A Worldwide Celebration of Sexual and Gender Diversities
On May 17th, AGATA Resource Centre Inc., commemorates the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia 2022 (IDAHOTB 2022). Observed in more than one-hundred and thirty countries globally, IDAHOTB brings our attention to the discrimination and violence that members of the LGBTQQIP2SAA+* communities have historically faced and continue to face today.
The acronym LGBTQQIP2SAA+ and its different variants, refers to either a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Sexual orientation is a person’s physical, emotional, and romantic attraction to another person (e.g., straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, etc.), while gender identity describes a person’s internal sense of being female, male, or someone outside of that gender binary. In the 1980s and 1990s, the LGBT acronym (which stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender” respectively) gained popularity and was adopted by many activist organizations representing the interests of people who don’t identify as heterosexual, straight, or cisgender. To capture the diversity of people who do not identify as heterosexual, straight, or cisgender, several more letters were added to the acronym, as well as a plus sign, which serves the dual purpose of acknowledging members of the community who do not identify with any of the letters within the acronym, and also represents the idea that gender and sexuality cannot neatly be captured by any one identity label, and as such there will always exist a possibility for the emergence of a new language around gender and sexual expression.
Although members of the LGBTQQIP2SAA+ community have struggled for recognition and acceptance for many decades, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia actually originated in the early years of the 21st century and was initially called “International Day Against Homophobia”. While most histories go back to 2004, when a campaign began in which individuals and organizations such as the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the Coalition of African Lesbians signed a petition to support the creation of an International Day Against Homophobia (or the “IDAHO initiative”), it is lesser known that the idea for the day originated a year earlier, when the Quebec based organization Fondation Émergence created a National Day Against Homophobia, which was held on June 1, 2003.
The first International Day Against Homophobia was held on May 17th, 2005 – not June 1st, as the International IDAHO Organizing Committee wanted to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Consequently, in 2006, the Fondation Émergence also changed the date of its National Day Against Homophobia from June 1st to align with the global celebration on May 17th. Two more terms were explicitly added to the title of the name since – transphobia (added in 2009) and biphobia (added in 2015), in recognition of the specific issues faced by transgender and bisexual people.
Today, despite all the work that has been done in the past, the fight against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia is more urgent than ever. Laws criminalizing same-sex relationships and diverse forms of gender expression can be found in nearly 40 of the 130 countries that celebrate IDAHOTB – and in 6 of the countries that do not celebrate the day, same-sex relationship law violations are punishable by death! Equally alarming is that even in countries considered “progressive,” there is a trend towards growing discrimination. In the United States of America, for instance, nearly 240 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed in 2022 thus far, most of them targeting trans people – a huge jump from 41 such bills filed in 2018 (Lavietes and Ramos, 2022). Even in countries like Canada, where legislation has actually improved in recent years (especially since the banning of conversion therapy and the possibility as identifying with “gender x” on official documentation), police reported 263 hate crime incidents targeting LGBTQ individuals in 2019, which is a 41% increase over the previous year and the highest total since 2009. Moreover, most of the violence aimed at gender and sexually diverse people goes on unreported, often hidden under the guise of microaggressions – and this type of pervasive violence and lack of recognition results in negative mental health consequence, such as major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and drug abuse or dependence (Cozzolino, 2021).
This year’s IDAHOTB annual theme is: “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights.” While this is a great theme under which many forms of advocacy are possible, we must also remember that unlike adults, transgender children still do not have the legal right to make autonomous decisions and access hormone blockers. This is one area where more work needs to be done, especially that there are many medical professionals who still pathologize gender variance through the notion of the still acceptable “gender identity disorder (GAD)” designation. Mental health professionals play a huge role in the fight against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia, especially given that gender and sexually diverse people are often at the intersections of multiple oppressions (e.g., women, Black, Indigenous, low socio-economic status, etc.). In relation to intersectionality, it should also be added that even within LGBTQQIP2SAA+ safe spaces, people of colour often have to fight for respect, equality and for their voices to be heard. For instance, Nik Redman, a long-time Toronto activist, a Black transgender man, and the founder of “Blockorama/Blackness Yes” (which is the longest running stage at Toronto Pride and was the first dedicated to the Black diaspora), explains that “it’s been challenging working with Pride Toronto because they also failed to recognize the contributions of the Black queer community here in Toronto, the Black trans community” (Sengupta, 2020). In fact, the Blockorama/Blackness Yes stage was actually removed from Pride, when Pride made it the festival’s main stage and pushed Blockorama out in 2007, forcing the event to relocate multiple times over the next few years (it has since been reinstated thanks to the efforts of multiple activists like Redman). It is therefore crucial that we recognize and speak out against the erasure of Black LGBTQQIP2SAA+ voices from mainstream media coverage.
This International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia is our time to celebrate those with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and sex characteristics, ensuring their voices are heard, and they have all the support and love needed to fight against stigma, prejudice, and outdated notions about what it means to be human.
In the words of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
Everyone deserves to be able to have pride in who they are and to live a true, authentic life – free from discrimination and persecution – regardless of who they love or who they are. Today, and every day, I invite Canadians to stand up for LGBTQ2 rights and celebrate the diversity and strength of our communities. Together, we must challenge stigma, denounce prejudice, and condemn violence to build a safer, more compassionate, and more inclusive country.Statement by the prime minister on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. Prime Minister of Canada. (2021, May 17). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/statements/2021/05/17/statement-prime-minister-international-day-against-homophobia
*LGBTQQIP2SAA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Queer, Intersex, Pansexual, Two-spirit (2S), Androgynous and Asexual.
Further reading: 31 Different Pride Flags and What Each Stand For – Marie Claire, April 1st, 2022. https://www.marieclaire.com/culture/g32867826/lgbt-pride-flags-guide/#section-1978-1999-pride-flag
And the 2022 annual theme is…. ~ May17.org. May17.org. (2022, February 1). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://may17.org/the-theme-for-2022-is-out/
Boisvert, N. (2022, April 14). Canada’s LGBTQ population now 1 million – but hate crimes are rising too: Statistics Canada | CBC News. CBCnews. Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/statistics-canada-lgbtq-pride-report-1.6066638
Cozzolino, M. (2021, May 17). International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and biphobia. MyScienceWork. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.mysciencework.com/omniscience/international-day-against-homophobia-transphobia-biphobia
History of May 17th (IDAHOTB). Queer Events. (2021, May 7). Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://www.queerevents.ca/queer-history/articles/history-of-idahot
International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and biphobia (IDAHOTB) explained. How to Help Refugees – Aid, Relief and Donations. (2021, May 16). Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://www.unrefugees.org/news/international-day-against-homophobia-transphobia-and-biphobia-idahotb-explained/#How%20many%20countries%20protect%20LGBTI%20rights
Lavietes, M., & Ramos, E. (2022, March 20). Nearly 240 anti-LGBTQ bills filed in 2022 so far, most of them targeting trans people. NBCNews.com. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/nearly-240-anti-lgbtq-bills-filed-2022-far-targeting-trans-people-rcna20418
Le, K. (2021, June 23). What do each of the letters in LGBTQIA+ mean? GoodRx. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.goodrx.com/health-topic/lgbtq/meaning-of-lgbtqia
LGBTQ2S: Important events related to the LGBTQ2S community in Canada. The Canadian Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/timeline/lgbtq2
Ryu, C. (2021, May 17). International Day Against Homophobia,Transphobia and biphobia ⋆ DMYH Dorset Mind your head. DMYH Dorset Mind Your Head. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://dorsetmindyourhead.co.uk/international-day-against-homophobiatransphobia-and-biphobia/
Sengupta, J. (2020, June 28). In a time of protest, Black LGBTQ voices rise | CBC News. CBCnews. Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/all-black-lives-matter-black-lgbtq-voices-1.5627988
Statement by the prime minister on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. Prime Minister of Canada. (2021, May 17). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/statements/2021/05/17/statement-prime-minister-international-day-against-homophobia