New policies recognise needs of vulnerable sexual communities

2 November 2012

Following the implementation of new legislation equalities policy, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is now an aspect of staff training in local government according to research at the Universities of Newcastle and Huddersfield carried out by Professor Diane Richardson and Dr Surya Monro. The research project is the springboard for a workshop on LGBT equalities, which will take place in London on November 6 as part of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science.

"There are many LGBT people - for example young homeless people, or those with mental health issues, who because of the additional impact of homophobia (fear of homosexuality), biphobia (aversion towards bisexuality) and transphobia (fear of people who are transgender) may be affected by the impact of austerity in profound and devastating ways," says Surya Monro.

The research charts the progress of equality measures introduced into local government following a raft of legislation which has obliged local authorities to develop equalities policies specifically focussing on sexual orientation.

"Our research found many examples of subtle discrimination at work - such as silences, giggling or not recognising civil partnerships. Some councillors and managers were reluctant to take forward initiatives. For example, in one council an officer was told not to develop a policy on sexual orientation, and reports came back from committees with red lines through the words 'lesbian, gay and bisexual'. In another council, there was reluctance to include information about how to organise a Civil Partnership in the council booklet on marriages, births and death" explains Surya Monro.

The research highlights the importance of leadership in implementing equalities legislation. In Northern Ireland the endorsement by a local mayor was very valuable in tackling hate crime. Elsewhere, the support of senior managers, who recognise the importance of inclusive policies, was invaluable in taking forward equalities work.

The needs of bisexual and transgender people are also often overlooked, according to the research. Bisexuality is still largely hidden and carries social stigma. And there is still a lot of discrimination about transgender people, according to Dr Monro. "For example, a transgender person using a public swimming pool was the object of complaints because she had visible scars."

The research also looked at the difficulties of third gender, androgyne or 'gender-queer' people who may identify as being somewhere between male and female, or as entirely genderless. "Current legislation doesn’t cover these individuals who may be ridiculed. In some cases they can't even get passports," says Surya Monro.

The event will provide a forum for stakeholders, community activists, and service users to discuss current developments in the LGBT equalities field. Speakers at the workshop will include Alice Ashworth (Stonewall), Petra Davis (Bi.UK), Louis Bailey (Transgender Resource and Empowerment Centre TREC), Professor Diane Richardson and Dr Surya Monro.

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Notes for editors

  1. Event: LGBT equalities: surviving austerity
    Organiser: Surya Monro, University of Huddersfield together with Newcastle University, as part of the Organisational Change, Resistance and Democracy: LGBT Equalities Initiatives in Local Government project
    Date: 6 November 2012
    Venue: National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Society Building, 8 All Saints Street, London, N1 9RL 
    Audience: Events suitable for people with a specific interest and some knowledge of the topic
    For more information: LGBT equalities: surviving austerity
  2. This release is based on Organisational Change, Resistance and Democracy: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equalities Initiatives in Local Government. It will include presentations by key community organisations and an introduction to a recently published book Sexuality, Equality and Diversity, Palgrave MacMillan (2012) on the research by Professor Diane Richardson and Dr Surya Monro.
  3. The researchers carried out 37 interviews with people working in local authorities in Northern Ireland, Wales, the North East and South of England, 15 interviews with national/regional stakeholders and five with local councilors. They also ran ActionLearning Sets (ALS) in each of the four areas.
  4. The Festival of Social Science is run by the Economic and Social Research Council and takes place from 3-10 November 2012. With events from some of the country's leading social scientists, the Festival celebrates the very best of British social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future. This year’s Festival of Social Science has over 180 creative and exciting events across the UK to encourage businesses, charities, government agencies, schools and college students to discuss, discover and debate topical social science issues. Press releases detailing some of the varied events and a full list of the programme are available at the Festival website. You can now follow updates from the Festival on twitter using #esrcfestival.
  5. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.