Why is the American Red Cross homophobic

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In China, a Chinese journalist filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Red Cross after he was denied a blood sample. The reason: the man is homosexual. The gay English candidate bishop Jeffrey John was rejected for the second time by the nomination committee because of his sexual orientation. In most American states, homophobic employers can fire homosexual workers for their sexual orientation - without legal consequences.

Difficult coming out
Even in the 21st century, homosexuality is still a taboo subject. Gays and lesbians still have to fight for equality and against discrimination. In China, homosexuality was officially considered a mental illness until 2001. According to a survey, around 67 percent of the population in the Republic of Serbia consider homosexuality to be “dangerous for society”, and 20 percent would even be willing to use force against homosexuality or to justify it.

In Austria, more and more people are daring to come out. In doing so, they always have to overcome two hurdles: On the one hand, confessing to family, friends and acquaintances. And on the other hand, the employer and work colleagues - a step that many homosexual people do not dare to take - for fear of losing their jobs.

Josef Hotter has been working as a truck driver for a Salzburg transport company since 2000. He never hid his homosexuality and was calm about the teasing of two of his work colleagues. As the defamations got worse over time, Hotter sought support from his employer. His boss asked his colleagues more often to end the discrimination - unsuccessfully. Hotter was bullied for months - mocked with obscene sayings, his high-pitched voice was mocked scornfully, he was deliberately marginalized. Employees who talked to him were asked afterwards whether they were also gay because they were talking to him. However, when a colleague who had only been with the company for a week was also ridiculed for helping the truck driver, Hotter decided to intervene and in 2006 turned to the Homosexual Initiative (HOSI). More than a dozen Salzburg lawyers rejected him - until he met the lawyer Thomas Majoros. He sued under the Equal Opportunities Act, which has been in force since 2004, and demanded non-material damages. The court agreed with Hotter and fined the two warehouse workers. After the trial, not only did the workplace bullying stop - Hotter gained a lot of respect in the company. The judgment sent out an important signal for HOSI and the Equal Opportunities Commission. "It should encourage all lesbians and gays to defend themselves against discrimination in the world of work," says Kurt Krickler, Secretary General of the HOSI. Far too few affected people know what extensive protection the law against discrimination in the workplace offers. Believing that there was no point in defending themselves anyway, many have given up and come to terms with the disadvantages.

Anti-Discrimination Policy
Since July 1, 2004, the anti-discrimination directive of the European Union has been in force in Austria. Prohibited due to sexual orientation. Nevertheless, only a few homosexuals in Austria dare to come out in their professional life, the fear is still too great. "In view of the precarious situation on the labor market, it is to be feared that more and more disadvantages are being accepted with resignation out of fear for the job," says Kurt Krickler. For this reason, lesbians and gays often look for their niches in various professional fields in order to escape bullying and discrimination. "Many gays work as hairdressers, flight attendants or in service," says Krickler. "They are known for being friendly, the bosses often overlook their sexual orientation because they are great employees." Many homosexuals also find peace in self-employment - also in the creative and art and culture sectors. It is less about discrimination in everyday working life than about equality and the right to behave "normally".

The idea that a woman mentions her partner without being looked at crookedly seems unthinkable for many lesbian women. There is also no question that the gay colleague will bring his partner to the Christmas party. "Lesbians, gays and transsexuals do not want to be treated in any special way or even have a special status - but to be taken as people like everyone else," says Richard Ondraschek from the ÖGB topic group Lesbians, Gays and Transgender. “This also includes the right to a family. Why should homosexuals be worse parents than heterosexual couples? «It will probably take some time to break down prejudices with targeted education and to see homosexuals in the same way as other work colleagues.

Gay Cops Austria
"Sexual orientation shouldn't be an obstacle to a career, and nobody should have to hide for it," says ÖGB Vice President Sabine Oberhauser at the conference of the European Gay Police Association, the union of lesbians, gays and transgender people in the police force. The conference takes place every two years, this year the Gay Cops Austria took the role of organizers. The Gay Cops Austria are committed to raising awareness within the police in order to minimize prejudice and increase acceptance. The Viennese police recently started a campaign called “Advice and help for lesbians, gays and transgender people”. There is also an association of homosexuals in the health sector.

Double glass ceiling
On the very first day of the new law that allowed homosexual marriage in Iceland, the Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir married her long-term partner. Around 140,000 to 280,000 lesbian women of working age live in Austria. They have two burdens to bear - on the one hand, like heterosexual women, they are confronted with disadvantages compared to the male sex when it comes to income. On the other hand, because of their sexual orientation, they also have to fight for equality. This double glass ceiling steals a lot of energy, energy that could be used elsewhere.

Even if the legal situation for homosexuals in Austria has improved, the magic word for the individual company is »diversity management«. The perception and sensitization of the employees for people who differ from the majority of the employees in terms of their age, their social and national origin, their gender, their sexual orientation. Homosexual workers are supported by the Chamber of Labor and the Austrian Federation of Trade Unions. It is to be hoped that more and more people affected by bullying and discrimination will take legal action.
Incidentally, Josef Hotter is still working for the Salzburg transport company to this day. The lawsuit was never about the money alone, says Hotter. Because although he would have been entitled to a multiple of the sum, he deliberately sued for "only" 400 euros in damages. He justified his decision with the fact that he wanted no revenge, only justice.

Web links
Homosexuals in the healthcare system in Austria
www.homed.at
Gay Cops Austria: Gays and Lesbians in the Police
www.gaycopsaustria.at
International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA)
www.ilga.org
www.ilga-europe.org

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  • Author:
    Maja Nizamov, MA | Freelance journalist
  • Source:
    Work & Economy 07 + 08/2010
  • Date:
    15.07.2010 00:00