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International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 2020 - ‘Breaking the Silence’

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) is marked globally on 17 May every year to draw attention to the discrimination and violence experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex people and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics.

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The theme of IDAHOBIT 2020 is ‘Breaking the Silence’.

The day was created in 2004 and the date of 17 May was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Breaking the Silence

If you, or someone you know at Queen Mary has experienced homophobia, transphobia, biphobia or any other form of hate or discrimination, we ask you to Break the Silence by making a report and seeking help at Report + Support.

Get involved

ELOP - an exciting innovative lesbian and gay mental health charity based in east London – invites you to join their online event from 5-6pm on Sunday 17 May to mark IDAHOBIT. Speakers include Youcef Hadjazi (North African, Muslim, queer artist resident of Tower Hamlets), Linda Wilkinson (author of Columbia Road:Of Blood and Belonging), and speakers from ELOP and Galop, and the Chair of Tower Hamlet’s No Place for Hate. The event will conclude with a virtual vigil to show our respect and support to those whose lives been affected by any form of hatred. Email lgbtforum@elop.org for details on how to join. 

You can also make a personal pledge against hate in support of Tower Hamlets's No Place for Hate campaign: towerhamlets.gov.uk/lgnl/community_and_living/community_safety__crime_preve/hate_crime/personal_pledge.aspx

What is homophobia, transphobia and biphobia?

Homophobia, transphobia and biphobia are terms used to describe the fear or dislike or someone, based on prejudice or negative attitudes, beliefs or views about people who are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, queer, trans and bi.

This kind of behaviour can take many forms such as name-calling, derogatory jokes, intrusive or hostile questioning, threatening to ‘out’ someone, as well as unwanted physical contact and violence. It can happen verbally, in writing, in person or virtually (eg by email, messages, social media). Whatever form it takes, it is always unacceptable.

Below are just some example of what homophobia, transphobia and biphobia might look like:

What might homophobia look like?

  • ‘Joking’ that something (an action, an item, a person) perceived to be negative in some way is ‘gay’ (eg ‘that’s so gay’).
  • Someone complementing another person of the same gender and then assuring them that ‘don’t worry, I’m not gay’, implying that that would be negative/bad.
  • Assuming that someone is in a heterosexual relationship (e.g. asking a woman ‘so do you have a boyfriend/husband?’) is an example of a heteronormative stereotype.
  • Oh, you don’t look like you’re gay/a lesbian/bi/queer’ – this is based on damaging stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people, and wrongly implies you can ‘tell’ someone’s sexual orientation by their appearance.
  • Thinking LGBTQ+ people are sexually ‘deviant’ or dangerous.

What might transphobia look like?

  • Misgendering someone deliberately or repeatedly (ie using the wrong name and/or pronouns to describe a person, referring to them using the wrong gender). For example, referring to a trans man as ‘she’, or refusing to use ‘they/them’ to refer to a non-binary person who has specified they use those pronouns.
  • Refusing a trans person access to services or facilities appropriate to their gender identity (eg not letting a trans woman use a woman’s bathroom). This is also a form of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
  • Thinking a trans woman/man is not a ‘real’ woman/man.
  • Saying ‘oh you don’t look trans’ or ‘you can’t tell that you’re trans’ as though it is a compliment. This is based on the misconception that all transgender people are somehow visibly trans, or that all transgender people look the same. It is also implying that being trans is somehow shameful, and that the ultimate aim should be for a trans person to look ‘not trans’ and to conform to gender norms and expectations of beauty.

What might biphobia look like?

  • ‘It’s just a phase’ – saying this dismisses and undermines someone’s experiences and/or feelings about their own sexuality and identity, which can be upsetting. Some people do feel that sexuality and gender is fluid, but this doesn’t make it ok to dismiss someone else’s sexual orientation as a ‘phase’.
  • ‘You’re just greedy’ – this is a damaging stereotype.
  • ‘You need to just make up your mind’ - this denies and undermines bisexuality as a valid sexual orientation.
  • ‘You’re just ashamed/scared/embarrassed to say you’re gay or lesbian’.
  • ‘You can’t really be bi/queer because you’ve only ever dated people of X gender’ or ‘you can’t really be bi because you have a girl/boyfriend’ – someone’s sexual orientation cannot be assumed based on who they’re dating. Relationship or sexual history or current relationship status shouldn’t be used as ‘proof’ of someone’s sexual orientation.

What can you do if you witness or experience homophobia, transphobia or biphobia?

  • If you experience or witness homophobia, transphobia or biphobia, you can report it (anonymously if you like) and/or access support through our Report & Support
    • You can also report incidences in accordance with the Dignity at Work and Study Policy.
    • Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are illegal under the Equality Act 2010, you are within your rights to contact the Police if you feel comfortable doing so.
  • If you feel safe to do so, you can be an active bystander and call it out. Make it clear that you won’t tolerate this kind of behaviour in any form.
  • There are also people here to listen and support you: 

What can you do to support the LGBTQ+ community and tackle homophobia, transphobia and biphobia?

At Queen Mary, we are committed to creating a learning and working environment that is inclusive of and celebrates LGBTQ+ people. We can all do more to combat homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. Find out more below:

Further information, resources and support:

  • East London Out Project (ELOP): a local charity offering a range of support services to LGBTQ+ communities including counselling.
  • Tower Hamlets LGBT Community Forum: a project that aims to bring together LGBT+ people (and allies) who live, work, study or socialise in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets
  • Galop: an LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity, providing support services relating to hate crime, domestic abuse and sexual violence.
  • Switchboard, LGBT+ helpline: provides information, support and referral service for LGBTQ+ and their friends, parents or family.
  • Gendered Intelligence: a charity aiming to increase understanding of gender diversity, specialising in supporting young trans people under 21.
  • Mermaids: supports trans and gender-diverse children, young people and their families.
  • GIRES: works to improve the lives of trans and gender non-conforming people of all ages.
  • Stonewall: campaigns for LGBTQ+ equality.
  • Stop Hate UK: provides independent, confidential and accessible reporting and support for victims, witnesses and third parties.