Mardi Gras, move over. IDAHOBIT is coming out!

When I discovered that last Sunday was IDAHOBIT Day, my first response was: bless you! My second response was: not another day! At times it feels as though not a day goes by that isn’t dedicated to “celebrating” something – International Trail Mix Day (31 August), Knock-Knock Jokes Day (31 October) or Bicarbonate of Soda Day (30 December) are just some that come to mind. Actually, they definitely don’t come to mind, they were nowhere near my mind…but it turns out they do, in fact, exist!

Carving a specific 24 hours to individually celebrate every menial thing in life is unnecessary, tedious and devaluates the significant days that do deserve recognition. Days like International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia & Transphobia. Because unlike eating trail mix, it takes courage to live openly and authentically when your truth is one that is so actively discriminated against. Aside from boasting the world’s longest acronym, this day is more than just an opportunity to whip out a rainbow flag, some glitter and party under the guise of ‘LGBT awareness.’

No, no, no. This day is different. Its focus is on awareness of the community, yes, but also creating a dialogue and validating the individual challenges each sector face. You see, although these terms – gay, bi, trans – all fall under an umbrella term ‘LGBT’, their experiences and tribulations are unique.

Someone who identifies as a gay man will go through life treated differently to a trans woman, to a bisexual woman, to a butch lesbian. It’s important to note that although they may all face discriminatory behaviours; their personal experiences are all wildly different. Not all people in the LGBQTQI+ spectrum face the same set of issues or experience the same level of prejudice. So, a day that validates their stories and raises awareness of not only the community at large, but also the nuances within that community, is one to be celebrated.

But it’s also an opportunity to reflect on the consequences of these prejudices, particularly within the construction industry. It’s not breaking news that suicide is somewhat of an epidemic amongst blue-collar workers. It’s also no surprise that it’s a real problem amongst the LGBTQI+ community. Now, mix them together and the numbers are alarming.

Studies conducted by The Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention found 52.4% of apprentices who identify as LGBTQI+ were reported experiencing suicidal thoughts within the past 12 months. That’s over half. That is terrifying.

Now, what can we be doing about it? Well, the most effective and arguably most difficult step is a change in culture. The construction culture boasts a bit too much macho for its own good and is a poster boy for the problems reaped from toxic masculinity.

Changing culture is indescribably hard, though, like pulling teeth or getting up at 5am to exercise. Also, the amount of change you can bring about depends on your role within the industry. Are you a project supervisor, for instance? Then yes, you probably have a lot more influence on the culture of your worksite, than say, an RTO trainer. But regardless of the extent of your personal reach, we all have some responsibility to improve the situation as it stands.

CTC is doing what we can across the precinct. We have a transgender inclusive toilet, a zero tolerance to bullying and multiple of our staff are trained in mental health first aid.

We’ve created our own culture of tolerance and empathy, and facilitated an environment where everyone feels comfortable, regardless of how they may identify. It’s worth reflecting on small changes you can make within your organisation, company or worksite that will have a much greater impact on the people they’re designed for. It’s not difficult and it’s most certainly worth it!

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