Written Sunday 16th May 2021

IDAHOT: Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in the Workplace and Beyond

May 17th is an important date in the LGBTQI+ calendar, for members of the community and allies alike. It’s the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT): an event set up in 2004, commemorating the date when the World Health Organisation (WHO) decided to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990.

The day is intended as an annual opportunity for both celebration and recognition of LGBTQI+ communities across the globe, raising awareness and campaigning against the violence and discrimination experienced by people of all diverse genders, identities and sexualities. Its goal, ultimately, is to ensure international decision-makers, media, organisations and leaders, to name a few, are aware of the dangers, inequalities and repressions that people with varied identities and sexual orientations continue to experience daily.

We may have seen some progress over the years, but homophobia, transphobia and biphobia are still rife, still part of everyday life for the LGBTQI+ community, and still having a devastating impact on individuals and families; so IDAHOT is still as significant as ever.

Facts and figures show that, shockingly, society is a lot less welcoming and inclusive than we could be led to believe, and the world is still unsafe for so many people who are simply trying to be their most honest and true selves.

The world is a dangerous place for non-binary, LGBTQI+ people. According to Galop’s 2020 Transphobic Hate Crime Report, more than half of trans people feel less able to leave their homes due to high rates of physical, verbal and sexual attack. Furthermore, it’s still illegal to be LGBTQI+ in 70 countries.

In the workplace

Since our organisation’s focus is on recruitment and careers, let’s start by looking at what it’s like for members of the LGBTQI+ community in the workplace. Unfortunately, the stats show that not all companies and colleagues are as welcoming to people from all backgrounds as we’d hope.

Stonewall’s facts and figures show that employers have a lot of hard work to do to provide a safe and inclusive working environment for all staff, regardless of their identity or sexuality. According to their stats, nearly 38% of bi people haven’t come out to anyone at work, in comparison to 7% of gay men and 4% of lesbians. 

The sad news continues in a recent UK YouGov survey, which shows that more and more trans people are hiding their identity at work:  65% of surveyed trans employees said they’ve ‘had to hide their trans status at work’, which is an increase of 13% since 2016. The same survey also revealed that 32% have experienced workplace discrimination, and 43% have left their job because they weren’t welcome.

Classrooms aren’t safe spaces either, with LGBTQI+ teachers facing high rates of discrimination. The teaching union NASUWT reported in 2020 that 4 in 10 LGBTQI+ teachers experience homophobia, biphobia or transphobia, and 40% have witnessed their colleagues being involved in phobic incidents.

It’s evident that employers have a huge role to play in ensuring that LGBTQI+ members of staff are actively welcomed into a safe and equal environment. Zero-tolerance of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is essential for our society to move forward. When we talk about equality, we mean for everyone.

Mental health, Covid-19 and education

This violence and exclusion has, naturally and sadly, had a direct impact on LGBTQI+ people’s mental health. The Mental Health Foundation reports that depression and anxiety are prevalent within the community, with half of LBGTQI+ people experiencing the former and 3 in 5 experiencing the latter. Sadly, this can lead to suicidal thoughts; 1 in 8 LGBTQ+ people between the ages of 18 and 24 have attempted to end their lives, with almost half of trans people considering the same desperate route.

It may come as no surprise that the pandemic has had an impact on the LGBTQI+ community. Many have found themselves locked down with family members or flatmates who are unsupportive, unaware of their identities, or are homophobic, transphobic or biphobic, thus facing an uncomfortable, unwelcoming and even unsafe home life. 

Lockdowns and the pandemic have given people very little opportunity to find safe spaces and connect with their support networks and communities. At the start of the first lockdown in 2020, akt, an LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity, was supporting between 120 and 130 young people; evidence that staying home isn’t safe for everyone.

In further upsetting news, the NIHR School for Public Health Research has reported that “in 2020, the Government Equalities Office withdrew funding of £4million for school programmes aimed at tackling HBT-bullying. This decision is likely to lead to negative consequences for LGBT+ young people.” They explain that international research has proven that LGBTQI+ anti-bullying projects and campaigns have a positive impact on the mental health of young members of the LGBTQI+ community; so by actively removing this funding, they have put the safety and wellbeing of young people at risk.

Hope for the future

We have only just touched the surface of the realities of life in the LGBTQI+ community in modern society. While there is still a lot more to discuss in terms of the challenges and violence faced by the community, we also feel it’s important to focus on some of the more positive steps that we’ve seen taken over the last year, too. After all, IDAHOT is about celebration as well. Here are two examples that have caught our eye.

The 2021 Census in England and Wales was the first in history to collect data on the population’s lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender identities. Eligible participants may have spotted questions around sexual orientation and gender identity. This is a huge step, ensuring that LGBTQI+ communities are recorded and visible. Census data plays a significant role in how our country develops; it can be used to improve and influence public services, towns and city planning, and even local amenities and support provisions.

The debate around a Conversion Therapy Ban in the UK has also reappeared in our timelines in recent months, and despite a significant delay in pursuing the ban, Equalities Minister Liz Truss has recommitted to prohibiting the practice in all its forms, adding that transgender communities will also be included and protected by the ban. Let’s hope that there’s no further delay in moving these plans forward and securing the safety of our LGBTQI+ communities.