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February marked LGBT+ History Month in the UK. Each year, it provides an opportunity to reflect on the legacy of the Labour movement in standing up for equality and delivering monumental change for the LGBT+ community. It is a time to remember pioneers of the Labour Party and trade unions who have bravely lobbied for meaningful change, often in the face of fierce opposition, and it is a time for us, as members of Bracknell CLP, to commit to living up to this legacy by continuing to fight for LGBT+ people, both in opposition and in the next Labour government.
Representation is hugely important, both for its symbolism, as well as for improving debate and the legislative process, by drawing on people with a wide range of experiences and expertise. In 1976, Maureen Colquhoun became the first openly LGBT+ MP when she was outed as a lesbian by the press. Chris Smith became the first openly gay MP in 1984 when he spoke publicly about his sexuality, coming out voluntarily. Since then, LGBT+ Labour MPs have continued to achieve a series of firsts, paving the way for equal rights in the process, from Stephen Twigg to Ben Bradshaw, Angela Eagle, and Lord Waheed Alli. There are now a record 56 openly LGB MPs in the House of Commons, who represent and reflect British society today. However, the UK has yet to elect a first openly transgender person to Parliament. Emily Brothers was the first such person to contest a general election in 2015, whilst Osh Gantly, Anwen Muston and Rachael Webb have served in local government (the latter being the first, in Lambeth in 1986).
This matters hugely to LGBT+ activism because it is vital that LGBT+ voices, as well as allies across the Labour movement, play a central role in enacting positive change for the community. There is a rich legacy of Labour fighting for LGBT+ equality. The reason that LGBT+ History Month is observed in February in the UK (as opposed to October, as it is in the US and much of the world), is to commemorate Labour’s repeal of the homophobic Section 28, which banned local authorities from “promoting homosexuality” (effectively censorship) in 2003. Other milestones include a 1985 resolution committing the Labour Party to lesbian and gay rights, passed thanks to block voting from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). This followed the efforts of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) during the miners’ strikes in 1984-5. From equalising the age of consent, same-sex civil partnerships and adoption, to tackling discrimination with the Equality Act, Labour has consistently championed justice, equality, and LGBT+ rights.
My role as LGBT+ Officer is to act as the representative of LGBT+ members in Bracknell CLP, working to ensure that LGBT+ people are actively involved in the Party at a local level, and that the CLP reaches out and connects with LGBT+ people locally by campaigning on issues important to our community.
Here are a few things we can do as members of Bracknell CLP to build on LGBT+ History Month throughout the year:
- Come to an All Members’ Meeting (AMM) – These are held towards the end of each month and are the main way of keeping in touch with the CLP. They also offer an opportunity to raise issues you feel should form part of our campaigns. I’ll be there and I would be happy to meet you!
- Join LGBT+ Labour – LGBT+ Labour is the socialist society for promoting the rights of LGBT+ people. They hold a number of events throughout the year, including social nights, and they maintain a presence at Prides across the country. They also support LGBT+ candidates in local and general elections.
- Join us for campaigning! – We are gearing up for the May 2023 borough and town council elections, and we would be delighted to welcome new people. Don’t worry if you haven’t done sessions before, there are plenty of friendly faces willing to lend a hand.