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Sharing experiences of economic and social rights in a LGBT+ collective

Hart Gables, Just Fair and the Social Rights Alliance share thoughts on what economic and social rights mean for a LGBT+ collective in Teesside.

Following Hart Gables involvement in the Building a Human Rights Bridge out of Poverty event earlier this month, Just Fair and the Social Rights Alliance were invited to Hart Gables Cloud 9 support group to hear from members about their experiences of economic and social rights. Next month Hart Gables will be visiting Just Fair to continue our shared learning journey. The following piece was created by Just Fair and members and staff from Hart Gables to contribute to LGBT+ history month.

Some experiences and thoughts from Hart Gables:

To wear clothing of your choice requires disposable income. What does this mean for people in the trans community who are on low or no incomes? Where does this leave people in the trans community who face disproportionate rates of unemployment? One member has only been able to access their human rights and wear the clothing and accessories they feel most comfortable in, and live their identity, as a result of Hart Gables support.

Where there are barriers to accessing the right to work, enjoyment of the right to social security is essential. Not all members of Hart Gables find that there are barriers to interacting with UK government bodies (such as the Department for Work and Pensions) or local government services (such as those provided by the local council) or public bodies (such as a GP).

But while some members say public services are accessible, other members say they are not. One member said that they had a late diagnosis of mental health and thereby has lived decades without adequate support – this diagnosis changed their world as now they are able to start moving forward. Other members find that support from family and friends is important but they fear abandonment, and another member said they have had suicidal thoughts.

What do these experiences mean for enjoying a healthy environment, outdoor spaces and leisure? In small former mining towns in the North East, the isolation of members of the LGBT+ community is very real. Some members of Hart Gables face bullying and threats, and find that staying indoors is safer than going outdoors. Hart Gables provides a safe space in which members can be themselves, express themselves openly not only without fear of attack but with confidence that their contributions are celebrated and valued.

For one disabled member, intersectional experiences of discrimination also has an impact on being heard. This member finds that there are barriers to their right to self-determination – to claim their rights and have a say about the support they receive.

Equal access to economic and social rights without discrimination allows you to live your life in dignity. Rights empower us to fill our full potential.

There are barriers to enjoying these rights in the trans community. But as one Hart Gables member said “Storms pass, it won’t be like this forever”.

– – – Hart Gables is a support service for those who identify as LGBT+ across the Tees valley area to ensure that all LGBT+ people are given equal life chances and have services that meet their needs. The Cloud 9 group meets every Wednesday for solidarity, community and games. The group has approx. 20 members from across the Teesside area, bringing a diversity of LGBT+ identities, ages, and a range of experiences of being disabled , the immigration/asylum system and poverty. At present this group meets online due to the pandemic and Hart Gables works to enable members access through data support and loans of digital devices.

Just Fair exists to realise a fairer and more just society in the UK by monitoring and advocating for the protection of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR). The Social Rights Alliance is a new project supported by Just Fair, working to bring together communities to campaign against burning injustices through a rights-based approach. The Social Rights Alliance is rooted in the idea that we should all know, understand and exercise our ESCR.

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