International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, Biphobia — IDAHOT: Are We More Enlightened?

May 17 marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, or IDAHOT, and while there have been several significant steps in the fight for greater rights for those who identify along the LGBTQ spectrum, it is fairly clear we still have a long way to go.

World Bank says to fight poverty, we need to look at eliminating homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia. It’s estimated that members of the LGBTQ population are actually overrepresented among the world’s poor because they face near-constant stigma, and it seems to be even worse for those who identify as transgender. On a day like IDAHOT, it would be nice to believe that the global society has become far more accepting of those who are on the LGBTQ spectrum, but for some in less developed countries, this is not the case.

Members of the transgender community in India, for instance, deal with “discrimination to contest election, right to vote, employment, to get licences etc. and, in effect, treated as an outcast and untouchable,” according to the Supreme Court of India. This sort of behavior is unacceptable in the extreme, and the sad part is that it will take a lot more than IDAHOT to fix the issue.

UNESCO, for instance, is hosting Out in the Open, where international education ministers will meet and discuss for the first time the transphobic and homophobic violence that occurs in schools in some countries. According to the United Nations Global Report, “up to 85% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) students, in some countries, experience violence, including bullying, at school, while students who are not LGBTQ, but are perceived not to conform to gender norms are also targets.”

IDAHOT aims to educate people about the dangers of transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia. While education might be in the crosshairs of the UN, phobias and violence related to those who do not conform to gender norms or to those who identify as being lesbian, gay, transgender, transsexual, bisexual, or anywhere along the LGBTQ spectrum can occur anywhere and at any time.

North Carolina recently enacted a law which, simply stated, requires those who identify as transgender to use the bathroom that aligns with their birth gender.

According to Yahoo News, “[House Bill 2] is causing ongoing and serious harm to transgender people in North Carolina and must be put on hold while it is reviewed by the court,” said Chris Brook, the legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina.

Several stories involving transphobia have erupted in the wake of the introduction of this legislation, prompting me to wonder whether or not IDAHOT really and truly packs a punch.

While it would be wonderful to say that IDAHOT is doing wonderful things throughout the globe, it will take more efforts than flying rainbow flags and acknowledgements that people have rights to live and love the person they choose to love. IDAHOT is truly a positive step in the world of advocacy; governments like the Liberal one in Canada table legislation designed to prevent transgender individuals from facing further and harmful discrimination. However, according to the International Business Times, LGBTQ students in Japan are facing abuse and threats from the government, Human Rights Watch reports, and they are frequently targeted by educators themselves.

The founder of Bangladesh’s only LGBTQ magazine was killed, and in El Salvador, police and gangs frequently target LGBTQ groups for attacks. There have also been attacks targeting LGBTQ individuals in the Bahamas. While IDAHOT has helped those who identify as LGBTQ and those who are allies to find greater support to truly live as their authentic selves, it is painfully clear that more needs to be done in order to ensure that everyone is able to live in peace.

IDAHOT is a great place to start in encouraging people to embrace everyone regardless of their sexual orientation, and it goes a long way towards helping those who may have been poorly informed about what those individuals who identify as being along the LGBTQ spectrum are truly like.

However, IDAHOT is only another awareness day, like so many others, with its lessons soon to be forgotten by too many.

[Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]