How are LGBTQ+ rights travelling in Australia?

Pride protest

PRIDE month presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on how much has changed for the LGBTQI+ community during the past 10 years or so, in Australia and abroad. The history of LGBTQI+ rights internationally and domestically looks a little like this …

2009 – Legislation passes to remove discrimination against same-sex couples from 85 federal laws.

2011Australian passports introduce three gender options male, female and indeterminate or ‘x’ gender.

2013 – An amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

2014 – ACT allows transgender individuals to change the sex on their birth certificate without medical intervention. And in 2016, South Australia also allows for birth certificates to be altered.

2017 – Same-sex marriage bill passes the House of Representatives, clearing the way for same-sex marriage in Australia. 

2018 – From January, same-sex couples can be legally married across Australia.

2020 South Australia, the ACT, NSW and the Northern Territory all provide gender-neutral options for birth certificates, including non-binary, indeterminate, intersex, other and unknown.

Busy city street

What does this mean for corporate travel?

Despite landmark decisions and policy changes in Australia, and countries around the world, there are still barriers and efforts to isolate and discriminate against the LGBTQ+ population. This can come into sharp focus when business travel is on the agenda. To put it in perspective, let’s take a look at some travel focused statistics:

  • LGBTQ+ travellers make up 7-10% of the travel industry, amounting to about $1 billion in the United States alone (CMI, 2020-2021)
  • 32% of LGBTQ+ travellers feel they are treated differently due to their sexuality while on holiday (Virgin Holidays, 2016)
  • 82% of LGBTQ+ travellers consider a destination’s laws before travelling for their holiday ( and Attitude, 2021)
  • three quarters ruled out travel to destinations where homosexuality is illegal.

Making confident LGBTQ+ business travel decisions

While business travel might be considered a ‘perk’ by some employees, for others it holds an added level of stress and complexity – and for marginalised travellers their safety can also be at risk.

The treatment of LGBTQI+ travellers can be linked to a country’s political climate, cultural nuances, religious beliefs, inclusiveness and social etiquette. As such company travel managers and travellers themselves, need to have a solid understanding of where their people or their employees are travelling to and if an individual’s personal safety or security could be compromised.

Discrimination has no borders and even unexpected countries can present challenges. It’s also important to note that while Australian passports comply with international standards for sex and gender, people travelling on passports showing 'X' in the sex field may, for various reasons, encounter difficulties when crossing international borders.

According to the Smartraveller website ‘the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can’t guarantee that a passport showing 'X' in the sex field will be accepted for entry or transit by another country’.

Understandably some in the LGBTQ+ community may be nervous about travelling to certain locations. This is why PRIDE month and the conversations held as part of the movement are so important for travel and industry.

Corporate travel programs that take LGBTQ+ travel into consideration are naturally going to be more inclusive and supportive for employees no matter how they identify.

If your organisation has a bit of work to do on making your travel program more inclusive consider starting an employee resources group, surveying employees anonymously, or appointing a head of DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) to focus on LGBTQ+ corporate travel needs.

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