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Photo by Cecilie Johnsen on Unsplash

It is vitally important that this LGBTQ+ History Month, we remember the rights we have won as a community and the sacrifices it took to get to this point. However, we must also remember that there is still so much further to go – LGBTQ+ hate crime is soaring, with a vast majority of people not reporting hate crimes and only 10% ending with a charge of summons. Furthermore, the treatment of LGBTQ+ victims of hate crime is appalling, with less than half feeling their report was taken seriously.

As Chair and Policy Officer of LGBTQ+ Co-operators (Co-op Party’s LGBTQ+ wing), I have reached out to Co-operative Party’s Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumberland, Kim McGuinness, to discuss these issues and how co-operative values and principles can be put into practice to clamp down on LGBTQ+ hate crime. Kim has been a strong ally for the LGBTQ+ community and has attended panel discussions and consulted the wider LGBTQ+ community for views on how she can help on topics such as domestic abuse and hate crime.

It’s this type of co-operative approach, driven by our core values of equality, equity and solidarity, that have ensured the co-operative movement has long been an ally to the LGBTQ+ Community. From Co-operative Party elected officials passing bills to improve LGBTQ+ rights and Councillors showing solidarity and helping their local LGBTQ+ communities to thrive; to co-operatives across the country donating to LGBTQ+ charities, showing solidarity with stalls at Pride, and supporting their LGBTQ+ employees – with the Co-op Group’s Respect network being the most prominent. Furthermore, in terms of protecting LGBTQ+ youth, Co-operative Academies have an LGBTQ+ Lead to help protect LGBTQ+ pupils from maltreatment and ensuring equality and equity are always at the forefront.

As part of LGBTQ+ Co-operators, I have been meeting with members across the country to discuss LGBTQ+ issues. It came as no shock that all were keen to support us, as a committee, to produce a robust policy document and encourage more LGBTQ+ people to get involved in the party and run for election. As a committee, we have been discussing a wide range of issues and co-operative solutions to them. For example, older members of LGBTQ+ community can feel like they have to go back into the closet when moving into a retirement community. The key to this issue is a LGBTQ+ retirement community co-operative, allowing the community to receive the support they need once retired while also remaining out and proud. This has become a reality in Lambeth in the form of Tonic Housing, with Co-operative Party Cllr Matthew Bennett reporting the Mayor of London will be injecting new funding into the much needed resource.

As a committee, we have also held policy seminars regarding LGBTQ+ venues, Trans and Non-Binary rights, and other issues vitally important to our community and our movement. We have collated a top-level document of policy issues, which is available online, and we are always looking for feedback and suggestions from all. To stay up to date with our work, follow us on Twitter @lgbtcooperators and like us on Facebook. It is our aim to produce an all-encompassing LGBTQ+ Policy Document and help make the Co-operative Party the UK’s leading party in LGBTQ+ rights – join us and be part of it.