LGBT* ACADEMIC STAFF
Lesbian. Gay. Bisexual. Trans. Queer. All of these terms (and more) can be used to describe the wide range of sexual and gender orientations of LGBT* academic staff. They are just like heterosexual individuals in almost every way – the difference is that they are attracted to and form meaningful relationships with (generally) members of the same sex.
Transgender academic staff at Carleton face special challenges in their day to day lives. Not only are they subject to discrimination like other members of the Carleton community, they also face the unique challenges that come with being transgender.
Transgender describes individuals who do not fit into traditional gender roles as defined by their physical sex. This can range from those who dress as members of the opposite gender to those who feel that they were born with the wrong physical gender. Transgender individuals are commonly considered to be a part of the LGBT* community. If you’re interested in learning more, our fellow union members at Unifor have also produced a handbook entitled “To our Allies” which contains answers to frequently asked questions about transgender individuals (pages 9 – 13).
WHAT IS HOMOPHOBIA?
Our fellow union members at Unifor provide an excellent answer to this question:
Clinically, it refers to a fear and hatred of gays and lesbians. Homophobia ranges from derogatory comments, to harassment, to violence (gaybashing), to silencing (‘as long as they don’t talk about it’, etc.), to denial of human rights. Homophobia is also described as the fear of feeling love for members of one’s own sex, and therefore the hatred of those feelings in others. Because we’re all immersed in a culture that can be pretty homophobic, most lesbians, gay men and bisexuals have had to deal with our own internalized homophobia (“To our Allies” , 4.)
Homophobia is often linked with heterosexism. Heterosexism is the assumption that all individuals are heterosexual (attracted to members of the opposite sex). In the day to day lives of LGBT* individuals, heterosexism can have a substantial impact. Consider a situation where a professor is talking to a student, unaware that the student is gay. A relatively benign question about whether the student has a girlfriend, asked in casual conversation, could create an unwelcoming atmosphere for the student.
WHAT IS TRANSPHOBIA?
Transphobia is “a reaction of fear, loathing & discriminatory treatment of people whose gender identity or gender presentation (or perceived gender or gender identity) does not match, in the socially accepted way, the sex they were assigned at birth” (Queen’s University Trans Accessibilty Project). Transphobia can be be systemic (denial of rights provided to the rest of society based on a characteristic), intentional (conscious discrimination based on the belief that transgender individuals should not exist), unintentional (discrimination that occurs due to an individual or organization not being aware of the existence or needs of a transgender individual) or personal (one-on-one discrimination).
HOW DO HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA IMPACT ACADEMIC STAFF?
The impact of homophobia and transphobia on academic staff is primarily the same as discrimination in any other workplace. Homophobia and transphobia can impact everything from an academic’s feeling of belonging in their department to their career progression. Discrimination of all kinds limits the scope of scholarship for marginalized groups as a result of the privliege given to traditional forms of research. More than that, however, transgender academic staff (and transgender individuals generally) face unique challenges. For example, a transgender individual may not feel comfortable entering a washroom designated for their physical sex for fear of retaliation. The University provides a list of gender neutral washrooms for this purpose.
WHERE CAN I GET HELP WITH EQUITY ISSUES?
If you are an academic staff member and the issue relates to your employment at Carleton, you can contact CUASA. In addition, Carleton’s Equity Services maintains a list of resources available for members of equity seeking groups. If you are on campus and are facing an immediate threat to your physical safety, contact Campus Safety at 613-520-4444.