Celebrating equality and difference on LGBT+ History Month

Richard Hill, G15 Vice-Chair and Chief Executive at One Housing Group, reflects on LGBT+ History Month.

February marks LGBT+ History Month, a period when we reflect on the accomplishments and sacrifices made by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in history. At One Housing, we see it as a valuable time to reflect on the LGBT+ centred work in our wider Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy.

Though its roots are in the USA, in the UK, we commemorate the repeal of Section 28 in 2003, part of the 1986 Local Government Act which outlawed any local authority “promoting homosexuality” in schools.

Throughout the month, community groups, volunteers, activists, schools, and organisations from the private, public and third sectors will host events to shine a light on the progress we have made as a society since the repeal of Section 28 – the Equality Act and the legalisation of same-sex marriage to name a few.

This period invites us to reflect on where we are as a society now and the many challenges that are still ahead of us.

Sadly, this battle is far from over as many LGBT+ people in the UK still face discrimination today.

According to charity Stonewall, one in eight LGBT+ people have experienced some form of unequal treatment from healthcare staff because they’re LGBT+; while more than a third of LGBT+ staff have hidden that they are LGBT+ at work for fear of discrimination.

As an employer, care provider and social landlord, we are aware of the work that needs to be done to ensure that all our LGBT+ customers and colleagues feel as safe and included in their communities as everyone else.

I’m pleased to say that we have made progress in our journey towards addressing LGBT+ inclusion since the launch – two years ago – of our LGBTQI+ steering group at One Housing. I’m grateful to those that gave their time to help One Housing become more inclusive and I’m conscious that this is journey that must continue.

Beyond our workforce, we’ve also tried to focus on the particular needs of our LGBT+ customers.

A recent study by Leeds-based Sage project, a partnership between Yorkshire MESMAC and Age UK Leeds, showed that “older LGBT+ people are especially vulnerable to loneliness as they are more likely to be single, live alone, and have lower levels of contact with relatives”.

Last year, we worked alongside Tonic Housing and the GLA to provide homes for older LGBT+ people at our assisted living scheme in Lambeth, Bankhouse.

This new partnership led to be opening of Tonic@Bankhouse, the first LGBT+ affirming retirement community in the UK, in the Summer. This new scheme aims to help tackle the issue of isolation among the community by offering housing with care that celebrate LGBT+ identities, surrounded by a supporting environment where people can be their own authentic selves and access mutual support.

The Mayor of London has fully supported this scheme through the GLA Community Housing Fund which enabled the purchase of 19 properties.

Let’s hope that this new service will inspire other housing providers, together with other local authorities and the charity sector, to open similar services elsewhere.

LGBT+ History Month is time to reflect on how far we have come as a society, but also to remind ourselves that discrimination hasn’t gone away and that different groups experience it in different ways.

Creating environments which celebrate equality and diversity in our communities and workplaces doesn’t happen overnight, but with dedication, respect and cooperation, we can keep making progress in the right direction.