Homophobia and Transphobia Matter to Everyone: Commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

This post was co-authored with Joel Bedos.

Everyone on this planet has a sexual orientation. Everyone on this planet has a gender identity. Everyone has the capacity to love. Everyone has a desire to be seen for who they really are. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect in whatever society they may be a part of. Everyone is affected by homophobia and transphobia.

Throughout the world stigmatization on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender expression is present across many different cultures and societies, having devastating effects on individuals and communities. From the continued criminalization of same-sex relationships in 76 countries to the hundreds of thousands of beatings and murders of gender-nonconforming individuals to the denial of access to health services, education, housing and employment to the microaggressions that face LGBT individuals in various ways on a daily basis through stereotypes and prejudices, bigotry and silent stigmas play themselves out in subtle and not-so-subtle ways every single day. Homophobia and transphobia exists everywhere, and they affect us all.

On May 17, commemorating the day that the World Health Organization officially declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, millions of people from over 100 countries around the world will come together to celebrate the ninth annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). In some spaces events have already begun where weeklong celebrations and activities commemorate the day. This years IDAHO is expected to be just as powerful and important as in the years before. Indeed, it is a day that continues to grow and be recognized in all corners of the globe, including by UN agencies, governments and international NGOs.

Activists everywhere will come together to call out the hypocrisies that homophobia and transphobia perpetuate. From community discussions, conferences and lectures on human sexuality and homophobia in Cambodia, Turkey, Mexico and Thailand; to marches, festivals and rallies addressing discriminatory laws and customs in South Africa, Lebanon, Brazil, Albania, and Cuba; to peer education trainings on human rights and freedoms in Kenya, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and the UK; to photo exhibitions, plays and video documentaries in Canada, Lithuania, Zambia and Botswana; to online initiatives in Ethiopia, the Philippines and New Zealand, activists around the world plan to use IDAHO events to draw attention to some of the irreparable harms caused to everyone because of homophobic and transphobic behaviors and mindsets. Candlelight vigils and interfaith spiritual gatherings like the ones in Chile, Italy and the U.S. will be held in memory of all those who have been lost over the years because of the violent nature of homophobia and transphobia, including those who have taken their own lives because of bullying and harassment. Many more activists in Kenya, China, Ecuador, Japan, Australia and elsewhere will engage in rainbow flash mobs, queering spaces from online communities to city centers in various ways.

Ultimately, the bravery and courage that unveils itself every year on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia by these activists in over 100 countries is profoundly moving. Sexual and gender minorities face harsh realities on a daily basis simply for loving whom they love and being who they really are. Each cultural context and social complexity is unique to each country, and every activist who participates in the day has to consider how they can raise these important issues in sometimes incredibly unwelcoming environments. Thus the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia has become one of the most significant moments of solidarity throughout the world amongst gender and sexual minorities, and the day's importance just keeps growing.

At the end of the day, while many may not fully recognize it just yet, these activists are revealing a reality that far too many struggle privately with and raise important questions within our world, like what is love? What is gender? Why do we fear our fellow human beings? Why are we so afraid of difference, and how does that affect our communities and our lives?

The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia not only asks individuals, communities, societies, governments and international bodies to consider the rights of sexual and gender minorities; it also asks people to consider the very real impacts that homophobia and transphobia have on every single person, from the internal workings of our mind's eye to the platitudes of international donors and governments.

Our interconnectedness as human beings demands that we understand and reflect on these issues and their complex intersections within the humanity of every person. This reflection starts with us. It starts with you. These conversations need to happen; indeed, they must.

We must end homophobia and transphobia today. On May 17, join in solidarity with activists from over 100 countries around the world to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Please join the conversation on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia's official Facebook page, or join us on Twitter using the hashtag #may17idaho. Please tweet thoughts, hopes or prayers using the hashtag #IDAHOfaith. Ask meaningful questions, and seek to know why ending homophobia and transphobia is so important at this point in human history.

Visit the main website to find out more about activities happening throughout the world. We thank you for your support of this day.

Joel Bedos currently serves as the International Coordinator of the IDAHO Committee, the body that oversees the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia held annually on May 17. He started working for IDAHO in 2009, bringing together his two passions, LGBT advocacy and his 15 years of experience in strategic development.