CLT staff join the ANU LGBTQIA+ Ally Network  

On 9 April, Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT) staff joined with colleagues from Careers and Employability to complete their ALLY training facilitated by the ANU Respectful Relationships Unit. For some of us it was the commencement of a journey, for others a continuation of a journey to understanding the importance and impact of diversity and inclusion of the LGBTQIA community. My personal journey commenced when I was still at university and my boyfriend’s brother ‘came out as gay’ to his family with devastating results (think excommunication and disinheritance and you’ll have the idea).  Once in the workplace, I worked and socialised with people who were ‘secretly’ gay, and then as time went on, ‘quietly’ gay as they navigated the prejudices of the workplace. I lived through the devastating years of the 1980s and 1990s with AIDS and the Grim Reaper campaign. These events increased the open expression of discrimination with increased violence towards LGBTQIA people, despite the Australian government’s efforts to be inclusive in the Grim Reaper advertisements. Comments such as ‘only gay men get AIDS’ and ‘if you have AIDS, you must be gay’ abounded as we looked to blame a section of society for this deadly disease.

In conversing with a close friend, who had lived through these events as a gay man, I gained a better understanding of how societal attitude can really break a person and create so much grief for them and their families. Christos Tsiolkas’ latest novel: ‘The In-Between’, while obviously fiction, also shines a light on the difficulties of navigating such a life in a society where homosexual behaviour was considered abhorrent and even a crime (in Australia until 1994 with the passing of the Federal Human Rights (Sexual Conduct) Act 1994). However, like many of my generation, I was still to gain an acceptance of what it means to be transsexual or transgender. It probably didn’t help growing up with movies such as ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’, which portrayed gay men as transvestites. My first acknowledgement of a bias against the concept of transgender was when I mentioned to my teenage daughter that it bothered me that the dress style and androgenous physicality of one of my university students meant that I couldn’t tell if they were male or female. My daughter’s response will always stay with me: ‘why does it matter?’

Back to April 2024 and the Respectful Relationships Unit facilitating ALLY training at CLT. The most impressive part of the day was their ability to create a safe and supportive space to encourage participants to ask a lot of questions, without fear of getting things wrong. I try and emulate this approach when discussing inclusion issues with friends and family. The team were able to provide a very informative and interactive session enabling a better understanding of why LGBTQI+ inclusion is so important. We discussed strategies to create an inclusive environment, such as the simple practice of using person centred language and someone’s preferred pronouns. Such a slight adjustment can make an important difference to how safe someone feels in the classroom or office. 

As employees of ANU, we sign up to support the culture and strategies of Australia’s National University. Despite our personal views on any topic, as representatives of the university, we agree to ‘being a standard-bearer for equity and inclusion’ with success determined by our university’s ability to be ‘a catalyst for societal transformation’ (Refer to ANU Strategic Plan 2021-2025). On May 17, we have the opportunity to start or continue on our journey to respect, support and inclusion by acknowledging the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). The objective of the day is to raise awareness about the discrimination and violence faced by LGBTQI+ communities worldwide. If you would like the opportunity to explore your beliefs and focus on the situation from the viewpoint of the LGBTQI+ community in an open and supportive environment, then we strongly recommend ALLY training delivered by the ANU Respectful Relationships Unit. By promoting understanding, empathy, and acceptance, we can create a more inclusive world for everyone. As my teenage daughter said, sometimes you need have a ‘good look at yourself’ first, to see the world from the viewpoint of others. 

For more information contact the ANU Respectful Relationships Unit; or perhaps of interest is the Amnesty International Resource.

May 2024

Dr Leanne Brereton, Professional Learning Team, Centre for Learning and Teaching

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