17 May 2021

Reflections on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia & Transphobia in 2021

International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia & Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) celebrates LGBTQIA+ people globally, and raises awareness for the work still needed to combat discrimination. It was 31 years ago, on 17 May 1990, that the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

Around the world, many states remain complicit in denying to sexual- and gender-diverse people the most vital of rights – the right to life. The Monash University report, ‘State-sanctioned killing of sexual minorities: Looking beyond the death penalty’ provides a chilling account of not only states that impose the death penalty for same-sex intimacy but the far greater number of countries in which state actors commission, condone, endorse and enable such killings.

This even includes countries that do not criminalise such conduct. Iran and Saudi Arabia hang and behead men convicted of same-sex intercourse. In other countries, being critical of state-sponsored discrimination can lead to the most brutal of murders (one man had his limbs and neck broken, he had been severely burnt, and his eyes and tongue had been cut out). These extrajudicial acts are committed with impunity.

Today, when we pause to reflect on what needs to be done to end the fear and hatred of sexual- and gender-diverse people, this report is compulsory reading. More than a third of the world’s nations criminalise same-sex intimacy and more than that allow sexual- and gender-diverse people to be killed with impunity. Those of us fortunate enough to live in relative safety must become advocates for change. The total elimination of such hatred is the only way to ensure the safety of all sexual- and gender-diverse people.

31 years ago remains a recent part of history and so the importance of equality and accepting everyone as they are, regardless of gender-diverse identity, couldn’t be more important!

Recognising employers have an important role to play, Hall & Wilcox works closely with a number of organisations through our Pro Bono practice. This includes the Minus18 Foundation, Australia’s leading movement supporting LGBTQIA+ youth.

Minus18’s Chair, Gemma Hallett, is a lawyer in our Melbourne office. ‘It’s really important to me to feel safe and supported to bring my whole self to work,’ says Gemma. ‘The firm has really supported me to volunteer with Minus18 outside of work.’

However, as a cisgender woman (meaning her gender identity matches the sex she was assigned at birth), Gemma acknowledges her experiences in the workplace are significantly easier than her trans- and gender-diverse colleagues. ‘About 1 in 3 trans and gender-diverse Australians aren’t ‘out’ at work’. While being ‘out’ in the workplace is a matter of personal choice, we need to make sure trans and gender-diverse colleagues feel safe and supported to be themselves.’ In Australia, trans and gender-diverse people continue to face incredibly high rates of discrimination, depression and anxiety.

Supporting our people to feel connected with LGBTIQA+ colleagues and industry peers, including allies, is why the firm participates in the LGBTIQ+ Professional Services Interfirm Networking cohort. This creates a safe space for everyone to feel welcome.

In addition, we continue to be the main pro bono legal provider to the Victorian Pride Centre (VPC), allowing us to share our legal expertise and demonstrate our commitment to celebrating and protecting equality. The Centre will become and create the largest LGBTIQ+ community hub in the southern hemisphere – stay tuned for some very exciting news about the VPC grand opening soon.

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