17 May 2021

Part 1: International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia: 17 May - get involved!

A rainbow of solidarity: the Monash University rainbow lanyard
shows support for LGBTQ(IA)+.
Part 1: How we can promote LGBTQ(IA)+ inclusivity at the Central Clinical School

See also Part 2: The lived experience of LGBTQ(IA)+ - Fredrik Appelgren's story

by Jessica Borger, Alex Dimitropoulos and Zhoujie Ding*

In 2004, 17 May was established as the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT). Since then, commemorations have taken place in more than 132 countries globally. 

However, there is still a lack of full awareness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and more (LGBTQ(IA)+) rights, or, more broadly, the acceptance of diversities, in our society. 

This is also an important issue in STEM institutions, where many researchers, educators and professional staff that identify as LGBTQ(IA)+ feel isolated at work, and experience discrimination.

LGBTQ(IA)+ things you need to know.
Click on image here then click image again
to enlarge it.

In Universities and academia, heteronormative attitudes prevail where everyone is assumed to be straight or cisgender (see table), which means whenever a student, researcher, educator or professional staff member starts at a University, they have to “come out”. Obviously, this is not a comfortable experience for many with approximately 20% of LGBTQ(IA)+ participants in a study saying they felt uncomfortable in their departments, rising to 30% amongst trans individuals and 40% for gender-nonconforming individuals, due in part to experiencing discrimination in respect to sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Discrimination comes in many forms from explicit verbal homophobic abuse or more subtly as common, derogatory and negative verbal cues that create a hostile environment, which at many times come from a lack of awareness of LGBTQ(IA)+ issues. For example, many have encountered workplace comments such as “acting gay” and needing to “man up”, comments which reinforce the notion that being straight and masculine is the norm and being gay and feminine should be suppressed.

Common signifiers of an exclusive environment:

  • Workplace policies and procedures that do not adequately support employees that are not heterosexual and cisgender
  • The incorrect use of language, e.g. pronouns, to address or refer to LGBTQ(IA)+ employees
  • Casual insensitive humour, even when not maliciously intended.

This means many of our students and colleagues who identify at LGBTQ(IA)+ cannot bring their whole selves to the study/workplace. They may also feel pressured to remain in the closet to progress their careers as their LGBTQ(IA)+ peers are less visible at senior management levels.

Many LGBTQ(IA)+ scientists feel isolated at work as they struggle to find allies, whether in the LGBTQ(IA)+ community or because their colleagues do not understand the difficulties faced by being identified within LGBTQ(IA)+. As a school we need to work together to show our support for our LGBTQ(IA)+ students and colleagues and help create a community. There are simple ways we can all show we are allies NOW:

  • Wear a Monash University rainbow lanyard (Please email Jessica.Borger@monash.edu re obtaining the rainbow lanyard)
  • Include your pronouns on your email signature
  • Sign up for Ally Network training: https://www.monash.edu/lgbtiq/ally-network 
  • Change our language behaviour, become familiar with the terms listed in the table, and use them appropriately within the workplace

And moving forward the GEDI committee will investigate other ways to create a supportive, safe and inclusive community at the CCS including:

  • Panel discussions
  • Social events
  • Buddy system pairing senior mentors with undergraduate/postgraduates
  • Any other suggestions (please contact the GEDI committee at ccs.gedi@monash.edu).

To show your support in a few weeks, the Midsumma Pride March, a colourful celebration of diverse sexualities and gender identities, coinciding with the International day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia (17 May) will be run. For the past five years, a contingent of Monash staff and students have marched in the Midsumma Pride March. 

To show your support for those researchers, educators and professional staff who identify as LGBTQ(IA)+ here at the CCS, the Midsumma Pride March will be held in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda on Sunday 23 May 2021. See detail: https://www.midsumma.org.au/info/midsumma-pride-march/

If you are unable to attend the march or obtain a ticket due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Victorian government, there are other ways you can enjoy the march and show your support. You can book into a Fitzroy Street venue to watch the parade, or stream the event live from the Midsumma Facebook Page, which will begin at approximately 10.45am and conclude at 2pm.

Embracing equity and diversities, let’s join in this together. 


*The authors:

L-R: Dr Zhoujie (Zoe) Ding (Department of Immunology and Pathology Research Officer), Ms Alexandra Dimitropoulos (Department of Diabetes PhD student), Dr Jessica Borger (CCS Lecturer and Course Coordinator of graduate studies)

For any further feedback, or ideas on how to address the points raised in this article, please contact the CCS GEDI committee: https://sites.google.com/a/monash.edu/ccsintranet/gedi-committee (Note, Monash authcate access only for CCS intranet pages) and email jessica.borger@monash.edu

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