by UoR Central D&I Team
What is IDAHoBiT?
31 years ago – on May 17, 1990 – the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) celebrates LGBT+ people globally, and raises awareness for the work still needed to combat discrimination.
Here at UoR, we mark IDAHOBIT annually with a flag raising event, accompanied by speeches delivered from staff and student representatives. In 2021, although we were not able to be together in-person for the event, we marked IDAHOBIT via Teams. In this blog, we wanted to capture the speeches that were delivered by our staff and students.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, UEB LGBT+ Champion
“I’d like to extend a warm welcome to you all to this flag-raising to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, celebrated in over 130 countries, even in some of the places that still criminalise homosexuality. I want to say a few words about why we do this and why it’s important.
There are still over 70 countries that criminalise homosexuality. Every year, people lose lives fighting for equality. Even in countries which seem to support equality, discrimination results in limited access to healthcare, adoption, insurance, inheritance rights- the list goes on. On days like today we raise awareness and visibility as part of a movement to create a safer world. We do this to speak up for those that do not have those rights and to challenge discrimination wherever it arises.
The theme for this year’s IDAHOBIT is “Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing”. It was chosen because of the chaos, heartbreak and struggles of the past year and the fact that the pandemic will have lasting impact on social activism and the fight for equal rights, both positive and negative.
The University has an important legacy in the form of a landmark report published by our former Vice-Chancellor, Lord Wolfenden in 1957 (known as the Wolfenden Report), which later led to the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships.
We’re working hard towards inclusive practices, which includes LGBT+ networks, role models, an Allies programme and many more examples. But there is still more to do!
We must ensure that LGBT+ inclusion remains on our agenda because we want the University to be a place where everyone can be their true selves and where respect is fundamental and heartfelt.”
RUSU Diversity Officer 2020-21
“The theme for this year’s IDAHOBIT is “Together: Resisting, Supporting and Healing!” due to the pandemic having an impact on the fight for equal rights.
Reflecting on my own experience this theme seems more than fitting and truly does resonate with me. This is because it is only through being together and working in unity that I believe I have been able to deliver virtual talks such as the Bi Inclusion Training and the great Bi discussion alongside the University and student societies respectfully.
Additionally, it was through supporting and healing was I able to reflect and move on from my own experiences with biphobia online and I am so happy and grateful to be working with such a progressive Students’ Union and University who do not shy away from addressing these matters.
However, I just wanted to take a moment to discuss where in some places around the world LGBT+ discrimination still very much prevalent. From my experience living in Malaysia for a term abroad, to reading in the news about a young 20-year-old boy in Iran named Ali Reza Fazeli-Monfared who was executed for being gay just a week or so ago – we need to acknowledge that there is still a lot of progress and work that needs to be done surrounding inequality.”
RUSU Trans Student Officer 2020-21
“In 2021, we still honour International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia because discrimination against LGBT individuals is still prevalent both in Britain and worldwide. This discrimination manifests both in highly visible ways, but also in subtler, institutionalised ways, particularly against LGBT+ people of colour, women, disabled people, immigrants and other marginalised identities.
So, I’m calling on allies to make it known that discrimination against LGBT people is never tolerated. It’s not something you can ignore out of politeness. If you have the power to challenge discrimination within your social groups, your colleagues, your communities, do so. Sometimes allyship comes in the form of calling out discrimination, and sometimes it’s in the smaller actions too. For example, Instagram recently updated their interface so you’re able to include your pronouns in your profile. When allies share their pronouns, it normalises it when trans people like me do the same. Making it clear that you’re an ally helps LGBT people know that there is a safe space available to be themselves without fear of discrimination or prejudice.
To my LGBT+ peers, I know that the conversation around LGBT+ discrimination is hard, so thank you for being here and continuing to fight the good fight, and I’m always here to talk if you need a space to be heard.”
Dr Ruvi Ziegler
LGBT+ Staff Network Co-Chair
“The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is marked on the 17th of May to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990, just 31 short years ago, to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
As we mark IDAHOBIT, we reflect on the fact that, while we have witnessed significant legal advances in LGBT+ equality in parts of the world, in 2021, there remain many places where LGBT+ persons are not free to live, thrive, and be partnered to whomever they wish. LGBT+ persons’ experiences are shaped globally by criminal sanctions and oppression, social barriers, intolerance, and unwillingness to accept and recognise them for they are. Of 194 countries surveyed by ILGA- the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association, over 2 billion people live in 70 countries the world over where consensual homosexuality between adults is illegal. Only 66 countries offer broad legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Some of those seeking refuge from persecution on grounds of sexual orientation come to our shores. I am proud that the university, jointly with Reading city of sanctuary and the Reading refugee support group, has relaunched the sanctuary scholarship scheme designed to enable 12 students at all study levels who are asylum-seekers or who have received a protection status in the UK to come to study here.
But we must not forget that, even in political spaces where LGBT+ people enjoy legal protections, we still face serious challenges. Alarmingly, according to a recent YouGov survey, 26% of UK adults would be ashamed to have an LGBT+ child. Therefore, IDAHOBIT is fundamentally important wherever you are, as it is a day that gives the LGBT+ community and its allies the world over the opportunity to celebrate the social and political advancements in LGBT+ equality but also to reflect on the work that remains to be done to make our communities truly inclusive.
It is, also a great opportunity for employers – like the University of Reading – to help raise awareness about tackling LGBT+ discrimination and show support by being visible allies. As co-Chair of the LGBT plus staff network, I would like to invite our Staff and PGR students who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and/or other sexual and gender identities, such as asexual, non-binary, intersex– as well as LGBT+ people with multiple identities, and allies – to join us. Let’s continue to work together to make our university as inclusive and welcoming a space as it can be.”
Following these speeches, we took a moment to view the rainbow flag flying over our Whiteknights campus. We hope to be able to gather around the flagpole in-person next year. Nonetheless, being able to mark IDAHOBIT virtually and listen to these speeches was equally as important.
As we closed the event, we shared some points we felt that everyone in the UoR community could do beyond IDAHOBIT and incorporate into our daily lives:
- Add your personal information through ESS– Your personal data is kept confidential and used in an aggregated form to help us see a more accurate picture of our UoR staff demographic which allows us to better understand our staff and where resources may need to be prioritised.
- Participate in UoR LGBT+ training sessions– Trans Inclusion, Bi Inclusion, Becoming an Ally to LGBT+ Staff and Students.
- Join more events – there is an upcoming event organised by ENEI ‘LGBTQ+ Culture Around the World’ on 24th June 2021 from 13:00-14:00 BST. This event is free to UoR staff as we’re members of ENEI.
- Join the LGBT+ Staff Network(s)as a member or an ally.
- Contact your local Diversity Lead and see how you can get involved within your own school or function.
- Call out bad behaviour – use the UHT method, watch Stonewall’s #NoBystanders video.
- Normalise including your pronouns – in your email signature, introductions and bio.
- Check out the #DiverseReading blog – if you would like to share something on the blog, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org