How to say NO to discrimination and YES to inclusion

Indian girl smiling at the camera holding rainbow flag and peace sign with her fingers parade behind

On May 17 we celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia & Transphobia and say a big ol’ NOPE to discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people. It’s a day to say YES to inclusion, respect and support for the LGBTQIA+ community and create a world where everyone can feel safe and welcome.

Discrimination happens all the time, online and in real life – and it creates spaces where people feel unsafe, like they don’t belong or can’t be themselves. Whether you’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community or not, that’s not a very nice world to live in. Here’s our guide to fighting discrimination and celebrating International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia & Transphobia every day.

What does discrimination look like?

You can’t call out discrimination if you’re not totally sure what counts as discrimination and what doesn’t. Some kinds of discrimination are really obvious, but others are more subtle.

Obvious types of discrimination:

  • targeted attacks, bullying or harassment

  • physical threats

  • teasing someone about their gender, sexual preferences or partner (even if it seems playful)

  • excluding you because of you gender or sexual identity

  • asking inappropriate or overly personal questions

  • any action or behaviour that is intended to hurt or upset you.

Not-so-obvious types of discrimination:

  • being blocked from using the bathroom that corresponds with your gender identity

  • someone using the wrong gender or name to refer to you, after you’ve explained your preferred name and pronouns

  • family or friends refusing to acknowledge your same gender partner as your romantic partner and instead referring to them as your ‘friend’.

Why is it important to call out discrimination?

Speaking up about mistreatment can stop it in its tracks. If we don’t do anything, nothing will change. We are all responsible for the world we live in, and making it somewhere that everyone can feel safe and welcome is something we should all get behind.

How do I actually call it out?

There are a few different ways to tackle discrimination both head-on, and on the down low. Just remember that your safety is the most important thing – so don’t feel like you need to call out the person doing the bullying if it might leave you at risk of being hurt or harmed – either physically or emotionally.

It can be tricky to identify an unsafe situation but try to keep these points in mind:

  • can you leave quickly and easily if needed?

  • are there other people around you?

  • do you feel physically intimidated by the person you’re confronting?

  • do you feel scared or threatened?

If you’re worried about any of these, it’s probably not a safe situation – get out of there and try to tackle the issue in another way.

If you don’t feel safe or confident in tackling the issue head-on, don’t worry, there are still ways you can fight discrimination in a more discreet way.

  • You could offer to sit with the person affected by discrimination so they don’t feel alone. Ask them if they’re okay.

  • Ask someone more senior to step in. This could be a teacher, your boss or the bus driver if you’re out in public.

  • Call the police. If you think the situation is escalating and it’s not safe for anyone to step in the best thing you can do is get the police to come and sort it out. If it’s an emergency call 000. Otherwise you can call the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 to get advice on the best thing to do next.

If you see discrimination IRL

Try explaining to the person that what they’ve said is not okay, that it has hurt you or has the potential to do harm to others. They may just be speaking out of ignorance, so giving them the chance to see the other side and get educated is a great first step. Keep these things in mind when starting this kind of chat:

  • be direct, calm and confident

  • feel free to walk away, collect your thoughts and approach that person later to start the conversation

  • try and have backup by asking someone you trust to join you

  • use ‘I’ statements and avoiding accusing or blaming them. Try starting sentences with ‘I felt ..’ or ‘I saw..’ to bring the person into your experiences.

If you’re dealing with someone at school or work there are people and systems that can help you manage it. Try talking to a teacher you trust, the school counsellor, your work’s HR team or your manager. Getting the support of a person in authority can help you feel confident and supported going in.

If you see discrimination online

If you’ve seen a nasty comment or post on social media, YouTube or an online forum, there are lots of ways to handle it. A lot of what we’ve suggested above applies, but there are some specific things you can do online that you can’t IRL:

  • For comments or posts that are discriminatory or designed to hurt a particular individual or group use the report tool. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram all have this function and it allows you to draw attention to a post or comment and let the managers of the site deal with it. Most websites have pretty strict rules about what can and can’t be posted and anything hateful will be in breach of those rules.

  • If you or someone else is being directly threatened or are worried for their or your safety – either physically or emotionally – make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission, to the eSafety Commissioner or to police (call the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 for advice). Remember to save screenshots as evidence.

  • The anti-hate website has pre-written responses to trolls, so go and check out what they’ve got and use them.

What can I do now?

Well done on being proactive on this! Even if you never find yourself with the opportunity to call out a bully, you can celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community to show your support and drown out the haters.

  • Visit the IDAHOBIT website and take a look at the amazing resources they have to help you get your rainbow on this 17 May, or any day!

  • Wear rainbow or an IDAHOBIT ribbon

  • Donate your time or money to IDAHOBIT or your fave LGBTQIA+ organisation (find some great examples here and here)