Wednesday, May 17 is IDAHOBiT Day.

This generally brings about one of two responses, the first being, ‘Whhhhhat again? already?’ and the second, more common response, ‘What in the bloody hell is IDAHOBIT day? Is this something to do with Lord of the Rings???’
No, it isn’t. It stands for International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersex- and Trans- phobia. It’s about equality and acceptance and it is a day for all Australians to increase their understanding of the issues facing the *LGBTQIA+ community.

I know what you are thinking, ‘that is a whole lot of phobias and things to be scared of!’ And you aren’t wrong, there IS a lot of phobia and negative rhetoric out there aimed at LGBTQIA+ individuals. Unfortunately, even our liberal western society still has a long way to go to eliminate the discrimination and inequality faced by the LGTBQIA+ community. Rates of depression, suicide, abuse, violence, low-income and unemployment of members of the LGBTQIA+ community are far above the national average. Approximately 25% LGBTQIA+ Australians experience depression compared with the national average of 6.8%. Even amongst the youngest, and popularised as the most inclusive members of our society, our youth, 75% of LGBTQIA+ youth experience discrimination, over 60% experience verbal abuse and 1 in 5 experience physical abuse. Think about that. 1 in 5 children that identify differently to the majority of their peers are not only verbally, but physically, abused. In the tech industry, the situation may be less overt but the covert discrimination still exists. The ‘Tech Leavers Study’, published April 2017, was conducted in the USA surveying over 2000 tech employees who had left the tech industry in the last 3 years. The study found that sexual harassment, bullying, and discrimination were the major sources of staff turnover with LGBTQIA+ individuals experiencing bullying and public humiliation at significantly higher levels (20% and 24% respectively) than non-LGBTQIA+ individuals (less than 13%).

So why is IDAHOBiT day important for our workplace or, for that matter, any workplace?
Uptick HQ, like many modern companies, aims to foster positive relationships and promotes a multicultural and diverse workplace, but how do we live out this pledge? How are we living out our equity and diversity policies beyond our hiring strategies? How are we actively ensuring that our workplace is a forerunner for change? How are we contributing to our sector and society at large to create a safe place for all diverse members of our society? Firstly, it is important that we look to answer the aforementioned questions and look at our industry expectations. We must also look at ourselves as individuals within our workplace and ensure that each member of our team is involved in fostering a positive work culture and a safe space for all members of society to belong to.

How can we do this? How can we cultivate this safe space? We begin with introspection. What do we know? What don’t we know? What can we learn?
As adults, it is often our reaction to be affronted, or pretend we don’t care, when we come across something we don’t know, don’t understand or that isn’t familiar to us. We use this ‘defence mechanism’ because we fear the prospect of being perceived as ignorant or stupid. This defensive mechanism is related to our pride and is not something innate that we are born with, it is a learned behaviour. Children do not share this fear with adults, they are blissfully unaware of the learned connection between pride and ignorance. Children, instead, are innately curious and accepting; they are aware of the superior knowledge of adults. Their questions, whilst potentially hard or awkward, are free from judgement or malice. Children embrace their curiosity and ask questions, ready to take on every word as an interesting new fact.

The reality is that at any age, we can not possibly know everything, and therefore must occasionally accept that we are ignorant. This does not mean we are stupid. Yes, knowledge is power, but the refusal to seek or accept knowledge is where true stupidity lies.

As adults, we should mimic the behaviour of children and embrace our ignorance with respectful curiosity. We should be seeking answers to the important questions. Empowering ourselves with the knowledge to eradicate social inequality and stop perpetuating social injustice by allowing ourselves to remain ignorant.

Let’s ask questions. Let’s seek out knowledge. Let’s support IDAHOBIT day by informing our families, friends, and colleges of issues that continue to affect LGBTQIA+ people and how we can make steps to support this community. Through mimicking the natural acceptance of the young, we can become the challenging force for change. We can be the positive role models to our colleagues to foster safe workspaces and also to our younger generations in the hope that they mimic our inclusive behaviour and ensure that their world, unlike ours, is one free of homophobia, biphobia, intersex- and trans- phobia.

 

*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual + all other gender identities and sexual preferences.

References & further reading:
http://www.kaporcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/KAPOR_Tech-Leavers-Final.pdf
http://www.vic.gov.au/equality/inclusive-language-guide.html
https://idahobit.org.au/images/workplace-toolkit.pdf
https://idahobit.org.au/index.php
http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/bullying-driving-lgbtq-people-out-tech-study-finds-n752646
> image thanks to https://minus18.org.au/