Are you registered to vote?

As you know, on 7 May there is a general election (and some local elections). Whilst Prospect will not endorse any political parties, we can encourage our members and allies to vote.

The new system means YOU have to register individually at the Government Register To Vote website for people in England, Scotland and Wales, and at the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland for people in Northern Ireland.

And you only have until 20 April to register – that’s this coming Monday.

So please, if you haven’t already, please register to vote!

And consider having a look at the Prospect General Election site to see how different parties have responded to the Prospect Policy Pledge…

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LGBT History Month 2015

Prospect LGBT History Month Every February it’s LGBT History Month, and this year the theme is Coded Lives.

LGBT people have existed throughout history, but often in a not very visible way. After all, groups who are systematically oppressed by a heteronormative, gender-normative patriarchy rarely have sufficient voice to be heard in a point in time, let along enough voice for that voice to linger in records.

So, instead of me writing about my hero (Alan Turing) I thought I’d be even more obscure and introduce some of the people of whom you might not immediately think. Many of these are featured by LGBT History Month

Anne Lister was a lesbian living in the early nineteenth century, at a time when the words “homosexual” and “lesbian” hadn’t even been coined. She was an inveterate diarist, and wrote about a sixth of her diaries in code, including about her relationships with other women. Her isolation as a gay woman was reflected in her phrase, “Alas, I am, as it were, neither man nor woman in society. How shall I manage?” (26 Jan 1830)

I’ve mentioned Polari – the language used mainly by gay men in the twentieth century – before on the blog, but it’s worth remembering two of its best recognised speakers, Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick, who became best known as Julian and Sandy on BBC’s Round the Horne in the sixties. Polari fell out of common use after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, but it remains significant as a way of gay men identifying themselves and communicating safely in a hostile world.

Frida Kahlo is one of Mexico’s best known artists, known for her iconic self-portraits in which she refused to comply with physical ideals, and painted herself with heavy eyebrows and moustache. She married and was romantically linked with other men and women, including Georgia O’Keefe and Leon Trotsky.

"Thomas Stewart – Chevalier d'Eon" by After Jean-Laurent Mosnier - Philip Mould. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_Stewart_%E2%80%93_Chevalier_d%27Eon.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Thomas_Stewart_%E2%80%93_Chevalier_d%27Eon.jpg

“Thomas Stewart – Chevalier d’Eon” by After Jean-Laurent Mosnier – Philip Mould. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Beaumont Society has provided help and support to the transgender community since 1966, but what’s less well-known is that it’s named after the snappily named Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont, better known as the Chevalier d’Eon. A notorious character of the eighteenth and early nineteeth centuries, the Chevalier d’Eon lived as a man until 1785, from when she lived until her death as a woman. With roles in the military, diplomatic corps and in espionage, Chevalier d’Eon has been one of the most colourful – and confusing – characters in trans history.

It’s important to remember that the LGBT communities are, themselves, diverse, and this is highlighted in this wonderful list of great black LGBT britons from 100 Great Black Britons. Their list reminds us of these often overlooked characters and their contributions to LGBT life in modern Britain, including Justin Fashanu, David McAlmont and Linda Bellos. Spanning sports, music and politics, people from black and minority ethnic groups have challenged stereotypes, opened people’s eyes and changed society.

Finally, a quick mention of Pride, which comes out on DVD in March. This award-winning deeply moving comedy follows the impact of LGBT activists on a Welsh mining community during the strike of 1983/84. Mike Jackson, one of the founders of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, reminds us that “prejudice cannot withstand proximity”.

And this, ultimately, is what LGBT History Month is about. The LGBT communities are still not part of every day life in Britain, and this has an impact on the health and well-being of young LGBT people growing up. Without visible, strong role models, both contemporary and historical, it’s easy to think that you’re the “only gay in the village”, and a society which is heteronormative – which privileges straight people, their love and their relationships – makes those of us who don’t conform feel pressured to fit into a mould we don’t fit.

LGBT people are disproportionately represented in mental health diagnoses, suicide attempts, homelessness, low educational attainment and in poor pay. As a union, Prospect joins with LGBT History Month to support the decoding of hidden lives to support better futures for LGBT people, both younger and older.


More information about events during LGBT History Month is available on the LGBT History Month website, and events being organised by the trade union movement are available on the TUC website.

If you’re a member of Prospect, and you’re concerned about any aspect of homophobia – or other forms of discrimination – in the workplace, please contact a rep.

Accelerated Christian Education ‘Puff Piece’ Published in TES

ACE define Homosexual as "Having unnatural sexual feelings toward one of the same sex."

Definition of “Homosexual” taken from Biology PACE 1107

At the TUC LGBT Conference this year, as a Branch-nominated rep, I introduced a motion condemning the homophobia in Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), a fundamentalist Christian curriculum which is currently taught in between thirty and sixty private schools in the UK, and to an unknown number of homeschooled children.

As a survivor of the ACE system of education, I can speak to the harm it does to young people, and to the inadequacy of the curriculum to prepare students for life in the twenty-first century. This came across in my speech to conference.

Quoted from ACE: "Homosexual activity is another of man's corruptions of God's plan. The prefix homo- comes from a Greek work that means "same". Homosexuals engage in sexual activity with their own sex. The Bible records that God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexual activity. Some people mistakenly  believe that an individual is born homosexual and his attractive to those of the same sex is normal. Because extensive tests has shown that there is no biological difference between homosexuals and others, these tests seem to prove that homosexuality is a learned behaviour. The Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin. In Old Testament times, God commanded that homosexual be put to death. Since God never commanded death for normal or acceptable actions, it is as unreasonable to say that homosexuality is normal as it is to say that murder or stealing is normal.

Two paragraphs on homosexuality from Biology PACE 1107

ACE is not only homophobic, but it also has racist, sectarian and misogynistic overtones.

As can be seen from the images, homosexuality, when it is acknowledged at all, is portrayed as immoral. However, most of the time, homosexuality is ignored, and different-sex couples dominate the ACE narratives.

Whilst ACE does portray black and minority ethnic students, they are invariably shown in segregated schools and churches. Older workbooks (known as PACEs, or Packets of Accelerated Christian Education) also promoted the idea that apartheid was justified on economic grounds.

PACEs teach that only ACE’s version of protestant Christianity is true, and that other belief systems are false beliefs. There are two non-Christians shown in PACEs, and they stereotype the girl as sexually immoral, and the boy as displaying the traits of anti-social personality disorder. Students are warned to remain separate from non-believers, promoting sectarianist views.

Women are taught to be submissive to men, that their place is at home, that ‘modesty’ is important, and that any deviation of this un-Christian. So bad is the sexism in PACEs that Norway banned schools from using ACE.

CARTOON: Wife: "Is it possible for me to have a new dress for the banquet?"; Husband: "I'd like for you to have one, Dear, but we just can't afford one right now."; Wife: "I can add some new trim to that blue dress you like so well, it will look like new!"; Husband: "You make my decisions so easy with your loving, submissive spirit."; ACTIVITY: The student is invited to write, in cursive, the following sentence, adding the correct punctuation: "Esther was submissive to Mordecai. God used her to save her people"

Sexism in Accelerated Christian Education

This week, TES published an opinion piece which presented an uncritical – and frankly unempirical – view of ACE.

The article claimed that objections to teaching creationism and the disciplinary regime at ACE schools are misplaced, and sought to position it as a good “Christian” educational programme. I have written a reply to TES objecting to this coverage and pointing out inaccuracies in the piece; I will provide another link if it gets published.

It is important that Prospect, in partnership with other unions and TUC, continue to challenge bigotry wherever we find it. As a Branch, it is vital that we continue to promote our values of equality and diversity, something we work closely with the British Library to incorporate into policy and objectives. I am grateful to Branch for nominating me as a rep to attend the conference, and I look forward to continuing to promote the rights of LGBT people, wherever they are, on behalf of our members.

LGBT History Month 2015 Launch

I was privileged to represent Prospect at the British Library at the recent launch of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month 2015.

“Coded Lives” is the theme of the LGBT HM 2015, held every February, and the launch night on 18 November 2015 took that theme at face value!

History is often dominated by narratives focussing on rich white straight cis-men, which impoverishes both our understanding of events and the ways we see LGBT (and the questioning, queer, intersex, asexual and related co-travellers) communities.

LGBT History Month, which runs throughout February every year, seeks to challenge that perspective, usualising and actualising the experiences and stories of queer people, making us more visible, raising awareness of the issues that affect us, making educational establishments safe and promoting LGBT well-being. These objectives align nicely with Prospect’s policies to promote the equality of minority groups in society.

The launch night was certainly a spectacular display of the diversity in our communities, and highlighted the lives and experiences of many LGBT people, and also celebrated the unique culture of gay communities.

A lively programme opened Rose Collis singing Masculine Women and Feminine Men, accompanied by her banjolele, highlighting the change in attitudes towards gender binaries over the past decades.

Sprinkled throughout were mini lectures about key LGBT characters from the past, some of which I’ll post about in February.

We were treated to an extract from the intimate play, For the Trumpets Shall Sound, in which a gay officer in world war one trenches comes out to a fellow officer, a move which results in the scene being more intimate than one anticipates, and a dramatic reading of “Dear Bert…”, continuing the recognition of the experiences of LGBT men and women in the great war.

We were also treated to music, including the Diversity Choir’s renditions of Something Inside So Strong, The Shall Not Grow Old, Siyahamba and We’ll Gather Lilacs, which was sung with Champagne Charlie.

Champagne Charlie also sang Lavender Nights, probably the first gay rights anthem, from tthe 1920s, and sang a song entitled, thematically, Bona Eek.

Bona Eek opened a series of contributions on Polari, the subcultural language of the gay male community which flourished in the nineteen fifties and sixties.

In a time when homosexuality was outlawed and actively oppressed by the police, the language allowed a gay men to talk about other men, exchange gossip and identify as members of the community.

A number of other contributions, including a poem, song and a demonstration of the languages use, were also performed.

The intention is for Prospect to work with the Library to host an event to recognise the contributions of LGBT to the cultural and literary things of the UK and beyond.

More information about LGBT history month can be found a on the LGBT History Month website.

Pride Screening and Q&A hosted by Owen Jones

If you’re in and around Camden this coming Saturday, there’s a great opportunity to see Pride, followed by a question and answer session hosted by Owen Jones.

Pride is the inspiring and poignant story of how Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) helped a mining community in Wales through the strikes of 1984.

image

The London-based LGSM raise money to support the pit families, but are initially rejected by the National Union of Miners.

After engaging with a local community directly, the relationships between both groups transforms the lives of everyone involved.

It’s a genuinely moving story which will have you laughing out loud, and smiling through your tears.

Immediately after the film, a question and answer session is being chaired by Owen Jones, and features Mike Jackson and Nicola Field (founding members of LGSM), a UNISON speaker from the Doncaster Supported Living dispute, Dai Donovan (South Wales activist from the strike), and Lisa Palfrey and George MacKay (cast members).

This is a great opportunity to both see the film and to engage with the impact of the Thatcher-fuelled class war and how the strikes of the eighties resonate with issues today.

On a personal note, I’ve seen the film multiple times and cannot recommend it enough. I’ve also seen Owen Jones in action and have been inspired by his passion, eloquence and focussed anger.

The event is being held from 13.30 on Saturday 6 December 2014 at the RIO Cinema (107 Kingsland High Street, Dalston, London, E8 2PB). Tickets are available from the RIO Cinema and from George Binette. The event is being hosted by Camden Unison.

Tickets are £7.50 (£5 concessions), with proceeds going to support Unison members striking in Doncaster.

Anthem for Doomed Youth

Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.