Spotlight on Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants.
Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners were a 1980s LGBTQ+ campaigning group, standing alongside the miners during the 1984-85 national miners’ strike. You’ve likely heard of them following the 2014 film Pride, which depicts the group and its relationship with a South Wales mining town. One of the film’s protagonists, Mark – based upon the real activist Mark Ashton – justifies the need for practical solidarity between seemingly clashing groups; he asserts that ‘we’ve been through some of the same things you’ve been through’. Mark noted that the LGBTQ+ community and mining communities alike had been targeted by state, and that it was the ‘right thing to do’ in supporting them.
Fast forward thirty years, the need for solidarity is as pertinent as ever. Stylised upon the original group, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants was founded in September 2015. They fight both to practically support migrants and refugees in Europe, as well as protest racist UK laws and highlight the intersections of LGBTQ+ and migrant oppressions.
Emma, who volunteers with the group, points out the hypocrisy of politicians who scapegoat migrants to justify their racism. David Coburn, Scotland’s only UKIP MEP, cried that Muslim refugees may lead to stoning in the UK, yet his party was the only one to evade LGBTQ+ rights in its 2015 General Election manifesto. Likewise, the Daily Mail, the only UK newspaper to avoid mentioning the Orlando massacre the day after the attack, selectively decried attacks on LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in Germany as the perpetrators were Muslim.
Given homosexuality’s legal history in the UK – with decriminalisation only as early as 1982 – and the debate around immigration and asylum in Europe, Emma affirms that the LGBTQ+ community must continue to assert that ‘no human is illegal’ – regardless of immigration status as well as gender or sexuality. The group stands to support all migrants, ‘whether forced or voluntary, and whether LGBTQ or cis/straight’. The group also includes activists from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, with the name chosen solely for historical significance.
While only having been formed just over a year ago, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants have been far from idle. Activists dressed in black with pink mesh masks burned £35,000 of fake money (the notes bearing the then-Home Secretary’s, Theresa May, face) to protest the new discriminatory income threshold to remain in the UK. A month earlier activists also glitter-bombed Serco’s HQ – the private company who run Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, in protest again at the horrendous conditions that asylum seekers and migrants must live in prior to forced, and often unlawful, removal from the United Kingdom. More recently, on the day of Trump’s inauguration, the group dropped a banner over London’s Vauxhall Bridge, surrounded by a cloud of rainbow-coloured smoke, reading ‘queer solidarity smashes borders’.
February marks LGBT History Month in the UK and Black History Month in the USA, and was also the month the group co-hosted Peckham Pride: a pride event celebrating LGBTQ+ identity, but also protesting deportations and raids across the UK. Peckham is described as a ‘black immigrant community’ by Antonia from Movement for Justice campaign group, which makes the event’s location so significant in the fight for solidarity.
Lesbians and gays – and everyone in between – supporting the miners or migrants is a powerful statement. ‘Who [the state is] targeting might shift, but the oppression is the same’, states the modern LGSM. We fight together.
[Amy Shimmin @amylfc]