Read the interview with Sérgio Cardoso, Professor of Engineering at Insper and member of the School’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee
This Monday, May 17, marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. In line with the Insper Community’s goal of becoming an agent of transformation to build a better society for future generations, we talked about the matter with Sérgio Cardoso, Professor of Engineering at Insper and member of the School’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee:
1 – Why is May 17th the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia?
For many decades, homosexuality was not considered a sexual orientation, but a mental illness. It was only in 1990, on this date, that the WHO (World Health Organization) withdrew homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases. This was a big step, the result of claims made by activists since the 1960s. For this reason, for example, we have stopped using the suffix “ism” a long time ago, when referring to homosexuality – precisely because of it, in fact, not being a disease, but a variety of human sexuality.
2 – What are homophobia, transphobia and biphobia?
Homophobia – like other LGBTQIA+phobias – consists in not recognizing the existence of identities other than cisgender as valid and deserving of respect (cisgender people are those who identify with their birth sex), and also of sexual orientation other than heterosexuality – for instance, lesbians, homosexuals, bisexuals, asexuals and others.
Homophobia was structured, historically, as a system of oppression of people, social groups, their values, cultures and socio-emotional behavior, promoting hatred against them and exclusion.
Based on the incorrect understanding that there would be a certain way of being and behavior considered natural and more correct to experience human sexualities, major social groups are opposed to the fact that gender and sexual relations and identities are plural and also socially and culturally constructed.
Homophobia is caused, then, by the lack of knowledge about it, which can be treated with information, study and listening to a fellow human. Homophobia is contagious, as it affects even LGbTQIA+ people who, due to social pressure, take heterosexuality as the norm and self-recriminate to feel accepted. This process is called internalized homophobia.
Therefore, homophobic practices affect society in general, as they produce prejudice, subtle or explicit discrimination, obstruct study and work opportunities, fragment family, friendships and relationships, generate exclusion, mental illness and death, whether by homicides or even suicides, and affect the economy and politics of a country.
3 – Why is the fight against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia still necessary?
It is still necessary because homophobia still causes death of many people.
These are deaths whose only motivation is the victims’ gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
The understanding that people who do not meet certain expectations of gender and/or sexual orientation can (or even should) be discriminated against, excluded, raped and killed is still very naturalized in Brazil.
We have already made some progress in tackling inequalities in general. In the field of sexual and gender diversity, it was no different. The very removal of homosexuality from the list of diseases was one of the most important achievements in the last 30 years.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the right to same-gender marriage in Brazil. And we had, in 2019, the approval of a law that criminalizes homophobia and transphobia.
There was an increase in the number of adoptions of children by LGBTQIA+ people, and we had the removal of a discriminatory restriction that prevented blood donation by this population.
Even with some important civil milestones, like these, we are, however, still the country with the highest rate of murder of LGBTQIA+ people, especially Trans people, whose life expectancy does not exceed 35 years, according to support organizations.
4 – What has been done to fight homophobia at Insper?
One of Insper’s foundations is the appreciation of diversity. Due to the Strategic Planning for the next 10 years, we are structuring the policy on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in order to recognize the value of differences and how we can bring more diversity into the School and grow with them and become a reference.
For this reason, we have a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, which improves its reception channels and plans actions to attract more diversity, increase the sense of belonging and cause social transformation. We have MultiInsper, which welcomes and advises students so well in their vicissitudes. The Inspride Student Collective seeks to welcome students, valuing and supporting LGBQTIA+ journeys. We promote and make use of inclusive communication, which reflects gender and sexual diversity.
Recently, we had the inauguration of a gender-neutral bathroom, which, proudly, adds up to the multiple experiences that the School brings together.
5 – If the date is not a celebration, does it serve its role to raise awareness?
The date itself is not considered a commemorative date for the LGBTQIA+ population, but rather a moment of awareness. It evokes the need to be informed, to debate about the issue and create more social mobilization so that we can continue pushing forward towards dignity. It emphasizes the collective aspect of these achievements and the attention to the maintenance of civil, political, social and human rights acquired at great costs.
With the criminalization of homophobia and transphobia in Brazil, this date also leads us to reflect on the criminal risk and responsibility of each Brazilian citizen. When carrying out a homophobic act, which goes against human dignity, people will be charged criminally.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee
As a knowledge production and learning organization, we at the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee invite you to learn and reflect on the harmful impacts of homophobia around the world. We want to make the Insper Community a place of belonging, recognition and valuing of Diversity for all forms of being and loving.
Follow the video interview: