Let’s Talk about…

Tuesday sees the launch of Let’s Talk, the first of a regular series of lunchtime discussions.

You don’t have to know all the answers but listening to other contributions allows you to say “I may not know, but I can learn”.

The discussions, about a specific topic, are held in an informal atmosphere, hosted by a colleague with a passion for the subject.  They’re designed to be thought-provoking and may not even provide all the answers but should stimulate a constructive conversation.  The objective is that everyone goes away from the discussion having learned something. 

Subjects for discussion are designed to be topical -which is why the first session is this:

How football can be a power for good in the LGBT+ community

The World Cup in Qatar has raised the issue of that country’s laws against homosexuality and treatment of LGBTQ+ citizens, tourists and detainees.  How far could football go to speak out against the Qatari regime?

Is football culture still inherently homophobic?  Currently there is only one openly LGBTQ+ player in the English professional leagues, Blackpool’s Jake Daniels.  There are still frequent instances of homophobic abuse from fans, at the ground and on social media. 

In recent years, football has worked to counter homophobia, using awareness-raising initiatives such as the rainbow laces weekends and the ‘One Love’ armband.  Is this too little – or worse, simply lip service?  Or, as this week’s German football team photo suggests, is there more that footballers want to do but are being denied the opportunity?

Is it fair to single out Qatar?  There are currently 72 countries (about a third of all countries) who still criminalise homosexuality, according to a recent report.  Should all sporting bodies award international tournaments to countries who have laws against homosexuality, particularly those who enforce conversion therapy or the death penalty?

Or is it simply a matter of football showing more bravery in providing LGBTQ+ support?  The Iran football team’s refusal to sing their national anthem in protest at the Iranian regime’s brutal suppression of women protestors shows that the threat of merely a yellow card for wearing a particular armband is a privilege that pales against the price of allyship elsewhere.

The session will be held next Tuesday 29 November between 12.30 and 1.30pm in the Collaboration Space in [Redacted]. 

All are welcome and there’s no need to book – just turn up.  Please note, if the room does reach capacity, we may have to, in line with fire regulations and people’s comfort, turn later arrivals away.  As it’s lunchtime, all are welcome to bring their lunch with them. 

We can also confirm that “sweet treats” will be provided.  At this stage, we can’t confirm if that means parma violets or a Toblerone – you’ll have to attend to find out!

If you have a suggestion for a topic or theme for a follow up Let’s Talk, then please email your suggestion to [Redacted]

Taking Pride in our Pride Credentials

Once again, June brings the return of Pride Month, the annual focus on furthering the causes of the LGBTQ+ community around the world.

You may know that the first Pride marches were held to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York of June 1969.  You may also be aware that a Pride Month was first declared by Bill Clinton in 1999 – but an understanding of history relies on more than just dates and names.  It’s in the details beyond that we truly learn about our changing values.  Did you know that in 1970, the name ‘Pride’ was deliberately chosen to counter the attitude of ‘shame’, that was the widely held attitude at that time?

The world has changed immeasurably over the last 52 years but it’s equally true to say that it hasn’t changed quickly enough.  Today, Pride initiatives are embraced by all sections of the community and attract the attentions of corporate sponsors and politicians, who are keen to display their involvement.  Its very strength is still a reminder that there is so much left to be achieved.

As a responsible neighbour and employer, it’s important that [Redacted] do all we should to recognise this and offer our respect, support and allyship to LGBTQ+ people.  We’re committed to promoting equality and diversity – around this central principle: “driven by good business practice and need – not by legislation”. 

We’re also committed to achieve the [Redacted] Equality and Diversity Charter – a public commitment to deliver an accessible housing service which is fair to colleagues, tenants and communities.  This extends across the tens of thousands of residents of our 29,000 homes and to our 450+ colleagues.  In August, we’ll be proud to add our support to Wigan Pride, through our involvement with [Redacted].

So is Pride an ongoing protest?  Is it a wider cultural movement?  Or a fun way to raise awareness?  It seems Pride will always mean different things to different people, irrespective of their sexuality.  What is clear is that Pride is not going to go away – not just because it now transcends its original community but also because more people are identifying as LGBTQ+. 

Last year’s census was the first in its 200-year history to ask people about their sexual orientation and, ironically, the results will be published during Pride month, June 2022.  It’ll be be intriguing to see if it continues a recently-observed trend.  The Office of National Statistics’ Annual Population Survey shows that, between 2015 and 2019, the number of people prepared to identify as LGBTQ+ rose from 2.3% of the population to 3.4%.  That may look like a rise of ‘just’ 1.1% but it’s an uplift of almost half. In five years.

Unfortunately, we’re still unsure how accurate such numbers are because of the many reasons that still dissuade people from coming out.  The fact that we’ve recently seen the first active male footballer make such an announcement in over 30 years seems an indication of how little some things have changed.  Conversely, the fact that Blackpool’s Jake Daniels is only 17 suggests the emergence of a generation that feels more confident – and more equipped – to face the world on their own terms.

Whatever the 2021 census data will show – or perhaps won’t fully show – the LGBTQ+ community constitutes a sizeable and growing proportion the UK population.  At YHG, we recognise and celebrate this and expect to be an ally for thousands of people who live in our communities and work across our organisation.  And not just over Pride Month, but for the other eleven months of the year too! 

What is Pride?

It’s a Party!

Pride Month is one thing but Pride events are quite another.  For a start, they’re not even necessarily held in June – Manchester Pride takes place over the August Bank Holiday weekend and Pride in London 2022 will happen on 2 July.  Other cities have their Pride events on a range of other dates across the year.  Increasingly, they’ve become inclusive carnival-type celebrations at which everyone is welcome to attend, to soak up the atmosphere and have fun.

It’s Part of the Calendar

If there was no such thing as Pride Month, there’d be less reason for society to consider why it needs to exist.  Awareness-building initiatives invitie us all to challenge our preconceptions and encourage us to keep broadening our understanding.  Yes, Pride Month can lead to accusations of ‘rainbow-washing’ (by organisations who simply adopt a Pride-friendly facade for a month but do nothing more significant than that) but without the existence of Pride, there’d be less incentive for anyone to try harder to be LGBTQ+-friendly – including those who still aren’t trying hard enough.

It’s an Ongoing Struggle

We might all believe “things are better” in the LGBTQ+ community, these days – and of course, in lots of ways, they are.  But is that it?  Just because the arguments for gay marriage have been won, does that mean that other areas of disadvantage are any less real?  The incidence of mental health problems or violent crime is still far greater within the LGBTQ+ community than in society as a whole.  Where inequalities remain, it’s important that the fight to remove them should also continue.

It’s About More than Gay Rights

It may have started out as ‘Gay Pride’ but it’s become so much more than a movement about same-sex relationships.  Pride now incorporates bisexuality, asexuality, pansexuality and, of course, transgender people.  Consequently, many people now consider the Progress Pride Flag (which adds a chevron of white, pink, light blue, brown and black) to be an updated version of the original rainbow flag, as a representation of Pride’s wider role and aims.