The LGBT+ conference took place on Saturday 5th December, via Microsoft Teams. It was attended by around 50 colleagues, and we heard from four guest speakers across two panels. Five new members were nominated and elected to the LGBT+ Members Standing Committee, including UCU Left Chair, Bee Hughes.
We also paused for a 30 seconds silence, proposed by Peter Evans, to remember Nita Sanghera. Chair, Ryan Prout spoke of Nita’s impact across the union and her allyship with the LGBT+ community.
Panel One: Intersectionality
The first speaker, Sen Sunil Raj, gave a detailed and vital presentation on the intersections of LGBT+ experience and seeking asylum. His presentation highlighted the ways in which hostility towards LGBT+ people, racist and homophobic and transphobe stereotypes, and racism in the LGBTQIA+ community can significantly worsen and amplify the effects of the UK’s hostile border environment. Sen also detailed how UK law has changed, demonstrating that homo/transphobic practices have long been entwined with the law, though there have been some recent positive precedents, including the UK’s first granting of asylum based on nonbinary gender.
Next, we heard from Rohit Dasgupta, who explored ‘Queer Spaces, Racialisation and Belonging in East London’, drawing on his experiences as a Labour Councillor, ethnographic, and the art of Raisa Kabir. Rohit’s presentation reflected on the ‘limits of British multiculturalism’ and the production of queer spaces which exclude queer Muslim people, closing with a call to imagine new modes of queer Muslim belonging.
A detailed discussion followed, covering the impact of gentrification, how we can improve our work as activists and professionals, the need for legal recognition of nonbinary genders, workplace bullying, and how we can make our IT systems work for inclusion rather than exclusion.
Panel Two: LGBT+ in FE & HE Now
The second panel began with a presentation by Trude Sundberg, sharing results from their ‘Report from LGBT+ Pilot Survey “Working conditions for LGBT+ Staff in HE”’. The results from this survey explored the impact of the covid-19 crisis on the wellbeing of LGBT+ staff laid bare a shocking and sobering view of how the LGBT+ community has been effected by recent changes including working from home. The survey demonstrates the wearing accumulated effect of ‘indirect’ or ‘everyday’ discriminations, such as misgendering, and derogatory language, the increased feeling of being ‘outed’ by working from home, and the intersection of racism with homo/transphobia which impact Black LGBT+ colleagues immensely.
The final guest speaker for the conference, PhD researcher Samuel J. Heyes, spoke movingly on the experience of being a trans student in post-16 education. Samuel shared his experience of continuing to support trans siblings through the university system, while taking care of himself as a trans student. He highlighted the huge emotional investment and labour it takes to perform these acts of (self)care and of simply being a trans person in a world where public discourse is often overwhelmingly hostile.
During the discussion many attendees expressed solidarity with Samuel, the impacts many at the meeting have experienced since working from home and online, the inflexibility of IT systems which do not accommodate gender diverse people’s identities, feelings of institutional gaslighting, and questions about the impact of covid-19 on those living with HIV. Bee Hughes proposed that LGBT+ Members Committee, and any other members present, to work together to develop good practice guidelines for the union, and for branches negotiating and workplace policies which impact trans and nonbinary people. The proposal was welcomed by a number of attendees who will take up this work together.
Motion: Campaign for GRA Reforms and Against Asylum Seeker Persecution
Megan Povey moved the motion from Leeds UCU, which has introduced so well through the context provided by Sen Sunil Raj’s presentation, resolving to ‘raise the profile of the UCU campaign for reform of the GRA’ and ‘to campaign for an end to the persecution of asylum seekers’. The motion was formally seconded by Bee Hughes. Though there was a small minority of conference delegates who opposed the motion, with one person speaking against, the overwhelming majority of attendees indicated support, with multiple speeches decisively for the motion. Voting on the motion is underway online.