By Conner Kiernan, Candidate Administrator

Our colleague network RESPECT supports LGBTQIA+ colleagues, by helping to create a safe and inclusive workplace no matter their gender identity, trans status or sexual orientation. I’m a member of this network and have taken some time out to share my thoughts.

All social movements reach a point where their cause is considered to have been “completed”.  They face questions that challenge their continued campaigns and wear away the very understanding upon which their success was built. We can often feel, as members of the LGBTQIA+, that we’re facing this reality. 

We’ve achieved so much:

  • Equity in consent
  • Equal Marriage
  • Adoption rights
  • Protection from discrimination
  • Representation across all levels of society

In the face of all this success, shouldn’t we be happy and wanting to live our newly liberated and equal lives? Are we just complaining for the sake of it? These arguments, although common, fail to see the issues we still face today, especially within areas such as sports and healthcare.

This week has seen Fina, the international body governing water sports, including swimming, diving and water polo, introduce a ban on the inclusion of trans athletes in gender specific events. This would mean, for example, a trans-man being prevented from taking part in any male events. Fina reasons that the genetic and therefore physical difference given to trans athletes, who didn’t begin gender reassignments pre-puberty, would unfairly advantage or disadvantage them when competing. Although this would appear to effectively ban trans athletes, it’s worth noting that there’s still uncertainty about how this will change the face of sport going forward. With multiple reviews, appeals and legal challenges either ongoing or beginning. 

This news came alongside the International Rugby League announcing that trans-women will be barred from international events and FIFA, footballs governing body, announcing a review of it’s gender eligibility regulations. 

These examples show the fight is very much still alive for those who disagree with these policies. Most of whom argue that sex is not a fair measure of sporting ability and continues not only LGBTQIA+ but also sexist discrimination; while the increased pressure on trans athletes continues to promote exclusionary practices based on opinion and not science. Some also highlight that the requirements for pre-puberty treatment underestimated the barriers faced by young people trying to access gender reassignment services. 

Whilst this fight is headline news now, there are other stories showing a battle may be won but that it has cast a long shadow. You may have heard of Monkeypox, which sadly isn’t a new indie band but an infectious disease, and how it’s started to spread in the UK. The origins of the outbreak and whether it’s being spread by sexual contact is still being studied and the NHS classifies it as being of very low risk of infection. 

Although this outbreak has been affecting the LGBTQIA+ disproportionately it’s not a disease exclusive to these groups. Yet, as a chilling reminder of the AIDS crisis, some people have begun using the ‘Gay disease’ terminology.  Although they have been challenged and have failed to break into the mainstream; it is a sad reminder that this narrative has not disappeared. These ideas also fit into a wider viewpoint around the association of marginalised groups and sexual disease, which affects LGBTQIA+ communities.

These examples, show the varied and sizeable challenges members of our community can face. They show us that although progress has been made, we still have a great deal of ground to cover, whether that’s fighting for our future or to capture the ghosts of our past. As a gay man who grew up in a household where LGBTQIA+ people and culture were celebrated, these examples remind me of my privilege. I’m not too proud to admit that I once questioned the need for pride, safe spaces, and networks like this one, wanting us to just ‘integrate’ and move on. I thought my experience was a common one and, in my ignorance, shunned parts of my own identity and my community. But it was sobering reminders like these that brought me back down to reality. If I, from my comparatively ivory tower, can’t be bothered to fight for my community then how on earth can I expect others to join me in such luxury?

Everyday is a fight for tomorrow, whether that’s through me learning to accept and embrace the spice of life offered by my community, or in my efforts to grow through the support of others in overcoming and developing beyond societies barriers.

So, the argument isn’t why haven’t we stopped at the change we have achieved, but rather what change do we see coming next. 

So, what are we still fighting for?

No movement for change and freedom will ever be “done” or “enough” as society never stands still, and change is a constant. Whilst we’ve achieved so much, there’s still a very long way to go.

This pride month, we invite everyone to reach out to those in need and to work together to build a better world for us all.

You can get involved

At Co-op we’re proud of our diverse colleague community and our culture, where people can flourish while always being their true, authentic selves. Anyone is welcome to get involved and become a member – you don’t have to be part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

As part of the Pride month celebrations, this Engagement Pack has also been created containing lots of useful information, it’s well worth a read. There are also a number of upcoming Pride events up and down the country. It’d be great to see as many colleagues joining in as possible. you can find your nearest one and register your place by clicking here but be quick as spaces are limited.