Celebrating international day against homophobia and transphobia

International day against homophobia and transphobia (IDAHOT) day is marked every year on 17th May to focus the world’s attention on violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people at home and abroad. IDAHOT marks the day in 1990 when homosexuality was finally declassified as a mental disorder by World Health Organisation. By Davin Roche

In the 25 years since then we have seen remarkable progress in achieving full equality for LGBT people in Ireland with decriminalisation in 1993, the Unfair Dismissals Act in 1993, strong equality legislation in 1998, Civil Partnerships in 2011, the Gender Recognition Bill in 2013 and strong public and political support for the proposed civil marriage referendum in 2015.

With approximately 170,000 LGBT people in the workforce, equality at work continues to be a huge priority for LGBT employees. Surveys tell us that over half of LGBT are ‘out’ at work. The vast majority of these report no negative impact on their relationships with their colleagues.

This tallies with GLEN’s vision where being LGBT will be unremarkable, where LGBT employees will no longer ‘come out.’ It will be simply understood that every employee and colleague is gay, straight or bisexual.

Unfortunately this is still not the experience for far too many employees in Ireland today. A quarter of employees report having been bullied or harassed at work because of their LGBT identity at some point in their career.  One in ten have left a job as a result. Far too many people feel that it is not safe to be out in their workplace.

As one employee described: “I assumed that if I was thought of as lesbian my career would be over. I could only think of one woman in my whole workplace who was out as gay and still successful.”

Trade union members, and indeed all employees, have an important role to play in making sure their workplaces are inclusive. On a personal level if you don’t know otherwise, don’t assume your colleagues are heterosexual.  Challenge anti-gay comments or ‘banter.’ Visit Diversity Champions Ireland network of LGBT inclusive employers to see how your organisation can become a diversity champion.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) has been proud to work with ICTU and many individual unions since 1988. The trade union movement continues to play an important role in achieving LGBT equality in the workplace and beyond. The teaching unions have been particularly focused on the difficulties that the religious ethos of many schools employers has on creating a ‘chill factor’ for LGBT teachers.  Unions are working alongside GLEN and others to repeal Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act. The trade union movement continues to be a strong advocate for equal marriage for LGBT people in Ireland.

This year BeLonG To and ICTU are marking IDAHOT by launching the Stand Up at Work video – Say No to Homophobia & Transphobia in the Workplace!  Your Union will Stand Up with you! See here for details of the launch.

Follow on Twitter using #StandUpatWork

Davin Roche is GLEN’s director of workplace diversity.