International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

The right to be yourself at work

"Today, on this International Day I would underline the fundamental importance of social justice and decent work as a key element of positive mental health and well-being of LGBT persons, and an essential expression of LGBT rights," says ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

Déclaration | 17 mai 2016
© CJF20
This year, the theme for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is mental health and well-being. This is particularly relevant as 26 years ago today, the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder. This was a significant turning point and prefaced many positive developments for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, not least that today over 60 ILO member States explicitly prohibit discrimination at work on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Research undertaken by the ILO and other agencies indicates that the vast majority of LGBT workers keep their sexual orientation a secret, often resulting in considerable stress, depression and loss of productivity. However, people who have come out at work have fewer symptoms of anxiety, depression and burnout. And a central factor in the decision to come out at work is a supportive environment with proactive diversity and inclusion policies in place.

In September 2015 the ILO, along with several United Nations organizations issued a joint statement entitled: “Ending violence and discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people”. This statement opened with a simple but powerful declaration: “All people have an equal right to live free from violence, persecution, discrimination and stigma.”

The global community has continued to reinforce the commitment to addressing all forms of discrimination, through the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which is premised on the principle of “no one left behind”, providing a clear mandate for the promotion of LGBT workers’ rights.

But much work remains to be done. Despite the clear progress since 1990, the deplorable idea that being LGBT is a “sickness” that needs to be cured persists in many countries and workplaces.

That LGBT workers are criminalized and pathologized for simply being who they are should belong to the past. The ILO’s social justice mandate means promoting employment in conditions of freedom, equity, human security and dignity for all workers. And today, on this International Day I would underline the fundamental importance of social justice and decent work as a key element of positive mental health and well-being of LGBT persons, and an essential expression of LGBT rights.