February is LGBT History Month

We’re in the midst of LGBT History Month, the annual celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, which is in its 17th year. It’s a chance to refocus, raise awareness and encourage further education in LGBT issues and its history. This year the theme is ‘Body, Mind and Spirit’ for this month.

Society has become a safer and more inclusive place since 2005 for LGBT people, but there is still a long way to go.

Almost 52 years have passed since the Stonewall Riots happened in New York. Gay rights activists and police engaged in a series of violent clashes in June 1969 outside the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Greenwich Village. The riots gave birth to the international movement, Stonewall, but the fight has been a tiring one in the decades since.

In the housing sector life is tough for young people with cuts to housing benefits for 18 to 21 year-olds increasing the problem. Add into the mix the homophobia or transphobia young people can experience in the home, and the stressful situation is multiplied. Extensive research tells us that young LGBT people experience high levels of homelessness due to homophobia and they become more vulnerable to risk and deteriorating mental health.

This isn’t a problem exclusive to the young though. A recent housing survey of older people, commissioned by the Manchester based LGBT Foundation, reports that 74 per cent of respondents want a care home delivered by a LGBT specific provider but 43 per cent had no idea where to find one. At the end of last year Manchester City Council put out a tender to commission an LGBT affirmative extra-care scheme in South Manchester. Just over 50 per cent of the 150 planned places will be allocated to people over the age of 55.

We need to improve in the workplace too. Recent Stonewall research revealed that almost 20 per cent of LGBT staff have experienced discrimination at work, and there is growing evidence that people who were out at university feel the need to hide their sexuality when they enter the place of work. The problem becomes worse for the minority within a minority. BAME people who are LGBT+ are at greater risk of abuse and three times more likely to lose their job than white LGBT+ colleagues.

During the pandemic many of us are working from home but, again particularly in the case of young people, home isn’t necessarily a place where they feel safe. Often young people feel they need to hide their sexuality, particularly in black and Asian households. And while one in five LGBT workers have experienced discrimination or negative comments, this can increase when people communicate through social media or private messaging.

So, yes, LGBT History Month is a time to celebrate and remember, but it’s also an opportunity to recalibrate and redouble our efforts to promote inclusion in society, in housing and at work.

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