2019 UCU LGBT+ Conference Report:

The months before the strike were so full of planning and organising activity, that we decided to hold back this news item, about November’s UCU’s Equality Conference, for fear that it might get lost.
Cardiff UCU Branch President, and UCU NEC member, Ryan Prout, introduced and chaired the conference which was addressed by Marc Svensson of UCL, Matson Lawrence from the University of Strathclyde, Eden Langley from the National Union of Students (NUS), and Francis Clark and Amy Bulge from the University of Birmingham UCU branch.

The following is excerpted from Ryan’s introductory address:
“The last year has also been marked by efforts to grapple with the ripple effects as traditional and heteronormative concepts of sex and gender have been challenged by the growing number of people who chose to identify outside of the gender binary, or to work within it from identities that do not derive solely from anatomy. The discussion around the Gender Recognition Act has been a complex one, and this is a good opportunity to mention that progress on this has been setback by a postponement, something which the chair of the TUC’s LGBT committee has signalled concern about to that body.

The confusion that seems to reign in the tabloid press between sex and relationship education speaks to the fact that LGBT+ matters are still misrepresented: when heterosexual relationships are at stake it’s all about families and non-sexual affinities and kinship; when homosexual relationships are concerned, still, in 2019, they seem always to be represented through the prism of sex. There is more work to do, and perhaps of an unexpected sort, to redress this.

UCU has been busy doing its part to make sense of these debates, and in that regard, we could refer, for example, to UCU’s work on resources that carefully define what the LGBT+ communities mean by some of the terminologies being used today, and by the speaker panel we have organised for this event today, and by the inclusion in a plenary session of this conference, for the first time, of someone speaking to the EDI agenda from the lived experience of trans identity.

On a more practical level, the committee has continued its work of organising presence at pride events, submitting motions to congress, feeding in to campaigning on international issues, for example the plight of gay men in Chechnya, and the threats to the LGBT+ community in Brazil from the newly installed populist regime there, and in representing our HE and FE members, and working to improve the public and academic disclosure on matters that concern them.

Some of the forms in which this happened include the very successful 2019 UCU LGBT+ academic conference, and the equally successful LGBT+ component of the Equalities conference last year. We sent a full delegation to the TUC LGBT workers’ conference in July and many of us stayed for the pride march in London: these events are usually enjoyable and there was an especially good atmosphere at Pride this year and I had the sense that everyone who took part felt very positive about it. The subtle differences of where we sit on the political spectrum were much less important than the sense of solidarity we shared.

In terms of an overall objective, I think it’s fair to say that the committee, which has benefited from the enthusiastic participation of new and longer standing members over the last year, is agreed on putting LGBT+ front and centre in many of the debates and concerns that we work on as a union, from pensions, to promotion and pay equality, to intersectionality with migrant members.”

You can read more about how UCU puts equality and LGBT+ issues at the heart of its work here.