By: Sarah Cibart, Canadian Trade Union Delegation
Yesterday I had the privledge of attending the Lesbian, Bi and Trans- Stop leaving us behind! Side event hosted by OutRight Action International. This panel consisted of young, diverse, LGBTI speaking to the importance of gathering data about LGBTI workers to start creating more inclusive workplaces and schools internationally.
The first panelst shared about how his passion for working towards a LGBTI Index with the UN Development Agency came from the importance of LGBTI people not being left behind in international policy, and furthermore create a tool to measure the lack of inclusion happening for LGBTI people, particularly in the workplace. The key target areas for this index would include: personal security, political and civic participation (such as out and visible elected officials), economic dependency for LGBTI people, access to education and access to good healthcare.
Then, to contexualize the need for this data, we heard from an activist from the Caribbean who spoke to the homophobic and trans culture that is deeply imbedded in the Caribbean. She spoke to the role of colonization for why their laws are still deeply oppressive for LGBTI people. Furthermore, she argued that the moral pressure that Christianity puts on LGBTI people at a very early age that their queerness is innately wrong, is highly problematic.
Lastly, we heard from an activist from China. She echoed Katina (the second panelist), stating that China has many barriers preventing LGBTI people from being out, including a law which non married people must pay a high fee to the government to be able to have children, which forces them to be out and limits their accessibility to create queer families. Of the three speakers, Gin, the final panelist, really resonated with me as she spoke about the limitations of her organizations research on homophobia and transphobia in the workplace being extremely difficult as so many of the workers aren't out at work due to visibility being unsafe for them. As someone who has spoken to many queer workers and live as one, I know that visibility is a huge issue within Canada work as well. On the one hand, pop culture in Canada tells LGBTI people that queerness is ok, yet, too often for people to talk about the sexual and gender identities at work, they are met with a sense of "keep the personal at home". In conclusion, all three of the panelists agreed, that with the support of the women's movement and with more grassroots methodologies, we need more data and research LGBTI workers, and then we need to ensure they too have a voice in their schools, workplaces and at within the UN.