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International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia: Transport workers stand united against bigotry

17 May 2022

The ITF is proud to mark today’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. We are proud of our LGBTQI members, and proud of the work the ITF and our affiliates around the world do day-in, day-out to fight against bigotry and attacks on our members. But today is also a stark reminder of the crucial challenges facing LGBTQI workers worldwide, and of how much work we still have to do.

Today marks 32 years since the WHO - finally - declassified homosexuality as a ‘mental disorder’. But it remains illegal in many parts of the world, and even in countries where it is not criminalised, there is a renewed and vicious attempt to roll-back the rights of LGBTQI people.

In Britain, the government is buckling to transphobic voices in the media to abandon their commitments to protect the trans community from so-called ‘conversion therapy’. Hungary’s Prime Minister stoked and rode a wave of anti-LGBTQI bigotry to secure re-election. Brazil’s President Bolsonaro has attacked judges for tackling homophobia and frequently uses homophobic slurs. In the USA, a wave of far-right legislators are leading to unprecedented attacks on the LGBTQI community, including criminalising doctors for supporting trans children.

Stephen Cotton, ITF General Secretary said: “We know that, as proudly progressive organisations, we have a political and moral duty to stand in solidarity with all communities and people facing oppression. But we also know that many of our members and transport workers are feeling the brunt of these attacks. Millions of transport workers around the world are LGBTQI, and attacks on LGBTQI communities are also attacks on workers. Our movement will never be silent in the face of that.

But today cannot be simply one day to mark this, only for us to forget and move on tomorrow.We must take today as an opportunity to renew our commitment to fighting homophobia, biphobia and transphobia every day, and to embed it in all of our work year-round.

We want to draw attention to one struggle in particular, that our affiliates in Florida, USA, are fighting tooth and nail against.

New legislation, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” bans public school districts from even discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with many of their children. This is cloaked in the language of ‘protecting children’, but it does the exact opposite.

This legislation is a brutal attempt to utterly erase members of the LGBTQI community from the public eye and has harrowing implications for the future safety and mental health of transport workers who are part of that community.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, representing nearly 50,000 Flight Attendants at 18 airlines in the U.S, said:

"From the beginning, our union has fought for every person to find opportunity and dignity in our workplaces and our society, and to express themselves fully and freely. Don't Say Gay laws spit in the face of our core values as a union and as a country."

Captain Jim Hill, a long-time Florida resident, master of the M/V Manulani, and member of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P) said: “I believe labour unions like mine are right in believing that everyone is equal and deserves to be treated as equals. We do not discriminate against anyone due to race, religion, sexual orientation in our union, and it should be the same in our society.

“Union members are not known for being silent on the things that matter. Issues like this matter, and we should not and will not be silent in defending our fellow workers from discrimination.”

Nick Allen, Director of the Global Program at SEIU added: "This bill is a cruel attempt to push an anti-LGBTQ agenda and seems to respond to a problem that simply does not exist."

Take action

Here are some actions that global union federations are asking workers to do to mark today.

Social media:

  1. Take a selfie or have someone take a photo or short video of you holding one of our signs. Ask coworkers to do it as well or take a group shot. Download the signs here or make your own.
  2. Post on your personal and (if possible) union social media channels: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tik Tok, etc. Make sure to tag us: @lgbtiworkers and use the hashtags below. Mention your union.
  3. Amplify the message by liking and sharing other IDAHOBIT postings using our hashtags (below).
  4. Email us your photos with your name, location, and union at lgbtiworkers@gmail.comif you are fine with us using your image and first name

Other actions:

  1. If it feels safe and right, talk to a coworker about the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and why ratifying the International Labour Organization’s Convention on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work (C190) is vital for LGBTI – and all workers!
  2. Put forward a motion to your union about observing IDAHOBIT and calling on your national government to ratify ILO C190 (if it hasn’t yet)
  3. Tweet your minister of labour to demand ratification on ILO C190.