Why International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersex phobia and Transphobia is important in 2018

Today is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersex phobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). Director of GLHV@ARCSHS, Liam Leonard reflects on why IDAHOBIT exists and its significance in Australia and internationally in 2018.

IDAHOBIT day was first held on 17 May, 2004 to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people and communities internationally. Its aim was to coordinate international events that raise awareness of LGBTI rights violations and stimulate interest in LGBTI rights worldwide.

It was a call to action for governments, institutions, organisations and opinion leaders to do something to address the different levels of violence, discrimination and social exclusion experienced by LGBTI people and communities in different countries.

May 17 was chosen because it was on that day in 1990 that the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.

I’m fudging the historical record, however, when I call that first day IDAHOBIT Day. In 2004 the first naming was IDAHO, International Day Against Homophobia. In 2009, this was changed to IDAHOT Day, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, in 2015 to IDAHOBT, International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and in the last two years this has been expanded by some organisations to IDAHOBIT, The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersex phobia and Transphobia.

The changing terminology and inclusion of an increasing number of sexed, gendered and sexual minorities in IDAHOBIT day is a sign of the growing awareness of the particular needs and different types of discrimination experienced by the different parts of our rainbow alliance. The recent addition of Intersex is an acknowledgement that while there are commonalities in LGBTI people’s lives and our experiences of discrimination people with intersex variations are denied their fundamental human right to make decisions about their own bodies in Australia and overseas.

In Australia, marriage equality has been touted by some as the end point or the culmination of 30 years of LGBTI legislative and social reforms. We know from our recent event hosting a key presentation from the Hon. Michael Kirby on where next after marriage equality? that the right to marry is not going to address the effects of ongoing discrimination against LGBTI Australians. It is not going to address higher rates of mental ill health and drug use, reduced access to mainstream services, discrimination in the work force and religious and faith-based exemptions from Equal Opportunity and anti-discrimination legislation. It won’t address the needs of minority populations within the LGBTI community whose concerns are only just beginning to gain wider visibility including gender non-binary people, people with intersex variations, LGBTI from multicultural and faith back grounds and LGBTI people with disabilities.

IDAHOBIT day is an opportunity for Australia to address the ways in which LGBTI people and communities continue to be subject to sometimes less visible but nonetheless damaging forms of discrimination. However, the multiplication of identities and phobias caught in the term IDAHOBIT need to be set against the progressive legislative and social gains that have been made by LGBTI advocates and allies in Australia since the first IDAHO Day in 2004. Just as we acknowledge the commonalities and differences that make up the LGBTI rainbow, we need to consider how to use IDAHOBIT to highlight both the ongoing discrimination LGBTI Australians experience while at the same time celebrating our identities, our communities and the wonderful differences that being LGBTI bring to all Australians.

As an international day of solidarity, IDAHOBIT also highlights what LGBTI Australians can do to assist those in other countries who identify in various and different ways as members of sex, gender and sexual minorities, deal with the effects of violence and discrimination. In some countries, LGBTI people face imprisonment, forced medical treatment or even the death penalty. How do we work to secure greater freedoms for members of sex, gender and sexual minorities in other countries without imposing our own values and ways of being LGBTI?

In 2018, IDAHOBIT Day will be celebrated in over 130 countries, including 37 where same sex acts are still illegal. For LGBTI people in many other countries acknowledging IDAHOBIT day is not simply or even an occasion for celebration; it is, first and foremost an act of bravery and resistance.


Read more from GLHV@ARCSHS most recent report on the relationships between same-sex attracted, sex and gender diverse young people and Victoria Police here.

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