Every May 17, we gather as a global community to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT). Yes, it’s 2023 and we still need a day to call out the painful and persisting experiences of LGBTQ people with discrimination.
Across the world, LGBTQ+ advocates use this day as an inflection point to raise awareness for the issues facing the community and come together to combat the hate perpetrated against gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Currently, IDAHOT is recognized in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal, and it has grown in reach since starting in 2004. There’s significance baked into the date of IDAHOT, too. It was a specific choice to commemorate the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 1990 decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
And this year’s commemorations could not have come at a better time. In the US and countries worldwide, hate-filled rhetoric, actions, and legislation targeting LGBTQ folks and their livelihoods are running rampant.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), there have been over 474+ anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this legislative cycle in the United States — several of which have passed in states and put the jobs, livelihoods, health, and happiness of community members at direct risk. Opponents have doubled down their efforts and pushed forward bills attacking access to gender-affirming care, the art form of drag, safe pride festivals, educational resources, and more.
Globally, Human Rights Watch says there are at least 67 countries that have nationwide laws criminalizing same-sex relations between consenting adults. In several countries, same-sex relations are punishable with jail time and even a death sentence. Additionally, there are at least nine countries with national laws criminalizing forms of gender expression to effectively target transgender and gender-nonconforming people.
Transgender folks have become a particular focus of anti-LGBTQ bigots who seek to erase the community from the public eye as well as legislatively.
The Human Rights Campaign has been tracking the epidemic of fatal violence experienced by trans and non-binary individuals in the US since 2013. Just two years ago in 2021, at least 59 trans people were lost to violence and that figure tragically broke the record for annual deaths since HRC started tracking them. In 2023 so far, at least 11 people have been killed.
For bisexual, pansexual, queer, and fluid folks — who make up the majority of the LGBTQ community, according to a 2023 Gallup poll — the hate often manifests itself in consistent invalidation and questioning of a person’s sexuality. Refrains like: “You’re gay and just don’t want to say it,” “It’s just a phase,” “I was bi, too, when I first came out,” and many more are lobbed at bi+ folks from people inside the community and out of it.
That doubt restricts bi+ people, inadvertently keeping some in the closet and causing others to falsely identify as monosexual (i.e. gay or lesbian) when that’s not their full story. Bi+ folks also experience greater physical and mental health disparities than others in the community.
So, what can we do to fight these issues and the horrible homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia that is far too common for the 21st century? Here are a few ways to make a difference:
- Practice active allyship with LGBTQ folks: Whether you’re a cisgender and/or straight ally to the community or a community member seeking to support the other “letters,” we all must unite and take action in staunch opposition to the anti-LGBTQ hate.
- Call out anti-LGBTQ rhetoric consistently: There is great power in saying that you do not agree with someone’s offensive comment or prejudice in the moment, and telling them that such commentary is unacceptable. Do not be an accomplice to someone else’s hate.
- Share resources (like this article!) on your social media: Disseminating educational guides, action plans, research, and more — all available on sexualbeing.org — with your networks can help reach some folks who may need them the most.
- Demand action from your local and federal lawmakers: Keep up-to-date on any LGBTQ-related legislation active in your area, and push on the state, local, and federal levels for continued government action.
A world free of LGBTQ hate is a future worth fighting for. This International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, let’s keep that goal at the front of our minds, and do our parts to break down these horrific walls of violence and discrimination.
For more information on issues facing the LGBTQ community, visit sexualbeing.org.