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Intersectional Me

Equality - 23 Jun 2020

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I joined the GMB when I was working at a private secure hospital for people with learning disabilities, but at time I really didn’t feel like unions were that relevant to people like me.  

But now, at 52, as a Black, disabled, gay woman, working for a mental health nhs trust, I’m proud that both my union and my employer are constantly striving to champion equality in the workplace.  

All my life I have crossed over different communities. 

I was fostered and later adopted. I was raised in a very strict anti LGBT+ religion in a white foster family and was always the only black child at most of the schools that I attended. My own knowledge of my true self was not embraced. Years later I had a mental health breakdown due to abuse I received and the difficulties suppressing my identity in a religion that absolutely forbade such a life. 

That challenging start to life has stood me in good stead to support and stand up for others as a rep, to understand some of difficulties and barriers being intersectional can mean and how important it is to create truly inclusive spaces, where everyone is safe to be themselves. 

It all started when the rep for my area invited me to attend a branch meeting. My first one turned out to be an AGM. As there was no other people from diverse backgrounds like me present, I was asked to be the equality officer. And that is where doors began to open.  

I met people who felt as passionately about equality and change as me. People who understood. People like me.  

Attending the GMB National Equality Conference heightened my desire to get involved, I felt included, inspired and uplifted by the kind way that other Activists and Officers encouraged me and by the brilliant discussion on equality and social justice. I met people who felt as passionately about equality and change as me. People who had lived experience of having more than one protected characteristic and the difficulties that could mean in the workplace and in life. People who understood. People like me.  

I attended the subsequent conferences and was overwhelmed by the support and kindness I was shown via the union to take part and try and make a difference.  

In 2013, I was asked to attend my first black, LGBT+TUC conference and congress. All 3 made a deep impression on me. I always wanted to do more and get involved. People were always coming to me with issues. They knew I was up to date on equality and reasonable adjustments. They trusted me to understand where they were coming from.  

Eventually, when my rep retired, I became a rep, and then a national rep and now I’m on the National Equality Forum and I’ve never looked back. I represent and support others with pride.  

In recent years my physical health had been hit by breast cancer, tuberculosis, arthritis and now a permanent lung disorder. Thankfully my manager has been very supportive  and recognised my contributions and talents at work, as well as my needs. Being intersectional has helped when it has come to assisting people like myself, whose disabilities have got worse but encourages staff to take part in inclusive activity wherever they can. To know that we can all make a difference. 

Being a Rep and being active with the union is the most humbling task a person can do. We are there to look out for members, to fight for truth and justice. I’m passionate about how our fight for equality through our union can change people’s lives. 

GMB encourages people like me to believe it is possible to change our roles in life, to not put up with poor working conditions, poor treatment or prejudice to know our rights and see the strength in who we are. 

In conclusion my past experiences, the communities I represent, and future encounters makes me who I am. Secondly anyone who is intersectional like myself should embrace it. Understand that it can give you strength. 

I believe the fight is still always on for equality.  We have to keep moving and growing as a union, to continue to be a place for all people, to recognise our diversity of workers, of people from all walks of life, is part of our greatest strength.  

Dawn Lovett

GMB Rep & Equality Officer

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