This was a celebratory week here in Australia. The results of the marriage equality poll came through and votes in favour of legalising same sex marriage won by a landslide. It is odd that this country was the first to grant women the right to vote but the last of the English speaking countries to consider legalising same sex marriage when homosexuality is not a crime. The process of legislating begins now. Fingers crossed it will happen before the year closes.
Australia proudly hosts the LGBTQ Mardi Gras every year and believes there is nothing unnatural about being LGBTQ. It is therefore unacceptable that the laws of this country have not changed thus far to reflect the progressive sentiments of the population at large. The culprit for this delay is, you guessed it- politics! There are some highly conservative politicians who currently hold the balance of power in the House of Representatives. They demonstrate what I call backward views. They say their religion does not support same sex people marrying. I say they use religion as a cover for their prejudice, because it’s socially undesirable to discriminate. There are equal number of priests, imams, rabbis etc. who are happy and willing to conduct same sex marriages ceremonies in their places of worship. How does their religion differentiate from those of the politicians? Bringing religion into politics stops a country from progressing. History and the current global political environment are a clear proof of this. Is it any wonder that atheism and agnosticism are now the fastest growing belief systems amongst the socially progressive population? In a true secular democracy, it’s equal rights for all. The majority do NOT make rules for the minority. The LGBTQ are a minority group and are not treated with respect they deserve.
When homosexual couples in long term relationships are hospitalised as they progress into old age, the other same sex partner is not recognised to be next of kin. I have a huge issue with this. Someone who has loved you and lived with you and cared for you all your life is not allowed to make decisions about you, (when you are incapable of doing so) only because they are not considered to be in a legal relationship. But then, two unmarried heterosexual people living together are granted the legal decision making rights that a legally married husband and wife are given. Unacceptable in a country that calls itself a democracy.
I am however cognisant of the fact that LGBTQ people in many countries have it even tougher than in Australia. How oppressed they must feel to know that their sexual preference is considered a crime, as if they have any choice in this matter! As humans we have no control over our sexuality. Homosexuality is a perfectly normal occurrence. In every society at least 10% of the population have a homosexual or bisexual orientation. Homosexuality exists even within the animal kingdom, lest anyone thinks humans are brainwashed to be a homosexual. It is not a psychological condition and no, paedophiles are not all gay. There are many gay myths that people believe from being ill informed. Societal pressures to be heterosexual in these countries have far reaching negative consequences. I personally know a childhood friend of mine who was married off to this man from Mumbai who could not tell his parents, he was gay. What happened to my friend after she found this out during her honeymoon is a tragedy I won’t depress you with, but it’s worth noting that the only reason the husband couldn’t be honest about his sexuality was societal intolerance. I later learnt that his ‘highly educated’ parents were performing all sorts of religious rituals to get rid of the ‘demon’ that had plagued him. What good is education or religion if it closes your mind from accepting other possibilities?
Interestingly, countries where LGBTQ orientations are not welcomed have greater internet searches for gay pornography. The proof for this can be found in Seth Stephens-Davidowitz recently released best seller- EVERYBODY LIES which is based on big data obtained from the world’s online search activities. Yes, we lie all the time and what we say even in surveys is not the whole truth. Our online searches show that the way we express and reveal our thoughts and opinions are quite often contradictory to what we really think due to social pressures.
Incidence and transmission of HIV is greater in societies that do not welcome LGBTQ orientations because no one talks to this community about safe sex. Not to mention the societal havoc of sexual crimes and poor mental health caused by social conditioning like in the case of my friend.
Scientific American magazine once published an article in 2012 which showed analysis of implicit bias and explicit sexual orientation statements to explain the underpinnings of homophobia and hate crimes. The research, published in the issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, reveals the nuances of prejudices like homophobia, which can ultimately have dire consequences. [The 10 Most Destructive Human Behaviours]. The research went on to say that sometimes LGBTQ threatens people because they are fearing their own impulses to be homosexual and protesting it is their way of stopping their own feelings from surfacing.
There is also quite a bit of accepted literature and debate now that links intolerance and the resulting lack of empathy and generosity in adults to authoritarian parenting where differing and diverse perspectives on many topics are not tolerated in the family. A child growing up in such an environment tends to form a polarised view of the world where things are easily judged as right or wrong, good, or bad with no dialogue to appreciate what might exist in between. The ability to harness differing perspectives is the key to sense-making and empowering others. I have often wondered if there is credible evidence linking strict or orthodox beliefs to authoritarian parenting?
From a workforce perspective, I recently learnt from a colleague at London Business School (LBS) that 7.3% of millennials entering the workforce identify within the LGBTQ spectrum. When companies consider how to attract and retain the best talent, it is important to consider not only how to create an inclusive culture but also - how to foster a culture that is VISIBLY inclusive for prospective LGBTQ employees, to encourage them to feel safe at work.
LBS also conducted some research looking at company diversity statements and the approach taken in them when addressing LGBTQ prospective employees. Interestingly, the results showed that highlighting the different and unique contributions LGBTQ members can make within a diversity statement has many practical benefits for employers. Some advantages include: improving prospective employees' perception of trust, comfort, belonging and ability to express their sexual orientation at work. An organisation that values and creates psychological safety for its people is the one that will outlast and outperform its competition. A country that values and creates psychological safety for all its people could well be called the happiest place on earth.
Anu DasGupta is the Director of People & Culture at AMP Australia. While AMP Australia openly supports same sex marriage and is proud of their inclusive culture, the views and opinions expressed in this article are her own.