Flying the flag for LGBT History month

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Today (Friday) will see the Rainbow Flag fly over Wisbech fire station for the first time to mark Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans History Month which runs through February and celebrates the lives and achievements of the LGBT community.

Wisbech Station Commander Geoff Quince explained: “In a perfect world, focusing on someone’s achievements based on their sexual orientation might not be necessary. But we live in a society that has only quite recently challenged homophobic behaviours ranging from verbal abuse to physical violence and supported education and awareness about sexual orientation.

“Because of past homophobia and discrimination, many LGBT people have not wanted to draw attention to themselves – let alone their talents, gifts and achievements. Many have faced discrimination from public services - particularly health and social care – and may be disinclined to accept services like a HFSC or smoke alarm fitting in their own homes.

“Even younger LGBT people still face discrimination in the form of homophobic language and bullying in schools and colleges.”

Culture is changing and LGBT History Month gives us a chance to demonstrate to LGBT people that they can have confidence in Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service as a professional service that understands their concerns and needs.

Research also shows that older LGBT people may have attributes that make them more vulnerable to a fire in their home – not because they are L, G, B or T – but because they have suffered discrimination, isolation or rejection in the past because of their sexual orientation.

Key facts and findings from research carried out by Stonewall to help explain why CFRS should celebrate LGBT History Month.

Research shows that some LGBT people still worry about prejudice and rejection based on their previous experiences. Nine per cent of older lesbian, gay and bisexual people have experienced discrimination, hostility or poor treatment because of their sexual orientation when accessing health or social care services.

CFRS provide a home fire safety check service and fit smoke alarms for vulnerable people in their own homes because they are at more risk of having a fire and being injured or killed in a fire. Many of these are older people.

Forty one percent of older lesbian, gay and bisexual people aged 55 and over live alone compared to 28 per cent of their heterosexual counterparts.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual older people are less likely to have children or see family members on a regular basis.

A higher proportion of LGBT people take drugs and drink alcohol regularly compared to heterosexual people – often because of isolation and homophobia.

Three in five older LGBT people are not confident that social care and support services will be able to understand and meet their needs.

Reassuring older and vulnerable LGBT people that CFRS staff will provide a professional service to them that meets their needs and does not assume everyone is straight, is not always straightforward. In the first place staff do not always know what their sexual orientation is - and in most cases at the point of service delivery it will not be relevant.

“So doing something simple but significant – like displaying a rainbow banner, stickers or pennants on appliances or at workplaces during February – hopefully goes some way to tell the community that Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service support LGBT History Month and provides a professional service that meets the needs of everyone in the community,” said Mr Quince

The theme for this year is science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM). and you can find out more at http://lgbthistorymonth.org.uk

Further information and research by Stonewall can be found at http://www.stonewall.org.uk/publications