Up until 1990, homosexuality was listed on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The same year, on 17 May, homosexuality was officially declassified as a mental disorder. That’s why in 2004 when the concept for the day was being conceived, 17 May was picked as the yearly date on which the international day against homophobia (transphobia and biphobia were added a few years after) would be celebrated.
Now celebrated globally, the international day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia is a coordination of international events that raise awareness of LGBTQ rights violations and stimulate interest in LGBTQ rights work. After a year-long campaign to implement the day, in 2005, the founder of the day, Louis-Georges Tin, established the IDAHO Committee, which would coordinate grass-roots actions in different countries in order to promote the day and to lobby for official recognition on 17 May.
24,000 individuals as well as organisations such as the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the World Congress of LGBT Jews, and the Coalition of African Lesbians signed an appeal to support the IDAHO initiative. Further along the line, activities for the day took place in more and more countries, including the first LGBT events ever to take place in the Congo, China, and Bulgaria.
According to the IDAHO Committee’s summary report, in 2016, the commemorations had taken place in 132 countries across the globe.
Transphobia was added to the name of the campaign in 2009 and activities that year focused primarily on the violence and discrimination against transgender people. A new petition was launched in cooperation with LGBTQ organizations in 2009, and it was supported by more than 300 NGOs from 75 countries, as well as three Nobel Prize winners (Elfriede Jelinek, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, and Luc Montagnier).
On the eve of 17 May, 2009, France became the first country in the world to officially remove transgender issues from its list of mental illnesses.
Biphobia was added to the name of the campaign in 2015.
Many countries still criminalise same-sex relationships, which means that millions of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans people are unable to live their lives freely and are subject to punishments, abuse and violence. The IDAHO is frequently used as a platform for organising initiatives to advance the fight for the rights of LGBTQI+ groups in many countries, especially in those where homosexuality is criminalised.
In Europe and Latin America, the day is commemorated with public events in almost all countries. The date is also marked in multiple countries where same-sex relationships are still criminalised as a day to protest and take actions such as large-scale street marches, parades and festivals.
In Cuba, Mariela Castro, the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education as well as the National Commission for Comprehensive Attention to Transsexual People has led out a huge street parade in honour of 17 May for the past 3 years. In Chile in 2013, 50,000 people took to the streets to mark the day.
In 2013, Bangladeshi activists organised the music festival Love Music Hate Homophobia. In 2012 and 2013, Albanian LGBTQ activists have been organising an annual Bike (P)Ride through the streets of Tirana.
On Friday 17 May, 2019, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legally recognise same-sex marriage. In Nepal, this day is celebrated as the international day against queer / MOGAI-phobia as well as the international day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia.
The main purpose here is to raise awareness of violence, discrimination, and repression of LGBTQI+ communities worldwide, which in turn provides an opportunity to take action and engage in dialogue with the media, policymakers, public opinion and our society in general.
Last weekend, London held it’s first-ever Trans+ Pride, and it was both a protest against discrimination and the lack of basic human rights of trans folks, and a celebration of the community, its achievements, resilience, and hard work. The event was organised by trans activist and entrepreneur Lucia Blayke and turned out to be a great success.
“It’s a big job and to be honest, I have absolutely no experience or resources” joked Blayke while speaking to Screen Shot. Lucia was overwhelmed with the responses and said the best part for her was helping trans people “feel so much stronger and comfortable in themselves,” by bringing the community together. Screen Shot also spoke to London-based model, trans activist, and fashion queen Olivia Nutton, aka @glam_clam, who also attended Trans+ Pride, and said that the event helped her feel a “sense of community and how together everyone was.”
It is poignant that London, considered the 4th most LGBTQ+ friendly city in the world, only held its first trans pride in 2019. It certainly feels overdue, but this also serves as a strong reminder that there is still a long journey ahead of us before we reach full inclusivity. Sadly, all members of the trans community experience discrimination, prejudice, and harassment in one form or another, which is why Trans+ Pride is so monumentally important.
It is a march for healthcare, social housing, education, workplace employment laws, representation, trans refugees, and “it is a definite long list,” says Nutton. All of these are still lacking in the U.K., something that is evident in the scarcity of GPs trained in transgender health issues, the long waiting lists for appointments at gender identity clinics (there are only seven of those in the whole of England), as well as the fear of transgender refugees of being deported back to their countries of origin, where they risk their lives for being who they are.
The idea behind the Trans+ Pride was partly a response to the hijacking of Pride in London in 2018 by a group of anti-trans campaigners, when the organisers of Pride failed to remove protesters from Get The L Out, a TERF lesbian group advocating against transgenderism. Blayke says that “trans people are not being included as much and are being invalidated for the way they express their gender, even within the LGBT community.” Transgender people are actively excluded from what is supposed to be their own community, so it is only natural that they would have to go and form their own—which is what Blayke did when she created Trans+ Pride.
The thing is, Pride didn’t just become more exclusionary of members of the trans community, but has also been criticised for becoming commercial and corporate, and as Nutton says, “it just turned into a party where straight people get drunk and don’t really do anything else.” Yes, it is nice to see people want to come and show their support as allies; in some ways, it is also nice to see big corporations try and take a step into the right direction. But what do companies like Barclays or Deloitte really do for LGBTQ+ communities while marching in Pride, apart from taking space away from those who need visibility most? Where are the actual companies by LGBTQ+ members who are working towards improving the lives of marginalised communities?
Essentially, these spaces have been taken away from those who are less represented, which is why Blayke made it her duty to not only bring them back but create a Pride that is “A lot less pink-washed and a lot less corporate, letting trans people be in the spotlight.” Blayke has already started planning Trans+ Pride 2020, hoping it will only get bigger and better, but dodging big corporations and sponsors in order to avoid it turning commercial. “It is a community for people to fall back on and a support system for trans people to use,” and that is what she hopes to keep it as.
So, until 2020, remember to celebrate the community and advocate for inclusivity every day, “call out transphobia in your daily lives,” and be kind to one another.