IEMA’s Diverse Sustainability Initiative marks International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia 2022 (IDAHOBIT)

  • Tom Pashby

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IEMA’s Diverse Sustainability Initiative (DSI) was set up to highlight and address the lack of diversity within the environment and sustainability profession. On 2022’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), I took the opportunity to reflect on the importance of tackling queerphobia in the environment and sustainability sector.

I’ve been ‘out’ as a non-binary person, which for me falls under the ‘transgender’ umbrella of LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic, plus others) identities, since 2017. It’s an increasingly mainstream position that people shouldn’t have to ‘come out’ for them to be recognised as their authentic selves, but assumptions about sex, gender and sexuality still permeate society and the workplace. For me, being out at work means things like having my pronouns in my email signature and dressing in a way which I feel shows who I am, rather than feeling like I’m hiding my true self for the comfort of others.

Discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people, sometimes referred to as queerphobia, is unfortunately increasing in the UK and abroad. This is mainly driven by a small number of people and organisations who are intent on trying to make queer people invisible and ultimately to do harm to us. Thankfully, there are a huge number of people and organisations working to improve outcomes for LGBTQIA+ people in the workplace, in the media, and in our access to housing and healthcare.

I spoke with Reiss Alexander Sudworth GradIEMA, an Environmental Advisor at DT Hughes Contractors Ltd, who said “I'm homosexual and work as an environmental advisor in the construction industry. I'm openly gay to my colleagues, but I do still sometimes overhear homophobia in the workplace.

“I think [IDAHOBIT] is brilliant, personally. I do see a lot of pride flags/queer acceptance getting introduced into other industries. Though, in my experience, the construction industry is vastly lacking in acceptance of those who are different than the male stereotype.”

Workplaces will always benefit from supporting diversity and celebrating all their employees, living authentically, because it will improve employee wellbeing, improve recruitment and retention, and ultimately leader to higher productivity. It also happens to be the right thing to do, to stand by and celebrate the identities and cultures of people from marginalised identities.

If you don’t identify as LGBTQIA+, there are lots of ways you can support your queer colleagues. You can speak up if you witness discrimination, you can raise concerns with your management and HR teams, you can reach out directly to queer colleagues to offer your solidarity and to ask how you can support us. You can also get in touch with the DSI to ask how your organisation can support sector-wide efforts to improve diversity, representation and inclusion in our profession.