I hope to be a small part in creating spaces I didn't have when I was younger


Em Readman from the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team talks about the importance of having a safe space to be authentically yourself in honour of IDAHOBIT Day.

I was not a very active first-year University student. I went to my classes, and completed my assignments, but I didn’t make many friends.

I hesitated before asking questions, or getting too involved in political discussions. It was 2017, I was not publicly open about my LGBTIQA+ identity and it was the year of the same-sex marriage plebiscite. It was a time of heightened debate and division, and most organisations did not take a public stance on the vote. 

I remember looking around my university and feeling let down. I remember hearing comments that, as a closeted young person, caused a lot of pain. Whether or not my community deserved the same rights as other people was hotly debated and dissected, and I felt frozen because getting involved meant opening myself up to that scrutiny. 

At the end of my first year, in the throes of exam stress, I heard that the plebiscite had returned a ‘Yes’. I felt a weight come off my shoulders. 

In the following years at my University, I saw things shift. While that vote didn’t change everything, it made a significant difference in supporting visibility for LGBTIQA+ staff and students. Research papers about the impact of the plebiscite were published by my University. I saw small changes in language and a couple more people wearing rainbow pride lanyards around campus. In my third year, I came out publicly and was met with support from my growing community. 

On graduation, I was a confident, authentic, engaged and high-achieving graduate that I knew my first-year self would be in awe of. 

IDAHOBIT is the International Day against LGBTIQA+ Discrimination. IDAHOBIT is on May 17 to acknowledge the day that homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases in 1990. Now, it’s almost unbelievable that it was ever included in that document. Similarly, the legalisation of same-sex marriage feels both like it happened yesterday and decades ago. IDAHOBIT is a day to reflect. It is a day to remember how far we’ve come. 

IDAHOBIT is an important day to me for the work I do now in the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team at Murdoch Univeristy. My work helps staff and students bring their full selves to study or work, building a supportive environment where people feel heard and respected. 

In a way, it feels full circle. I hope to be a small part of creating spaces that I didn’t have when I was younger, and nothing encourages me more than the next generation coming through.

Last week I had the honour of meeting with some first-year scholarship students. We had a fantastic conversation, full of laughter and innovative ideas they shared with me. Already, they are committed to building a brighter future, together. 

What struck me about these students was how sure and confident they are, either in their own LGBTIQA+ identity, or in how they are allies towards their friends. Their understanding, respect and advocacy were nothing short of inspiring. The conversation made me realise how much change has happened, even in the short time since I was in their shoes. I feel a sense of pride in knowing that many of the students of today are living their lives as their authentic selves. 

When I try to explain this shift to my colleagues, I like to call it the ‘left-handed effect’. The number of people who used their left hand to write grew exponentially, and then plateaued when being left-handed wasn’t punished or looked down on.

Having the space to be who you are is invaluable. 

While I know there are still challenges ahead and more progress to come, the progress that we have made is helping the next generation to be their authentic selves. That is something to have pride in. 

This is what IDAHOBIT is about, looking back so we can reflect on the present, and look further towards a more inclusive future.

Posted on:

16 May 2024



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