IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia) has established itself as the single most important date for TBLGIAPQQ2S (trans, bisexual, lesbian, gay, intersex, asexual, pansexual, queer, questioning, two spirited) communities to mobilize on a worldwide scale. IDAHOT brings together communities from across the globe and calls governments, the media, and the public to action. Today, TBLGIAPQQ2S people still face harassment, discrimination and sadly, death because they do not conform to the traditional gender norms that have been set out in society.
Progress is well worth celebrating and this is why May 17th is, first and foremost, a day for celebration. “Breaking The Silence” is this year’s theme and the goal is to give a voice to those often forced to hide their sexualities and gender identities. They go through life carrying the stigma and fear of being ashamed of who they are and yet, it doesn’t have to be this way.
“The current COVID-19 pandemic has heightened this experience of isolation” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “It has identified grave inefficiencies in how the TBLGIAPQQ2S community in particular, access essential public services such as healthcare” he added.
Historically, TBLGIAPQQ2S people have experienced discrimination while seeking health services. It has led to disparities in access, quality and availability of healthcare. Sadly, this is more pronounced in places with existing laws that criminalize same sex relationships or target trans people.
“We understand that the priority is to ensure that health systems are not overloaded as a result of this pandemic” said Billie Bridgewater, Co-Chair of OPSEU’s Rainbow Alliance arc-en-ciel. “However, such decisions should not be made at the expense of TBLGIAPQQ2S people who require many supports especially during this time of social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions” she added.
Even though virtual supports to mental health services are available, TBLGIAPQQ2S youth in particular, may find themselves confined to hostile environments with little to no support systems or privacy. This can lead to further anxiety and depression.
In addition, these struggles become even more heightened for TBLGIAPQQ2S refugees especially without the support of their families back home. They may be reluctant to access services and supports in a language other than their own because of racism. They may also be struggling with homophobia and transphobia from within their own communities.
On May 17th, individuals, organizations, institutions, corporations, etc. will speak out against TBLGIAPQQ2S phobias. They will also continue the collective journey towards societies that ensure justice and protection for all. In a fair and just world, no one shall be left behind! These actions unite millions of people in support of the recognition of human rights for all, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
May 17 was chosen to annually commemorate IDAHOT because in 1990, it marked the date the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality, listed as a mental illness, from the International Classification of Diseases.