by David Linton

It was recently revealed that Queen’s University Belfast performed ‘aversion therapy’ on gay students during the 1960s in an effort to produce ‘heterosexual interest’. After one victim spoke out, a Queen’s spokesperson expressed regret for the university’s role in this damaging treatment. This is simply too little too late for the many vulnerable people that have already suffered.

The treatment, which involved electric shocks being given to the patient, has been proven to only mentally and sometimes physically harm the people who endure it. It is still permitted by the UK and Irish states, and is offered privately by religious groups in Northern Ireland. As an immediate measure it must be outlawed as the barbaric practice it is.

Further to that, in Northern Ireland, many other issues that affect the LGBT+ community are regularly ignored. Chronically underfunded mental health services mean LGBT+ youth are especially at risk of suicide, and the historic homophobia of the DUP – demonstrated by Edwin Poots’ recent gay blood ban and Ian Paisley’s Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign – have served to embolden homophobic and transphobic attacks and bigotry.

As many in the LGBT+ community know, the trade union movement has strongly supported the fight for equality for many years. The National Union of Mineworkers pushed the TUC and the Labour Party to actively oppose homophobic legislation in the ‘80s. Today, unions fight to protect LGBT+ workers from workplace discrimination, but must also be central to the broader struggle against homophobia.

Discrimination against LGBT+ people is ingrained in capitalist society as a way to divide and rule. Pitting workers against each other has always been the favourite strategy of the capitalist class. It is only by fighting to establish a democratic socialist society that ordinary, working-class people can ever hope to banish discrimination and overcome the drive for profit which seeks to divide us all.