Housing must take the lead on flying the flag for LGBTQ+ rights

February was LGBT History Month. Colette McKune argues that the sector must keep on going flying the flag for LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Back in a time when we were permitted to gather publicly, ForHousing was a staunch champion of Pride festivals across the North West of England.

“It came as a shock to me then that there were questions as to whether it was the role of a housing association to engage in such activities”

We loved being part of them – especially Manchester’s famous parade – with tenants and colleagues marching proudly together with thousands of other people to demonstrate a shared passion for equality.

It came as a shock to me then that there were questions as to whether it was the role of a housing association to engage in such activities.

Our response to those who felt it was not our place to engage publicly in this debate has been to double down on our support of LGBTQ+ rights campaigns.

LGBTQ+ rights must be a leadership issue for landlords.

If we really want to see real change and make more things possible for more people, then like-minded people must come together behind a common purpose.

In this case, the rights of LGBTQ+ people to live freely without discrimination. I’m proud to stand with any group of people taking on this cause.

That means joining forces with tenants, other housing associations and wider partners in the community to form a strong collective voice.

“As landlords we have a unique connection with communities. Lockdown has emphasised that we have the power to help people find their voice and to use it. If we don’t, then who will?”

One blog, one Twitter post or one press release won’t make a difference. But thousands of them, from thousands of different organisations, day in and day out, just might.

For all the progress on LGBTQ+ rights over recent decades, we need to remember that there is still a long road ahead.

Across the UK, more than a third of LGBTQ+ staff (35%) have hidden that they are LGBTQ+ at work for fear of discrimination.

One in five LGBTQ+ people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the past 12 months.

These shocking statistics are just the tip of the iceberg.

We live in 2021, and sadly discrimination is still a reality for many LGBTQ+ people in their workplaces and neighbourhoods.

As landlords we have a unique connection with communities. Lockdown has emphasised that we have the power to help people find their voice and to use it.

If we don’t, then who will?

“I believe that in the housing sector we have a responsibility to be louder and clearer in our support of LGBTQ+ rights, not just within our organisations but in the communities we work in and beyond”

That is why we need to make our stand on LGBTQ+ rights a very public one.

At ForHousing we’ve worked with community groups, such as Stockbridge Gemz, an LGBTQ+ social group in Knowsley, helping to connect and support people and to give LGBTQ+ people a voice.

Hate crime sessions we’ve run with partners at local youth clubs have helped educate young people, where they created artwork with positive messages to highlight the importance of standing up to hate and to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ hate crime.

I know from personal experience what it is to challenge stigma – I’ve faced bias and sexism throughout my own career. Disappointingly, I still am.

That’s part of the reason why equality, diversity and inclusivity have been my watchwords during my time as group chief executive at ForHousing.

We want everyone to feel safe in their communities and work with partners to help to build vibrant, diverse communities where all tenants are empowered and respected.

I believe that in the housing sector we have a responsibility to be louder and clearer in our support of LGBTQ+ rights, not just within our organisations but in the communities we work in and beyond.

Everyone deserves to be able to be their true self without fear of discrimination or prejudice.

We have a big role to play in ensuring people have a voice; sometimes that starts with finding our own.

Colette McKune MBE, group chief executive, ForHousing

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