remove "homosexuality" from its list of mental disorders. In the UK, "homosexuality" was declassified as a mental disorder in 1973.
Both victories were key moments when "homosexuality" as a medical concept and mental disorder broke free from decades of medical, psychiatric and psychological experimentation and intrusion into the lives of LGBT people. It marked an historic step towards considering these as fundamental basic human rights.
PCS and Proud - ways to mark the day
In the past, PCS and PCS Proud, the voice of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender PCS members, have marked this day in a number of ways like awareness raising events and publicity, or holding a minute's silence or noise to commemorate the thousands of LGBT people who are criminalised, arrested, raped and killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Each year when possible, we organise a visible presence at the Brighton event.
We encourage reps to find alternative ways to celebrate the gains we have so far made in the UK and to remember those who do not have the freedoms we have, for example, by contacting Proud - email@example.com - or checking out Proud's website - pcsproud.org.uk.
Since 1999 every 23 September, bisexual people, their friends and supporters have celebrated bisexuality, bisexual history, bisexual communities and cultures, and the bisexual people in their lives. The day is also known as International Celebrate Bisexuality Day.
Whilst the gay and lesbian communities continue to grow in confidence, visibility and strength, quite often the bisexual community has been less visible and continues to face prejudice and marginalisation from both by the LGT and heterosexual people.
Both PCS and PROUD recognise some issues relating to bisexual people are different to those of lesbian, gay and transgender people. There is more work to be done to increase the participation of and engagement with bisexual members, and to tackle workplace and societal prejudice, stereotypes and intolerance. The Proud national committee itself consists of a wide range of people including those self-identifying as bisexual. Contact Proud to find out more.
Together we are promoting discussion, visibility and equal prominence with lesbian, gay and transgender matters on the LGBT agenda. For example at this year’s PCS LGBT seminar, there will be a focus bisexuality and biphobia.
Information on local events is available on the Bi Visibility Day website.
Across the world there will be commemorations in honour of trans people who have been murdered or attacked – giving recognition and respect to a section of our community who are habitually overlooked, or purposely ignored.
PCS uses the word ‘trans’ to cover both transsexual and transgender workers.
Trans people, anyone who is perceived to be trans, or is associated with a trans person, are protected by law from discrimination at work and in the provision of goods, facilities and services.
Trans workers, regardless of whether they have decided to go through the process of medical reassignment, should be treated with respect and fairness.
Everyone has a role to stamp out bullying. It makes a big difference to trans people if colleagues and managers immediately challenge any mocking, harassing, intimidating or violent behaviour towards them.
Some PCS trans members say they have been ignored and found colleagues afraid or embarrassed about speaking to them “as if I was some sort of ticking bomb” or in case “they said something ‘wrong’ or called me by my former name”.
Other frequent issues are rejection by family, friends, and colleagues; problems stemming from birth gender and true gender identity documents; and disclosure of identity information for pension, recruitment, employment or travel purposes.
Domestic abuse is suffered by more than a third of trans individuals.
In some situations they may be forced into marriage or become victims of honour killings.
Reliable studies show that the trans suicide rate is way above the national average.
Simple actions you can do
- Step up awareness raising activities about trans equality - ensure work and union services are accessible, fair, and non-intrusive
- Fundraise for trans charities by selling and wearing specially designed blue and pink ribbons and badges. PCS equalities has some to sell for a donation.
- Hold a minute’s silence at work or a vigil with a local trans group on 20 November
- Contact PCS policy and resources department - firstname.lastname@example.org - or PCS Proud - email@example.com - for information, advice and support.