Everyone deserves to be treated as equal, and have the same opportunities and experiences as the person next to them. The LGBTI community isn’t new to the fight for equality, but fortunately, it seems to be one that’s progressing positively.
The plebiscite on marriage equality at the end of 2017 was a challenging, vulnerable, confronting and exciting time for Australia. For Medibank Telehealth Service Level Manager, Simon Clements, this was not only an important step for the country, but also a reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done.
May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOTB), a day dedicated to creating awareness of the discrimination experienced by LGBTI members. Personally, for Simon, it’s a reminder of the ongoing journey towards equality.
“We’re not 100% there yet. There are members of our community who are still not treated equally and still have obstacles to face. IDAHOTB sends a message to members of the LGBTI community that they are perfect just the way they are. There’s no need to hide, there’s nothing wrong with us.”
Simon says that although the end result of the plebiscite was a long overdue ‘Yes’, the experience still had its sad moments.
“The whole process brought back the feeling of not being sure of who you are. You almost start to question yourself again and how people see you. There were definitely times when I felt like I was actually being scrutinised by society.”
Although the plebiscite is over and the Nation now acknowledges marriage equality, it’s still vital for the LGBTI community, along with its allies, to keep marching on to reach a point of equality.
“It’s really important for us to understand that the ‘Yes’ vote was just one part of a much bigger picture. We all need to stay visible, we need to be heard because that’s what’s going to get us to where we want to be, a place we’ve been crawling towards for decades.”
Speaking from his own experiences, Simon has a deep understanding of why it’s so important to keep the conversation going.
“There are always people out there who are going through struggles that other people have already gone through. Luckily, I’ve been able to be myself for a very long time and am very comfortable with who I am, but not everyone is there yet. When we continue the conversation and actively work towards equality, there becomes a safe place and environment where there’s always someone to talk to.”
Simon with his Medibank colleagues on Wear It Purple Day in 2017.
As a strong advocate for the LGBTI community, Medibank was an active voice throughout the plebiscite and fearless in showing its support.
“Medibank does not shy away from discussions about diversity and inclusion, which is incredible and admirable. We’re encouraged to talk openly and freely about it and be willing to have discussions with fellow employees,” says Simon.
“Especially with the different diversity networks we have, there was always support when we needed it. Medibank standing behind the ‘Yes’ vote made me really proud to be a part of it. It wasn’t something the company had to do but did it anyway. The office was a very comfortable place to be during the plebiscite, it exudes acceptance.”
Medibank’s backing of diversity and inclusion isn’t limited to the support it has for the LGBTI community, it’s also inclusive of all different cultures, religions, and abilities amongst others.
“Medibank has such a positive environment, where everyone is encouraged to have open communication. It’s so important to acknowledge what makes us different but also what unites us. Medibank’s focus on diversity and inclusion definitely works to our benefit rather than to our detriment.”
Despite the business positioning itself as a strong advocate of the ‘Yes’ vote, there was still an acknowledgment of those who were voting against it. This was important for the business and was carried out in the best way possible.
“Medibank did a great job acknowledging that it is a divisive vote. They promoted a respectful debate and expressed that we can have different views on life but get through it as human beings.”
Simon (left) with his partner Sean.
The company’s purpose of ‘Better Health for Better Lives’ is a holistic concept that puts focus on different areas with the aim of creating a healthier life. It’s emotional, it’s physical, it’s mental, and it’s spiritual. When all of these areas are in sync, the result is a better life. In addition to these, Simon says that, ultimately, what makes the best life is being your true self.
“There’s an element of better health in simply being who you are. It can be hard to explain to someone who, fortunately, hasn’t had to hide a piece of themselves but there is this deep feeling of liberation. When you can finally say “this is me and I’m happy with who I am”, you feel a sense of perfection in a world that isn’t always so perfect.”