Today is a special day. Many m/m related blogs around the internet are making a special effort today to create posts that discuss the issue of homophobia in light of the International Day Against Homophobia today. Please click on the icon at the left to get the list of participating blogs. I hope you’ll go and see what everyone has to say. As well, each blog will be giving away a prize of some kind. Here at BER we are giving away a short story of your choice. Once we select a winner, you can let us know which story (less than 20K) you’d like and we’ll make arrangements to get it to you.
So most people know I am Canadian. I live in the nation’s capital and some people may know I work for the Canadian government. It’s not a secret, I just don’t advertise. So while we are talking about homophobia today, I thought I’d take a look at some data within the federal government workforce to see if Canada is as tolerant as I would like to believe we are, especially in light of the International Day Against Homophobia’s theme of Sexual Diversity in the Workplace. There are about 280,000 employees, and every three years a comprehensive survey is given to all employees asking everything from do you like your job to have you ever been harassed on the job.
So what’s it like for my LGBT colleagues working for the Canadian government?
First off, these are the rules:
There shall be no discrimination, interference, restriction, coercion, harassment, intimidation, or any disciplinary action exercised or practised with respect to an employee by reason of age, race, creed, colour, national or ethnic origin, religious affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, family status, marital status, mental or physical disability, conviction for which a pardon has been granted or membership or activity in the Association.
Of course, I’d be dreaming if I thought every single one of those nearly 300,000 faithfully followed the rules and NEVER discriminated or treated an employee or coworkers unfairily due to one of those factors. One of the questions asked is, if you have been harassed, what was the basis (one of those 11)? For those answering sexual orientation, the numbers are:
So as you can see, my particular department is very slightly higher than the public service as a whole. Is this bad? Well, of course, no harassment is good, but I compared it to some of the other categories listed that are also singled out.
Far more people report being discriminated against for national or ethnic original, age and sex. These surveys are anonymous, so there is no way anyone can find out who identified as GLBT from their responses, but of course, it’s a voluntary survey and only a fraction of the employees fill it out (despite repeated e-mails on the subject).
Just for curiousity, they break it down by men and women within my department, men report more discrimination based on sexual orientation than women, but I don’t think that’s surprising.
So does this mean most of the people who work for the government aren’t homophobic? Maybe? I hope? In general, government employees tend to be well-educated, many with post-secondary degrees, the wages are relatively high (but we’re not rich), and most of the employees live in larger urban centers. I think all of those factors tend to lead to more tolerant, open people, so it stands to reason they may be less averse to GLBT coworkers.
What about my personal experience? Well, I’m not GLBT, but based on my own experiences, I’ve not witnessed any overt homophobic acts. Some of my coworkers are quite out and open about their relationships, others are more private. I’ve sat at lunch with quite high ranking government employees who told stories about how his boyfriend invited him down to Rio for vacation and he ended up dancing in the Carnival parade. I worked in Europe with a man whose male partner lived with him and received the same benefits and accommodations my husband did. I’ve had a gay supervisor and gay coworkers.
I’m not saying that homophobia doesn’t exist, but no one has ever said anything to me, given a snide remark about someone (well, not based on sexual orientation), and I’ve not witnessed overt slurs, but I’m sure it happens. I think the fact that the first paragraph “enshrines” if you will, discrimination based on sexual orientation, makes even those who do have less than pristine thoughts about someone, think twice before acting. It also gives employees who are discriminated against or harassed a mechanism to seek redress.
Added support for GLBT employees (who are obviously in a minority given the size of the employee pool) we have the Public Service Pride Network. It is a private organization who host social events for GLBT members, offer advice, links and resources, etc. They also march in our local Pride Parade, unafraid (I hope) of possible repercussions at work.
So is Canada perfect? Ha! No. We have gay bashings and a GLBT activist in Halifax was killed last month when he was attacked outside a bar. There was a gay teen in my city who committed suicide in part due to gay bullying, so no, we are not perfect. But we’ll let you get married (and divorced), and adopt kids, we’ll let you serve openly in the military, and we’ll let you take it to court if you are discriminated against. We’ve got lessons to learn and minds to pry open with a crow bar, but I hope it’s happening and it would be nice in a few years if ALL of those numbers for harassment got down to zero.
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about Canada and our policies, at least in my workplace, which I’m hoping are working to combat homophobia.
Please take the time to visit some of the other blogs. There are lots of amazing stories out there and it’s well worth the trip around the blogosphere in the next couple of days.
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