Today advocates of LGBT equality around the world observed the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, an annual event on May 17 that raises awareness about the struggles of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender non-conforming people to gain acceptance in society.
The campaign is held to draw attention to and combat negative attitudes towards the LGBT community, as well as to educate about specific LGBT issues. “Homophobia is an insidious process that channels its effects through subtle, even disguised, ways. No one is safe from hostile manifestations of homosexuality,” the event's website notes. This year’s goal is to dispel narrow stereotypes about relationships among gay and lesbian couples. “Just as with opposite-sex couples, commitment, support, mutual assistance, equality, being counterparts, and task sharing represent some of the values defended by same-sex couples,” it states.
The IDAHOT was established by Canada’s Fondation Émergence, an organization dedicated to the well-being and equality of LGBT people. It began in 2003 as a national holiday, and now takes place every year on May 17 to commemorate the day in 1990 that homosexuality was finally eliminated as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organization. The official website provides flyers, pamphlets, and other promotional materials for people to get involved and spread the word about LGBT equality. A global web portal has consolidated information about news and activities related to the event.
Different regions are marking the IDAHOT in varied and creative ways. In London, pop icon Lady Gaga became editor-in-chief of Metro newspaper for a day and highlighted issues pertinent to LGBT equality in Metro’s May 17th editions across 18 countries. In Australia, Amnesty International will have a vigil in memory of community heroes who have suffered violence for who they are. Vigils will also be held in Hong Kong and Nigeria, and a conference will take place in Italy on “the rights of person” according to their Constitution.
In the U.S., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton affirmed her and President Obama’s commitment to supporting the LGBT community. “We are committed to our friends and allies in every region of the world who are fighting for equality and justice. These are not Western concepts; these are universal human rights. … If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, know that the United States stands with you and we are unwavering in our commitment to ending this cycle of hate.”
In addition, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay created a new video message addressing hate crimes against LGBT people in Brazil, Honduras, South Africa and elsewhere in the past few months, stressing that they reflect a systematic problem rather than isolated incidents. “Each and every one of us is entitled to the same rights, to the same respect and ethical treatment, regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity,” she points out.
GLAAD encourages readers to attend local events to observe the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. We will continue to monitor media coverage of the celebrations and ensure that LGBT voices are heard.