Eliminating LGBTIQ discrimination

The Victorian Bar is committed to implementing strategies for eliminating discrimination against the LGBTIQ community in the legal profession and other workplaces.

What does LGBTIQ stand for?

LGBTIQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer.

The ABC has produced a guide to explain these terms here.

The Victorian Government’s inclusive language guide can be found here.

Continuing Professional Development

The LGBTIQ Working Group of the Victorian Bar’s Equality & Diversity Committee presented a CPD session on Zoom on 28 May 2020 on LGBTIQ matters that barristers should be aware of. Learn what the letters mean, and the best way for barristers to work effectively and respectfully with LGBTIQ clients, litigants and colleagues. The session was presented by an expert presenter from Pride In Diversity, Australia’s first and only national not-for-profit training support program for all aspects of LGBTIQ workplace inclusion. Pride In Diversity regularly provides such training across all sectors of the Australian workforce, including for major law firms. 

The CPD can be found in the Members CPD Catalogue by searching for the term 'LGBTIQ'.

1 CPD Point

Why is the Victorian Bar addressing this issue?

Our goal is an assumption-free world where nobody makes assumptions about a person’s sexuality or gender identity, and everyone is treated equally under the law.

The legal profession is increasingly diverse and inclusive. There are many highly successful practitioners who happen to be LGBTIQ. The Victorian Bar should properly reflect the diverse makeup of Australian society, which includes people from the LGBTIQ communities.

In the workplace, we aim for lawyers to be known for their abilities. Ideally, you would be viewed as an excellent lawyer based on your aptitude and work ethic, matters entirely separate from your LGBTIQ status.  

A workplace that is not welcoming to LGBTIQ people can hinder an LGBTIQ person’s capacity to perform to the best of their ability because they feel discriminated against or not comfortable to be themselves at work. 

A person’s sexuality or gender identity is often central to their self-worth. A workplace free of discrimination is therefore important to getting the best out of employees and providing the best service and outcomes for clients. 

Regrettably, a recent survey by Lloyd’s insurance group Dive In found that as many as 45% of LGBTIQ people conceal their sexuality at work

The good news is that much can be done with a basic understanding of the issues. There are many simple and cost-free ways that non-LGBTIQ people can improve workplaces.

What is LGBTIQ discrimination?

The Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission contains useful general information about LGBTIQ discrimination here.

Transgender awareness

Gender identity is broadly defined as meaning the “gender-related identity, appearance or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of a person (whether by way of medical intervention or not), with or without regard to the person’s designated sex at birth”.

There are a range of factors that impact upon how a person expresses their gender, including whether they have undergone a medical process, their general health, their personal circumstances and their preferences. The following matters are likely relevant to the experience of persons expressing their gender identity:

  • Consider asking what someone’s preferred gender pronoun is (“he” or “she” or “they” are common).
  • Gender neutral toilets without a sex assigned to the door are a clear sign that gender is a non-issue.
  • Transitioning gender is a very significant and challenging journey which will impact almost every part of a person’s life.
  • Understanding that gender identity and sexuality are distinct. Don’t make assumptions about a transgender person’s sexuality.
  • Supporting transition in the workplace
  • A good guide to trans language is here.
  • The Transgender Victoria website is here.

Intersex inclusion

There is a common assumption that intersex people have non-binary gender identities, and even a belief that a third sex classification recognises the existence of people with intersex variations.

Some intersex people do have non-binary gender identities, and it’s important to respect those identities, but it is also important to respect the full diversity of gender identities held by people born with intersex traits, not just identities that meet any preconceived ideas about the nature of intersex differences.

Intersex is actually defined in physical, biological terms. It describes a spectrum of diverse physical sex characteristics, not a neat and arbitrary third sex or gender classification.

Some people born intersex will reject binary sex or gender labels, due to medical or social experiences, or simply as a reflection of their embodiment. For other intersex people they are comfortable being identified as men or women.

Why is action needed?

Discrimination can have significant adverse effects on a person’s personal and professional development, including their physical and mental health (see, for example, The Statistics at a Glance: The Mental Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People in Australia: The 2020 Update) which shows data as to the disproportionate effect that stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse has on members of the LGBTIQ communities.

In the workplace, we feel the need to build rapport, to connect on a personal level and to have healthy social conversations and connections.

Often different-sex attracted people don’t realise that their sexual orientation is on display most of the time when they do trivial things such as: talking freely about their families, about their partners, about what they did during the weekend, bringing their partners to social events, displaying their photos on their desks. It is a form of assumed privilege.

Would you experiment by removing anything about your personal life in the office for a month? How would it feel to not bring your full self to work?

The document below provides some examples of how you can help change the working environment for LGBTI individuals.

Click here for the Victorian Bar guide on how to support and encourage LGBTIQ people (being an ally).

LGBTIQ WhatsApp Group

The LGBTIQ Working Group has recently established a WhatsApp Group for LGBTIQ members of the Victorian Bar to offer each other support, social connection, sharing of information or resources, and general discussion of various issues. If you would like to join this Group, please use this link.

Where you can go for help

Out for Australia

OFA is an organisation that seeks to support and offer mentoring opportunities for LGBTIQ professionals as they navigate their way through their careers.

Thorne Harbour Health

Thorne Harbour Health offers counselling for any member of the LGTBIQ community (formerly Victorian Aids Council).

Switchboard Victoria

Non-judgmental, confidential and anonymous support services for the LGBTIQ community and supporters.

Fitzroy Legal LGBTIQ Family Law Service

A specialist service by appointment on the first Wednesday of each month.

Transgender Victoria

Founded to achieve justice, equity and quality health and community service provision for trans and gender diverse people.

Pride In Diversity

Australia’s leading workplace program to help employers with LGBTIQ inclusion.

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby

The VGLRL advocates for equality and social justice for the LGBTIQ community.