Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.
Matt works in the Cabinet Office, is the CSRA Office Manager and a Diversity Role Model. He’s written about what the day means to him.
International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) is celebrated annually on 17th May, the day before my birthday. I find it amazing—and incredibly disappointing—that as I was turning six years old, the World Heath Organization was still deliberating about homosexuality being a mental disorder. In my lifetime, my sexuality was categorised as something wrong; a problem that needed to be corrected.
Skip forward to 2016 and I’m proud to be gay. I’m also proud to be a civil servant working in the Government Digital Service, part of the Cabinet Office. My colleagues aren’t just comfortable with me being gay, they are genuinely interested in my life outside work. For instance my friendships with others from the LGBT community are a continual source of strength, happiness and mirth for me and colleagues have remarked on how these friendships form part of my character – I take my whole self to work.
But not everyone is in the same, or similar, positive environment as me. In particular gay, lesbian, bi and trans young people in the UK often experience bullying in school. Even with all the recent equality legislation and the repeal of Section 28, school kids often see LGBT people as different from the norm, something to be wary of. It doesn’t take much of a leap for them to turn that difference into a negative. And most worryingly, suicide attempt rates are disproportionately high in young people experiencing bullying or harassment.
That’s why I’ve recently become a Diversity Role Model. I hope that by talking to them about my experiences, young people will gain a better understanding of the impact of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. I also hope that by hearing my story, and seeing a real-life, happy LGBT person, I can help young people gain the confidence to be themselves and allow others – whatever their sexuality or gender identity – to do the same.
I’m lucky to be comfortable in my own skin. But I’m in my thirties. I want kids to have the same feeling – why should they have to wait or just grin and bare the bullying until they’re out of school?