As PCS equality group Proud launches the Proud survey, organiser Kris Hendry reflects on why it’s important that all members get involved and have their say on the future of Proud and LGBT+ equality for our union
Since forming, PCS Proud has always been led by our union’s LGBT+ members, with the support of our straight allies, ensuring that the work of Proud is and was set by LGBT members directly. In that time Proud and PCS have supported many of the advances made for LGBT+ equality.
Our union has also directly taken action to help advance the interests of LGBT members, and the wider LGBT workforce. In 2004 PCS, alongside six sister trade unions, took the then Labour government to court over LGBT exemptions in employment regulations and won. It was also our union which used a motion to the Scottish TUC Congress to call for the creation of the STUC LGBT Workers’ Conference, providing a platform for Scotland’s LGBT workers to come together and set the agenda for LGBT workers in Scotland.
Need to organise
I still consider myself to be a relative newcomer to activism, both as a trade unionist and a part of the LGBT+ community. I attended my first PCS LGBT Members’ Seminar about a decade ago but only began to get involved properly in Proud around 5 years ago.
Over those 5 years I’ve learned a great deal and had the opportunity to take part in so many different experiences that have helped to develop me as a rep and member, but also as a person.
However, at the same time I’ve observed Proud, and our national committee, beginning to struggle. Our numbers have shrunk with more and more being taken on by those who remain, which has restricted a lot of the work our committee has been able to undertake on behalf of our members.
I know today many LGBT+ people have a belief that, in the UK at least, we have achieved equality for our community and that there isn’t really a need for groups like Proud to organise or campaign as there used to be in the past. But the simple truth is that isn’t the case.
Fighting for trans members
Trans members, and the wider community, are facing an almost constant onslaught, from some, as they fight to improve the situation for themselves both legally and socially. As our community has grown and become more visible newer aspects are also beginning to come to the fore, such as the rights and treatment of intersex people, of non-binary people and others who identify out with traditional heterosexual and cisgender identities.
And even for those, like me, in the LGB part of our community, yes we may have largely achieved legal equality but what use is that when we are still sneered at, spat at, verbally and/or physically assaulted and, unfortunately, still murdered in the UK just for being who we are? Not to mention our members in Northern Ireland who are yet to achieve the same level of equality that we enjoy on issues such as marriage equality.
I believe it remains just as important today as it did 20 years ago for our union’s LGBT+ members to organise and for Proud to go forward and ensure that our voice is heard not just within PCS but across the whole of our movement and the rest of society.
However I, and Proud, also believe that those who should lead the charge are our members, and supporters. And that is why we have been working with the PCS National Executive Committee and PCS equality department to create and launch our Proud Survey.
We want to gauge where our union currently sits in regards to LGBT+ equality in our workplaces, but more importantly how we begin to rebuild Proud and ensure we begin to plan for the next 20 years of LGBT+ equality in our union.
I invite all PCS members, whether you are LGBT+ or not, to take part in the Proud survey. We want to hear how we can help you to become more involved in the work of Proud, to build the next generation of LGBT+ activists in our union and how we can help improve awareness and knowledge of both Proud and LGBT+ issues in our workplaces and beyond.
It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, tell us loud and tell us Proud on what you want to see from us as we look to the future for LGBT+ equality in PCS.
You can take part in the Proud survey, anonymously.