Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual (LGB) people’s needs and issues are often overlooked. Many LGB people do not want to be Out about their orientation. Also, many members of the general population still take the attitude that people are “heterosexual until proven otherwise”. Social change and the development of the country’s legal framework mean that the visibility of marginalised groups will increase in the future, but this will take time and steps need to be taken now to improve trust and confidence between service providers and LGB people. The County Council is also improving its understanding of LGB people’s needs through research and ongoing dialogue with LGB&T* stakeholder groups.
While sexual orientation may not appear to be relevant to the use of all Council services, these services are no less crucial to LGB people than anyone else. How well these services are provided and how sensitive they are to their needs and circumstances can have a huge bearing on the quality of life to many LGB people. Older LGB people are more likely to be dependent upon care services in later life due to lack of children/family support.
Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index is the definitive national benchmarking exercise showcasing Britain’s top employers for lesbian, gay and bisexual staff. It ranks the top 100 employers. In 2005 we ranked 38th, in 2006 we had dropped to 66th, in 2007 we had fallen to 88th. In 2008 we had dropped out of the Top 100 but our personal score continued to improve. We withdrew from the programme to focus on improvement rather than audit and divert resources to local need.
Our work around LGBT equality has included an LGBT Pledge for staff, supporting a staff LGBT network which is also available to partner organisations, taking part in Exeter Pride – flying our rainbow flag, running a Talking Zone and joining the parade, and developing an LGBT Toolkit. Our LGBT representative on the Equality Reference Group is the Intercom Trust.
*T stands for Transgendered people. While sexual orientation (attraction towards men/women) and gender identity (sense of being male/female) are completely different, the experiences of LGB and Trans people are often similar because of widespread social assumptions and lack of awareness of the issues, and a shared ‘invisibility’. This is why the two separate aspects, gender identify and sexual orientation, are considered in parallel.