By Antoinette Turner, co-chair of Spectrum, Riverside’s lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) staff group
This is my first year as Spectrum co-chair and my first blog on International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. I’ve been thinking about why these phobias still exist, despite the progress of LGBT rights, not only in the UK, but also in other countries.
I came across a slick Pixar style video online, produced by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, a Jehovah’s Witness organisation. The video is aimed at children and the content is very disturbing, with a clear anti same-sex marriage message. The film features a child who talks to her mother about a school friend who has two moms who are married. The mother responds by saying, Jehovah, who ‘invented marriage’ as between one man and one woman, has his ‘standards’ to get into heaven and they ‘haven’t changed’.
While homophobic propaganda such as this exists, is there any hope of real equality?
Thankfully, many liberal Christian religions do not oppose same-sex marriage. But what can we do to make sure that other faith groups are as accepting?
As part of their campaign for LGBT rights worldwide, Stonewall recently produced a guide to help faith communities understand how they can support LGBT members of their community, both in Britain and internationally. Christians from across the world spoke out about how they have embraced lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) equality within their faith. I really admire their bravery in telling their stories to promote positive change.
Closer to home, we can all do more to ensure that the workplace is safe for LGBT colleagues. Spectrum continues to offer support and advice, so that people are comfortable being themselves at work. Our Friends of Spectrum allies programme is growing. More allies than ever are requesting rainbow lanyards to signal their support for colleagues. We believe that visual cues are important, especially as we have over 2,000 staff across the country. Our aim is to make sure that there is someone in every office and scheme visibly showing support for LGBT colleagues.
But while the LGB community has made huge strides in terms of equality, there is certainly some way to go for trans rights. I’m looking forward to hosting our LGBT tenant forum next month to meet some of our trans customers, to find out more about the issues that affect them. Spectrum will be advising on strategies to support our LGBT customers, based on feedback from the day.
Globally, while there is clearly still work to be done, there is also progress. Stonewall claims that since 1990 more than 40 countries have decriminalised homosexuality, and more than 30 have outlawed homophobic hate crimes. And since last year, over 60 countries now legally protect LGBT people at work and 15 recognise same-sex marriage. However, over 400 million people still live under laws which punish same-sex sex with the death penalty. Let’s keep on campaigning.