This article was published on May 12th, 2022
When the idea of International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) was conceived in 2004, it was a time of great hope for the LGBTQ+ communities. It was a time when there seemed to be so much progress being made. Many saw this as an indication that people were finally ready to embrace the diversity of human experiences, and that they would reject the fear-based prejudices of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia.
And yet, close to two decades later, we are still dealing with homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and so much more around the world. This day is important to recognize that this discrimination is happening, to remember those who have died for being who they are and to show support for those who are still fighting. IDAHOT is a day to celebrate how far we’ve come and how far we have left to go.
The importance of this day cannot be understated. It brings together citizens who wish to combat prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. As such it is an invaluable tool for changing attitudes on a global scale.
The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is an annual observance held on May 17th. It was originally known as the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO). Louis Georges Tin, a French professor and human rights advocate, was the founder (and acted as its Chairperson until he resigned in 2013). However, it wasn’t until 2005 when the day was first celebrated.
It commemorates the World Health Organization’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness in 1990. It is a day for communities around the world to recognize the social injustice and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
There are many events organized around this day, including rallies and marches, film screenings, conferences, and art exhibits. The date was chosen because of the historical relevance it holds. May 17, 1990, was the day that homosexuality was removed from the 10th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which had been published by the World Health Organization since 1946. The ICD had been used by psychiatrists worldwide as a diagnostic tool, but with this change it became obvious that being gay is no longer considered an illness.
The removal of homosexuality from the ICD was only one small step towards equality for LGBTQ+ people, and in many ways it’s symbolic that it happened on a day dedicated to fighting stigma against them. Since then, there have been huge leaps forward in terms of visibility and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in countries all around the world, but there’s still a long way to go before they’re equal members of society everywhere.
Because despite the progress made in recent years, the world still fails to be the safe and loving place that it should be for LGBTQ+ people, who are still regularly victims of violence, discrimination, and hate.
Yet there are also many reasons to feel hopeful. Over the last few years there have been some historic victories for equality and justice around the world. In America, same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states. And across the globe, there are now over seventy countries where same-sex marriage is recognized by law or in practice. There’s been major progress when it comes to LGBTQ+ youth too: for example in England, Scotland and Wales, homophobic bullying is now illegal in schools.
In addition to this, transgender issues are being talked about more frequently in the media than ever before. You may have seen Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC’s 20/20 and trans visibility is becoming more prevalent than ever. This has helped many people become more aware of gender identity issues and led to greater empathy toward trans people.
But it is also a period of great uncertainty and continued struggle for many members of the LGBTQ+ community. The number of hate crimes against trans people has been rising steadily since 2013, especially among young black men. Laws advocating for equal rights for LGBTQ+ citizens are still being met with violent resistance by some segments of society.
Yet these struggles are also giving rise to greater solidarity within the LGBTQ+ communities themselves as well as new alliances between gay and straight citizens who want to see full equality for all members of society regardless of race, gender identity or sexual orientation.
The story of IDAHOT really started in 1969, when a police raid on New York’s Stonewall Inn gay club led to riots over several days by members of the LGBT community. The riots are often considered the starting point for the modern gay rights movement.
It was shortly after that, in 1973, that the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. It had previously been listed alongside pedophilia and bestiality in their diagnostic handbook as a mental disorder that needed treatment.
In 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
In 1994, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that outlawing homosexuality was a violation of privacy and freedom of expression.
The idea of IDAHOT was conceived in 2004 to remember and celebrate the progress made in LGBT rights, while also acknowledging that there is still much work to be done to ensure full equality for all people who identify as queer. The inaugural IDAHOT was held in 2005 in more than 130 countries.
Since 2009, transphobia has been included in the campaign name with biphobia added as well in 2015.
It can be hard to find support if you’re LGBTQ+. People might not understand who you are, and that can be frustrating. It can also be hard to find information about LGBTQ+ issues, because the media often doesn’t talk about them or doesn’t get it right. It can feel lonely when people don’t know or accept who you are.
People who are LGBTQ+ deal with these issues and many more every day—and not just on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia!
Some countries have laws against being LGBTQ+ that include punishment like prison sentences whereas other countries have no laws against being LGBTQ+, but still have laws that make it hard to get married or adopt children. It’s important for everyone to learn more about what life is like for LGBTQ+ people around the world so we can help make things better for everyone.
In honor of this special day, here are a few tips on how you can help make your school, workplace, and community a more welcoming place for everyone:
- Join your local Pride march and post on your social media about the march and the importance of pride
- Donate to an organization that works in LGBTQ+ rights
- Donate to a charity that supports individuals who have been attacked or lost their lives due to transphobia
- Volunteer with an LGBTQ+ organization, whether it’s working at their office or volunteering in the community
- Post on social media about how friends, family, and co-workers can support the LGBTQ+ community.