17 May 2021

Part 2: International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia: 17 May - Fredrik Appelgren's story

Part 2: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and more LGBTQ(IA)+ experience - Fredrik Appelgren's story

See also Part 1: How CCS can support LGBTQ(IA)+ initiatives

by Jessica Borger, Alex Dimitropoulos, Zhouije Ding*

Here we share a real-life story from the LGBTQ(IA)+ community supporting why we need to ensure inclusivity and support diversity in the workplace. We would like to thank Fredrik Appelgren for sharing his story and opinion with us.

Fredrik Appelgren has worked in multiple companies across three countries, has a partner in STEM, and has a passion for life. He told us, “There are many examples of non-inclusive environments I can take from my own story as a gay man, no sexual education in school, with members of my family always talking about that elusive girlfriend, but it became a real problem for me during my time in university.”

In the example below, Fredrik shows how the fact that we are not included - instead excluded from daily-workplace socialising - shapes our lives in subtle but profound ways.

"One year into my studies I found myself at a recruitment party looking for jobs at the local student hangout - one place that I spoke to was the coffee shop - it was the core of the student hub. For an extrovert like myself who loved to cook, it was a match made in heaven. I politely approached the two recruiters, presented myself and gave them my CV. One month later I had my first scheduled work day outside of training and my joy of working suddenly took a wrong turn.  

"I saw the employee contact form, and on the second page was the recruitment interview schedule. From the top of the [schedule] everyone’s names and addresses were written down, and there were several dinners and parties that were completely new to me. I went to my manager/recruiter and asked if she could inform me why I was not invited to the work functions. She couldn’t see the problem at hand so instead I took my questions to the student HR. 

"There I was met with complete ignorance for my problem since they were extremely happy that they had their first LGBTQ(IA)+ person working for them. “First?” I asked, “How do you know?” Those were questions she couldn’t answer, and she politely informed me that with these after-work functions, whether it was a formal dinner or drinks at the local pub, they simply did not know how to include me so therefore I wasn’t. You see, these dinners were and still are a very traditional part of the student life where I studied and traditions were going to be kept to the point that sitting a man next to a man, a woman next to a woman or a trans person at the table, would have posed a huge inconvenience for the people attending the function. 

"To say that I was hurt would be an understatement and shortly after I simply left the job without saying anything. Now, about 15 years later I still make sure to lower my voice to make it sound less feminine and avoid wearing bright colours, because my fear is that if I will be perceived as a gay man at work, I will get excluded from relationships that could possibly improve my career. So, what can be done to counter this?

"The best way is to promote diversity and inclusivity at school is through a multifaceted process. It needs to start at the top and integrate every department and employee level, listen to your employees and students (especially those who have different perspectives and backgrounds from your own) and provide training and resources for all employees."

LGBTQ(IA)+ inclusion is about promoting and creating an environment where everyone feels welcomed, respected and included. It is a question of democracy and rights. It is also about health and safety. We know that ill health among LGBTQ(IA)+ people is greater than that of heterosexuals.

Celebrate diversity as a team by acknowledging and respecting the traditions and celebrations of employees from various backgrounds. Imagine if during Pride or for example trans awareness day there was a pride flag/trans flag sitting at the desk in front of the classroom, this small sign of inclusiveness could mean so much to so many people.

*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)

The CCS GEDI committee would like to create a space where lived experiences of individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ are shared and voices are heard. We acknowledge that these experiences aren't always positive and therefore hope to share with the wider CCS to bring home the daily struggles that IDAHOBIT stands against. Therefore we have started a Google form for anonymous submissions. The link is: https://forms.gle/pVfpD2ywdV6j2pVt7.

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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