Highlights from the UCU LGBT+ Research conference

Mel McKenna,  UCU@GCU








I recently attended the 2019 LGBT+ research conference at the University of Manchester and wanted to share the highlights with GCU branch members. The conference packed a lot into a short day and shared lots of interesting research that is taking place throughout the UK at the moment. We heard from guest speaker Dr Flora Renz, who shared their research around ‘Non binary recognition and the future of legal gender.’ Other areas of research shared include LGBT and the early years, challenging homophobia in secondary schools, LGBT inclusion in sport, disrupting heteronormativity and healthcare for trans men.

You may have seen the recent shocking news headlines reporting that 7 out of 10 LGBT employees have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. These findings were published on the morning of the conference, where we heard from guest speaker Dr Quinn Roche of the TUC who presented the findings from their report ‘Sexual Harassment of LGBT people in the workplace’.

The findings are grim and were difficult to hear as an LGBT person. There were many findings highlighted, and the report excellently breaks down different LGBT experiences and intersections. The report found that 1 in 8 LGBT women have been seriously assaulted or raped at work, whilst Trans women were even more likely than other women to experience sexual assault or rape at work. Disabled people also reported significantly higher levels of sexual harassment than non-disabled people. The report also discusses the sexualisation of LGBT identities and the misconception that these identities centre around sex.

In terms of reporting experiences of sexual harassment/sexual assault at work, only two thirds of respondents felt able to do so. Perhaps the only positive finding from the report is that union members are more likely to report their experiences of sexual harassment compared to non-union members, and felt that these reports were taken seriously and dealt with satisfactorily.

Finally, the report makes a recommendation that the Government ‘must take steps to ensure LGBT workers are effectively protected from sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace.” These recommendations are detailed in full at the end of the report.

You can read the full report in the link above.

These findings highlight that we as a union need to do more to support our LGBT members in the workplace. We crave a culture of openness and inclusivity, but in reality LGBT people still feel unable to access the support and guidance they need. As an LGBT person, I want to see visible support for LGBT people in my workplace, and active campaigns that show me I am supported and valued as both a GCU UCU branch member, and employee.

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