Page last Updated 7 February 2014
Former London Mayor Boris Johnson enjoying Pride. It’s nice to see straight people integrating into society at last | Guardian | 14145
What this is about
The integration of the gay community into the wider civil society.
A person who has fully integrated into a society feels that he completely belongs and is comfortable there.
There is nothing new in the need for gays and lesbians to integrate into society and thereby enjoy their full civil and human rights. The matter was addressed in the constitutions of former communist and other countries at various times in the nineteenth and twentieth century. The argument centered around whether it was more valuable for the gay and lesbian citizens themselves to have their own society, or be integrated into general society. The overall conclusion after a hundred years of thought (!) was that integration was central to increased status, better health and wealth, and higher personal happiness and achievement.
Even today there is still a split in the gay community with some preferring to go only to gay places and live in gay areas, while others prefer to live in the wider community and do not frequent “the scene”.
The 2003 regulations that give gay men and lesbians rights at work also place legal obligations on employers and local authorities to ensure that gay men and lesbians have rights in and receive equality in society generally. Local councils and employers must recognise lesbian, gay and bisexual people as equal citizens. Councils are responsible for community cohesion, social inclusion and community participation in local governance. By and large, they have taken that responsibility on board.
The regulations which prohibited the discrimination against gays and lesbians in the provision of goods and services have resulted in the closure of a number of gay pubs, including quite successful and famous ones, as pub owners have decided that gay-only pubs and bars discriminate illegally against other sections of the community. The number of gay bars is diminishing and this is meeting with protests from some gay communities who wish to retain their gay venues and see their disappearance as a loss of gay identity. In other places, local campaigners have managed to get gay venues opened only to find there was insufficient interest and trade to make them viable. It seems the gay community is having to adjust to social changes.
The introduction of civil partnerships, making gay loving relationships more visible and everyday, has also helped facilitate the integration of gay men into the wider community.
We are now seeing advertisements for posts on bodies such as Local Police Authorities stating that all sections of the community may apply and have the right to be represented, and there are increased opportunities for gay men and lesbians to apply to join such authorities, be financially rewarded for doing so, and acquire valuable contacts and experience.
Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, which came into force in April 2011, introduced a public-sector equality duty which imposes on public authorities a legally enforceable obligation to “have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act”. One of the “protected characteristics” defined in the Act is sexual orientation. Public bodies that fail to comply with the equality duty can face action in the civil courts.
Integrating into the wider society when you have been an outlaw or simply invisible to it for most of your life is extremely hard, as there are always suspicions that this is just a passing fad and it will soon be back to the old gaybashing ways.
Younger members of our community who have never experienced the bigotry and hatred of what we had before, do not feel such concerns and readily assimilate into wider society while retaining their gay identity and being quite open about their sexuality and life style.
Journalists and web masters can help older gays and lesbians to integrate by reporting honestly and positively about the changes in society which help older LGBT citizens to adjust. Councillors and other public representatives can engender a more positive and welcoming culture through welcoming and mentoring newcomers. Citizens who are LGBT should question and challenge authorities and organisations which are not inclusive and assert their right not only to belong but to belong as an equally valued member of society.
Acts of Parliament