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A short history to shout about! – GMB LGBT+ self organised groups 

Equality - 23 Jun 2020

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I joined GMB on the first day when I started with my employer 15 years ago, as someone passionate about trade unionism I thought it was important to be an active member and have never looked back. 

I soon became aware there was no formal group for LGBT+ people in the union at the time.  As a gay man myself, and having attended congress and met other LGBT+ people from other regions it was clear that we needed campaigns being run by the union for LGBT+ members and more policy   

Knowing a group of people in London we started talking about creating a self-organised group for LGBT+ members in the GMB. We needed to build contacts and when we approached regional office we were put in touch with Kelly Hannah - Rogers from London region and explained why we thought it was important. We discussed reflecting the membership we had and ensuring we are relevant to the LGBT+ community,  so we would recruit but also to ensure we tackled issues members faced. Having a self organised group would help ensure reps understand the issues we face so that they in turn can be supportive of members in workplaces. We also needed to campaign to change society too! 

 We heard of people in Southern region and agreed to link up so we could work together, our Shout! launch  into the wider world was at the TUC LGBT conference we wanted to ensure we engaged the delegation. So we organised our first fringe event on the Wednesday before the conference started around LGBT+ campaign issues and had Peter Tatchell as guest speaker. 

Our room was full and overflowing with delegates from other unions. We felt we put GMB Shout on the map and there was a real buzz for the start of conference the next day. The fringe was mentioned by so many delegates.   As usual London Pride was on the Saturday after the conference and we marched with southern region on the parade and encourage other regions attending the conference to join us.  We had arrived as a group and as a union as far as we could see it, no going back.    

Over time we came to GMB Shout!, as it says that our voices are loud and that we are proud of our LGBT+ community and of our union.

We felt that we wanted our own name, as GMB lesbian, gay bisexual and trans group did not exactly trip off the tongue. Over time we came to GMB Shout!, as it says that our voices are loud and that we are proud of our LGBT+ community and of our union. Over time we changed GMB policy and  now have reservations for LGBT+ members on the Central Executive putting us at the heart of this great union. 

These policy changes have included the first union to support the equal love campaign, at the forefront of the issues around blood donation and developing a trans toolkit in 2014.  We run training on equality issues, have  held summits and created  bulletins and support materials for branches. 

Our first GMB Shout! national meeting was in Manchester in 2007 and it felt amazing to co-ordinate across the regions . At the first meeting we agreed GMB Shout should be used across the GMB and  I was elected national chair with David Hope from North West and Irish as vice chair.  Tony Hughes from Birmingham and West Midlands as Secretary to the group, with our brilliant National Public Sector Secretary,  Rehana Azam supporting us as the full-time officer for equality at that time.  

Shortly after this there was a review of equality in the GMB and the proposals to form the current National Equality and Regional equality forums.  Peter Purton, GMB member, even has a section on us in his book is called ‘Champions of Equality: Trade Unions and LGBT Rights in Britain - Which is amazing and makes me feel so proud of what we have achieved. 

 I’m proud of how far we’ve come as a union, in the UK and worldwide, but know we have so much more to work to do on LGBT+ rights and inclusion. 

However, I know that together, we are up for the task ahead. There is more history to be made but more importantly deliver real change to LGBT+ people’s lives, everywhere. 

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