May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia

Started in 2004, the intent of IDAHOBIT is to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex people, and those with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics. It is currently recognized in more than 130 countries and has received official recognition from several provinces and states, international institutions, and local authorities.

IDAHOBIT’s 2024 theme is “No one left behind: equality, freedom, and justice for all.” As noted on  May, the theme is a call for unity as well as an understanding that solidarity is the only way to create a just world that includes everyone. This is fundamentally based on the 76-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Why is IDAHOBIT recognized on May 17?

IDAHOBIT’s date of May 17 was chosen to acknowledge and commemorate the World Health Organization’s 1990 decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. This was a highly significant milestone from a fundamental human rights perspective. It also called attention to how those with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities or expressions were responded to by communities and health systems. For example, as the World Health Organization explained, it used to be that trans and gender-diverse individuals had to be diagnosed as mentally ill in order to access gender-affirming health care and insurance coverage. If someone with a diverse sexual or gender identity is depressed or anxious, they should have the same opportunities as any other individual who is depressed or anxious – unrelated to any specific identity. However, that was not (and often still is not) the case.

Why does IDAHOBIT matter in the realm of work?

As we reported in our post last year, while statistics are difficult to determine given the need to self-disclose and many wishing to keep their identities hidden, approximately 1 million Canadians are part of the 2SLGBTQQIAA+ community. Despite growing awareness and important advances being made, many of these folks experience discrimination regularly. In their Our Health Study, the Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) found that 48% of respondents had experienced discrimination related to sexual orientation and 81% related to gender identity or expression in the last few years.

In the workplace specifically, a Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) study done in April 2022 found that nearly three quarters of gender-diverse employees had experienced “multiple forms of harassment and violence at work, a disproportionately high number compared to their cisgender colleagues.” Further, the Government of Canada’s Action Plan Survey found that up to 30% of transgender people (highest for transgender women) felt they were denied employment due to their gender identity and up to 21% (highest for two-spirit) due to their sexual orientation.

Pride at Work notes that less than 60% of Canadian employers take a clear stance on 2SLGBTQQIAA+ inclusion. Of those that do, only 14% require their leaders to have specifically related diversity and inclusion knowledge, only 11% require advanced training, and only 7% expect managers to know and provide resources to their teams.

How can you/your teams recognize IDAHOBIT?

Whether it’s taking part as a team in organized events or supporting employees to do so, the key is awareness, education, and acknowledgement. This may include:

  • Recognizing IDAHOBIT on May 17th and Pride month in June
  • Educating teams about the significant diversity of people that make up the 2SLGBTQQIAA+ community (Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Trans, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Aromantic+)
  • Learning, and promoting inclusive, non-binary language and use of gender pronouns
  • Messaging and recognizing IDAHOBIT/Pride month on social platforms
  • Bringing in a speaker, hosting lunch and learns, or organizing a fundraiser
  • Encouraging participation in IDAHOBIT/Pride events and promoting/supporting education workshops
  • Changing your Zoom and Teams backgrounds in a show of solidarity
  • Creating safe and confidential spaces for those who identify as part of the 2SLGBTQQIAA+ community
  • Making a commitment to understand the challenges individuals face as a result of heterosexism, transphobia, cissexism, and homophobia
  • Actively speaking up when witnessing acts of aggression, bullying, and/or oppression against individuals who are a part of the 2SLGBTQQIAA+ community

Whether or not you choose to do anything specific on May 17th or during Pride month (June), be sure that your practices support all employees to achieve their full potential in your workplace – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, year-round.

Our HR Consultants can help you develop your inclusivity philosophies and practices.