May 17 is the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), one of the largest global LGBTQ solidarity actions. This day marks the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders and illnesses. There are worldwide celebrations of sexual and gender diversity and events taking place in hundreds of countries.
This is the day that LGBTQ people and their allies take a stand against discrimination, harassment and bullying and commit to making our workplaces and our communities better for everyone.
This year’s theme is “Mental Health and Well-being,” which is an important issue for the labour movement, as it is fundamental to workplace safety and equality. Despite our movement’s achievements for LGBTQ members, stigma and social isolation are persistent in many industries and in our communities.
Even though the WHO removed homosexuality from the mental disorders and illnesses list, there are still barriers and challenges for LGBTQ people, particularly for Trans people. Many countries perpetuate the belief that LGBTQ people suffer from psychiatric conditions, which are treated by dangerous conversion therapies, or they are punishable by criminalization or even death. In Canada, access to health care for the purposes of transitioning requires a diagnosis of “Gender Identity Disorder.”
The CLC works to challenge the stigma around mental illness and harmful stereotypes about the LGBTQ community. Unions have worked to establish workplace standards that ensure a healthy workplace for everyone. Many unions offer protection for LGBTQ workers to take transitioning leaves, parental leaves and they negotiate anti-harassment and bullying policies. While we have made many gains for Canadian workers, much remains to be done to keep LGBTQ members safe and supported at work, and to eliminate homophobia and transphobia from our workplaces and communities.