Opinion Piece: LBTQ+ rights, higher priority please

By Myrtille Danse, Head of Corporate Engagement at Solidaridad Europe
and member of the Women@Workplace Pride core group

It’s pride month! A time to commemorate the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civil rights and a chance to celebrate everything our community has accomplished. While attending last month’s Pride Walk in Amsterdam, I wondered about the LBTQ+ movement in and outside the Netherlands. It seems quite invisible

LBTQ+ have fallen through the cracks

And that’s surprising considering that global discrimination and violence against LBTQ+ have “fallen through the cracks”, according to the report “That’s why we became activists” published by the international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) early 2023. This report is based on interviews conducted in 26 countries. It reveals a pattern of grave physical and sexual violence from security forces, family members and private individuals against lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (LBTQ+) people worldwide. The report identifies ten key areas of rights abuses, such as land and property rights, fertility services, migration and resettlement. The lack of legal protection and the alleged “invisibility” of LBTQ+ women, transgender women and non-binary people in national and international law are barriers to their ability to access justice.

LBTQ+ rights in the workplace

One of these key areas also includes rampant discrimination in the workplace. Violence against queer women, transgender women and non-binary people who presented as masculine was often mentioned by interviewees. Activists said masculine-presenting LBTQ+ people faced a lifetime of economic marginalisation, discrimination and harassment at work and psychological abuse. In Argentina, El Salvador and Kyrgyzstan, masculine-presenting LBTQ+ people are often forced into precarious work with poor labour rights practices (farms, the sex trade, auto shops) or male-dominated fields, where they face physical and sexual abuse.

In the Netherlands we maybe do not experience such extreme cases of discrimination, but research of Corporate Queer (https://corporatequeer.com/) reveals that management teams or a boards of executives without queer representation face challenges to create a company culture for a diverse team. Also the lack of policies in the workplace create challenges, such as working around the lack of a multiparent law. And what does the internal team look like on your website, is the company staff diverse? Does a minority person feel represented when viewing the company? And who can save for a good retirement if they both make two-thirds of what men at their company do?

Call for action on LBTQ+ rights
LBTQ+ discrimination becomes highly visible in these researches. But why don’t we hear more about it in the news, and during pride month? The invisibility of LBTQ+ rights is mainly the result of deprioritisation and systematic ignoring in a range of different streams of reporting. It’s the result of the (un)intentional devaluation of women’s issues, including in queer spaces, and normalises the primacy placed on cisgender men as the “natural” subject of rights, research, and investigation. For this reason, I urge to stop referring to the invisibility of LBTQ+ rights, to avoid that it is being treated as a naturally occurring phenomenon and as such erodes the responsibility of researchers, advocates, and funders to recognise and seek to address the systemic nature of discrimination and violence against LBTQ+ people. And I call for more attention for LBTQ+ rights in pride month, research, and advocacy agendas.