Discrimination: Things that members of the LGBT community should know to avoid being mistreated at work
LGBT is the acronym that identifies the words lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, which is also a movement that was formed by the fight for equal rights for these minority sexual communities.
Today, we can find this kind of person anywhere. In many countries, people accept it more and more. However, there is still discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community, especially in the workplace.
A little history
In the 1950s, there were no words for non-heterosexual people, so the term “third sex” was used.
Later, the word homosexual was used to refer to people who like others of the same sex, and, years later, the word gay of Anglo-Saxon origin appeared, whose use became popular.
This situation already represented a problem, even because these new terms in the vocabulary were used in a derogatory and non-integrative way since conservative family customs were consolidated.
On June 28, 1969, in a bar in New York (United States) called Stonewall, an event took place that marked history and promoted the movements of sexual diversity and liberation.
From that moment, a series of protests began that lasted for days. All the people who were in Stonewall opposed the police forces, which had the order to make a raid, to demand equal rights and respect.
At that time, non-heterosexual people were harshly criticized, their acts were illegal, they were excluded from various social groups, and, in addition, they suffered abuse by the police.
For this reason, every June 28 we commemorate International LGBT Pride Day, and the use of the acronym became popular from then on to identify this community.
However, with the passing of the years and the new typifications about the sexual tendencies of individuals, the acronym LGBT has changed to LGBTQ+, as it is more inclusive.
Its acronyms represent lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, as well as queer, intersex, and many others.
Who makes up the LGBT community?
Different natures within the minorities make up the LGBT or LGBTI movement. These differences lie in the definition of sexual orientation or sexual identity with gender identity. Here are brief descriptions:
1. Lesbian, Discrimination at work
Its name comes from the island of Lesbos, home to the poet Sapho. It refers to any woman who feels sexual attraction to people of the same sex.
2. Gay, Discrimination at work
The term began to be used in England during the 16th century as a synonym for happy. Today this Anglicanism is used to refer to homosexual people, especially men. It refers to any man who feels sexual attraction to people of the same sex.
3. Bisexual, Discrimination at work
People who feel attracted to people of the opposite sex and also to those who share the same sex.
1. Transvestite, Discrimination at work
They are people who assume the wardrobe and sexuality of the opposite gender. In this sense, any person, female or male, who assumes the image or behavior of the opposite sex is a transvestite. They can be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.
2. Transgender, Discrimination at work
Normally people confuse this term with “transvestite,” but both concepts are distant. Transgender people are people who do not identify with their biological sex and sexual identity, yet they do not (necessarily) change physically. These people can be straight, gay, or bisexual.
3. Transsexual, Discrimination at work
They are people whose gender identity is at odds with their biological sex and sexual identity. For this reason, they undergo hormonal and surgical procedures to homogenize this aspect. There are some well-known cases in the world, such as, for example, the celebrity Caitlyn Jenner and Miss Universe Spain Angela Ponce (2018 Miss Universe contest). These people can also be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.
4. Intersex, Discrimination at work
They are people who have genitalia of both sexes, for example, having an internal reproductive organ of one sex and an external sexual organ of another. In the world of science, they are known as hermaphrodites, and they must reach a certain age so that doctors can evaluate their behavior and know if they identify with the female or male gender.
What kinds of problems do the LGBT community face?
The lack of acceptance of their sexual orientation, as well as social rejection, results in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual (LGBT) population to be more prone to problems such as depression, anxiety, isolation, violence, and suicidal thoughts, as well as eating disorders.
One of the main problems is isolation. In failing to live their sexuality, these people suffer neglect in the LGBT community, and that leads to extreme anxiety and depression that contributes to other health problems.
Likewise, they must deal with discrimination from certain social and religious groups that are not willing to accept them. This leaves them feeling exiled, alone, and abandoned by society, leading to feelings of frustration, anger, and depression.
What does this have to do with the workplace?
Sex discrimination comprises treating a person (employee or job applicant) unfavorably because of that person’s sex.
The motive for these acts of violence may be the assumption of someone’s sexual orientation from their gender expression. Girls who are too “masculine” or boys who are too “feminine” are often assumed to be lesbian or gay, and experience harassment or discrimination based on their sexual orientation.
The Institute for Development Studies noted in 2007 that in Bangladesh children who behave in a more stereotypical “female” way are more likely to drop out of school at an early age due to bullying, which negatively affects their educational and economic opportunities.
LGBTI people can be victims of violence anywhere: on the street, in bars and clubs and other public places, and even at home, sometimes at the hands of their family members.
An Italian NGO that provides counseling to parents of LGBTI youth in Palermo, reported young people who had suffered sexual abuse by relatives, had been forced to remain confined in their homes, or had been expelled from them. Others had been taken to “witches”, supposedly to help them “fix” their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Pervasive discrimination and violence against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression happen in all areas of society and can be justified or even perpetrated by local or national laws and policies. According to data published by ILGA in 2014, homosexual relations are a crime in 78 countries.
In Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Brunei Darussalam, Iran, Mauritania, some northern states of Nigeria, Pakistan, the northern region of Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, the death penalty can be legally imposed for consenting adult same-sex sexual activity.
All people in the LGBT community have suffered discrimination at least once. However, at(E the workplace and professional level, discriminatory behaviors are completely unacceptable.
Homophobia at work
In the workplace, LGBTQ + populations continue to face ridicule and violence and to see their career progression blocked because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, real or perceived. Discrimination arises from the beginning when looking for a job, for example. Europe is one continent with the strongest laws since the countries are governed by laws pre-established by the European Union.
However, 1 in 8 people on the European continent has suffered some kind of mistreatment, discrimination, or intolerance by homophobic people. In the workplace, this possibility increases, making it very difficult for members of the LGBTQ + community to get a job where they feel completely comfortable in terms of their sexual orientation.
For this reason, most of the people in this community who find stable employment prefer not to reveal their sexual orientation, which can lead to psychological problems. For lesbians, rejecting behaviors are even more violent since they combine homophobia and sexism.
Hiding an aspect of one’s identity from colleagues can have dire consequences, and many studies show that the suicide rate is higher among the LGBTQ + population than in other social groups. Professionally, a recent Harvard Business Review study has shown, a person can be less efficient and less engaged in a team when they focus primarily on dodging personal questions and innuendos in fear of being discovered.
All over the world, prejudices remain stubborn. The work structures, whether private or public, still do not take the issue sufficiently into account. Even companies that have a diversity policy do not explicitly specify sexual orientation.
There are still very few executives or internal groups of LGBTQ + employees, and even fewer companies, public or private, that are directly involved in gay pride marches. Public Administration workers have an important role to play. It is your responsibility to provide a public service based on equality, respect for diversity, and the promotion of social and economic justice.
Laws that support members of the LGBT community
Today, there are many countries where, although they accept LGBT community groups, they have not been in charge of creating laws that support their social situation.
It is important to remember that there are still 59 countries that do not accept members of the LGBT community and that punish people who engage in homosexual practices within their limits, either with years in prison or the death penalty.
However, when members of this community are threatened, they must consider the laws for protecting men and women that govern the country where they live. Most countries in the world have laws that protect workers in public and private companies from discrimination, as well as laws to protect women against labor abuse.
With transvestites, transgender and transsexuals, this topic can become a bit more complicated.
Solidarity is the only way for union representatives and workers in the public and private sectors to confront all forms of oppression.
Trade unions have a duty to help create more inclusive workplaces, in particular through collective bargaining, and must take a clear stance against attacks that call into question LGBTQ+ rights gained after tough battles.
They must also fight within their ranks against the prejudices that persist. Defending the rights of LGBTQ+ people is defending the universal values of equality and dignity for all.
Discrimination and homophobia are no longer acceptable at this stage of the XXI century. We are in an age of change that we must fully embrace.