YCL LGBT+ Commission inaugural meeting marks anniversary of Stonewall riots

Glenn Wigham reports on the first meeting of the Young Communist League’s newly founded LGBT+ Commission which discussed the history of the movement in Britain and addressed the question ‘why does the LGBT+ community need socialism?’

Glenn Wigham, is Vice Secretary of the YCL’s London District

Celebrating fifty-one years since the first bricks at Stonewall were thrown, the YCL also made history – by launching it’s very own LGBT+ commission, made up of LGBT+ YCL members  to discuss LGBT+ radical theory, democratically debate issues that affect LGBT+ people and advise the YCL on policy and practice.

The meeting was chaired by Glenn Wigham, the Vice-Secretary of London’s YCL District. For the inaugural meeting, YCL members received a historical lesson from older LGBT+ comrades active within the Communist Party, speaking about their experiences in the 1970/80’s and how the face of LGBT+ activism and agitation has changed over time.

The first speaker was Steve Johnson, of the Communist Party’s (CP) South London branch, who spoke about his youth as a gay man and joining the YCL in 1972. Speaking about the first motion passed in support of homosexuals as an oppressed minority, he recalled how certain members were surprised at the fact it was passed unanimously. During this time period the discussion around gay rights became heightened in the YCL due to the perceived attitudes surrounding homosexuality in socialist countries, which caused contradictions with the progressive trends of Britain.

Steve also spoke about the effect Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners had on many trade unionists, communists and socialists – they actively demonstrated the ways in which class politics and sexuality were not mutually exclusive, instead proving how working class solidarity across marginalised groups can work to be a force for societal change. 

Following Steve, the next comrade to speak was Andy Chaffer of Birmingham CP, who recalled the struggles the LGBT+ community faced during the AIDS/HIV pandemic under Thatcher. He related the failings of the Thatcher government during the AIDS crisis to the failure of the current Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, mentioning how services and medical support have all been affected by chronic under funding. Andy spoke of the importance trade unions have in organising struggle – that LGBT+ individuals should get involved and take the fight for LGBT+ emancipation into the workplace and union structure. On a final note, he called for continued commitment towards class politics rather than identity politics, in order to unite us as one working class rather than be divided.

The final speaker, Yvonne Washbourne, also of Birmingham CP Branch spoke of her time fighting with the Gay Liberation Front and the Women’s Liberation Front, mentioning how it was the changes in trade union policy that have paved the way for lesbian and gay rights. A talking point that received much attention was the way lesbian women still suffer misogynist attacks from all around society, such as in the way ‘LGBT’ friendly spaces are not as welcoming as they seem. She related how older LGBT+ people face heterosexual assumptions from friends and colleagues, a sentiment that was echoed by Steve. She emphasised that despite progress over time, the same attitudes remain and discrimination still exists in many forms. 

After a robust discussion about the issues raised, in which YCL comrades shared their own opinions and experiences, the meeting was drawn to a positive close. The most overwhelming feeling felt by all was that there needs to be a radicalisation of 21st century LGBT+ politics that fights the capitalist assimilation of LGBT+ lifestyles. A determined effort to recognise the issues faced by LGBT+ people today must be undertaken, to then offer solutions to issues that help enrich these lives whilst advancing the cause of socialism.

The formation of the YCL’s long-awaited LGBT+ commission is a step towards this future!

We will hold our next meeting in July – keep your eyes peeled for updates!

Glenn Wigham

If you are interested in being involved of the work of the YCL’s LGBT+ Commission, please contact lgbt@ycl.org.uk for more information.

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