LGBT discrimination

Definition of sexual orientation. Homophobia. Examples of discrimination based on sexual orientation

Pride flag moving in the wind on an overcast day. Taken in Toronto’s Gay Village.

Sexual orientation is an individual biological characteristic and part of the identity of each of us. It covers the whole range of human sexuality and applies equally to heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals. International studies show that the homosexual and bisexual population varies between 5 and 10% of the total population by country. Everyone has the right to equal treatment without discrimination or harassment because of his or her sexual orientation.

Transgender (not to be confused with transsexuality) means that a person’s gender identity does not match his or her sex at birth. A man can identify himself as a woman and on the contrary. Transgender is a state of the social spectrum, separate from the biological basis of sexual orientation.

In many countries of the European Union, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face constant discrimination and harassment in their daily lives. Prejudice and misunderstandings about homosexuality and transgender people further fuel intolerant attitude and behaviour towards this community.

LGBT people face discrimination in all spheres of social life in the form of verbal and physical attacks and often choose to remain largely “invisible” because of fear of negative consequences.

Globally, UN agreements include sexual orientation and gender identity in open lists of types of people at risk of discrimination. EU law currently protects lesbian, bisexual and gay people from discrimination based on sexual orientation, but especially in the field of employment. Transgender people are protected from gender discrimination only when the discrimination stems from a reassignment in biological sex (EU directive on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services).

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in Article 21 of the Equality Chapter prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Transgender people are protected from gender discrimination in the Charter of Fundamental Rights in accordance with the applicable law of the European Court of Justice – the supreme body of the EU in relation to European law.

The right of members of the LGBT community not to be discriminated or harassed is valid when looking for and finding work as well as with the employment conditions, travel, access to facilities, services, housing, contracts and membership in professional or trade associations.

Within the EU, there are still several major groups of problems related to the rights of LGBT people. They are as follows:

1) Freedom of assembly and expression;
2) Hate speech and hate crimes;
3) Unequal treatment and discrimination;
4) Free movement and reunification of families;
5) International protection of LGBT asylum seekers;
6) Sex reassignment.

There is still no single solution at EU level on this issues – the explanation for this situation is the continuing negative attitude and lack of tolerance towards LGBT people.

Homophobia means the fear or hatred to homosexuals, as well as discrimination and violence against a person or group with a real or imputed homosexual orientation. Homophobia treats homosexuality as a deviant behaviour that deviates from generally accepted norms in society.

Examples of discrimination related to sexual orientation:

  • A young mechanic has been harassed at work after sharing with a colleague about his homosexual orientation.
  • A gay couple has been refused to rent a house because the owner preferred to give it to a “traditional” couple.
  • Hostile work environment: a lesbian has been subjected to obscene jokes, souvenirs and comments at work.
  • Dismissal of a person who has filed a complaint of discrimination.
  • Inquiry of employers by a manager about their sexual preferences.
  • A man has been refused a service and has been called a “fagot” by a hotel employee.
  • A childcare organization has refused to consider a man’s application for babysitting because he was a gay.
  • A woman has been refused housing by a real estate agent when she told the broker that she intended to share the flat with her girlfriend.
  • A woman who worked in a trading company claimed that she had been fired after her manager found out that she was transgender (male-to-female) and he did not want to hire a “freak”. She was the only dismissed worker and her position was made public later.
  • A transgender woman (male-to-female) has been a member of a golf club for several years and she has been using women’s restrooms all this time. One day, however, she was told by the club’s management that she should use only men’s toilets.
  • A transgender woman (male-to-female) was applying for a job as a secretary. When she appeared at the interview, the manager congratulated her for her completeness in presenting the position. The interview went great until the woman candidate had said that she had undergone gender reassignment surgery. The employer abruptly changed his positive attitude towards her and told her that some of the clients would feel uncomfortable with a transgender employee.