Intersectionality has become an increasingly important part of discussions about race, sexual orientation, gender, and other “minority” characteristics. But, the intersectionality of minority groups is far from a new revelation, with a long history of marginalisation. This article will discuss some of the histories behind the intersection of sexual orientation and class within the UK, through the lens of the history of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM).
LGSM was formed in 1984 and had extensively supported the National Union of Mineworkers during their strikes under the Thatcher government. Thatcher’s politics of anti- unionism and support for traditionalism led to an undeniable marginalisation of minority groups within society. In turn, Thatcher’s policies on pit closures resulted in a particularly lengthy mining strike between 1984-85 as a response.
Under the leadership of Arthur Scargill, then President of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), miners had taken extensive industrial action against proposed closures. They had been supported, in part, by the LGSM group, which fundraised to support the NUM in their strike action. This fundraising helped to support the families of miners impacted by these strikes.
The formation and support from LGSM had created alliances between working-class workers in the UK, and the LGBTQ+ community. What followed was extensive support for LGBTQ+ rights campaigns by miners’ groups in the years following. Such groups participated in London’s Lesbian and Gay Pride parade in 1985, campaigned against Section 28 in 1988, and the NUM’s support helped in passing a resolution for the Labour Party’s commitment to LGBTQ+ rights in 1985 at their annual conference. The LGSM’s support for The mining strikes had ultimately brought two marginalised groups within Thatcherite Britain together, sharing a very mutual respect for one another.
There is a strong shared identity between working-class and queer communities, demonstrated by this mutual support under a divided Britain. This had been a feature in other liberation movements, too. Many of the rioters within Stonewall themselves were from working-class backgrounds. In fact, much of the movement towards LGBTQ+ rights was populated by working- class queer activists fighting against a system which did not work for them, and this shared history is one which continues today.
I would thoroughly recommend a watch of the film “Pride”, which shows one of the alliances the LGSM had formed with miners in the Dulais Valley in Wales. It shows the story of the LGSM’s role in the mining strikes much better than I could write down.
As a final discussion point, there are many ways in which the intersection between class and sexual orientation manifests in today’s society. For instance, the youth homeless population contains an overrepresentation of LGBTQ+-identifying youth: as much as 24%, according to the Albert Kennedy Trust. I would argue that more attention needs to be placed on how class, race, gender and sexual identity overlap today, to better identify the ways to support ‘marginalised’ communities within the UK.
Where governments and businesses place emphasis on working-class diversity, often a discussion on LGBTQ+ inclusion and disparate outcomes is left behind. Similarly, where the emphasis is placed on LGBTQ+ inclusion, often a recognition of disparities between the working- and the middle class is left behind. What the shared history behind LGBTQ+ and working-class liberation shows, one example is through the LGSM and NUM, is an intertwined struggle for recognition and equal opportunity. This article aims to show the importance, and the shared history, of this intersection.
Published Online: 26/02/2023