In our latest Diversity Digest Blog, Jake Orros (he/him) an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Project Officer here at King’s College London reflects on IDAHOBIT DAY. That’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia which is marked across the world on the 17th May. He explores why the day is needed in 2022 and signposts to how you can make a difference and also access support.
IDAHOBIT Day – that’s International day against homophobia, transphobia & biphobia is marked this week. Now observed annually across the globe on the 17th May since its inception in 2004. The 17th of May is significant because it was on this day in 1990 the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. This year’s theme is “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights”.
In 2022 some may ask ‘why IDAHOBIT is still needed?’ And the same question could be asked of pride events and other LGBTQ+ observances.
After all it has been 32 since years since the UN declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder. And from a UK perspective; sexual activity between men was decriminalised in 1967. The ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forces was first lifted in 2000 and remnants of legislation removed in 2016. In 2001 the age of consent was equalised. Section 28 was finally repealed in 2003. In England & Wales the first same-sex civil partnerships were entered into in December 2005 & marriage followed in March 2014, with Scotland & Northern Ireland following (although it took the latter until 2020 and with a nudge from central government in Westminster). Trans people have been able to change their gender since 2005. LGBT people can build their own families and adopt children. All these stops on the journey to finding true equality, belonging, acceptance and inclusion should be celebrated, despite arriving with much delay at each of these!
In 2022 IDAHOBIT Day is still very much needed. Despite all the advances listed from a UK perspective – more needs to be done, both at home and abroad. The fight for true equality, acceptance and inclusion is still very much in progress, and now is not the time to ease off the accelerator in the battle against homophobia, transphobia & biphobia globally. Here are some examples:
From a UK perspective
Conversion Therapy – The Government has still not banned harmful conversion therapy, 4 years after promising to do so. There have been repeated delays and U-turns. In the recent Queen’s Speech the government proposed a bill to be passed this parliament to ban conversion therapy, however, the government has indicated this legislation will only protect LGB individuals and not members of the Trans community. This is deeply worrying, with many including the British Psychological Society expressing concern that not all members of the LGBT community will be protected by this new legislation. Any legal ban on conversion therapy must be inclusive of all forms of supposed ‘therapy’ and must be implemented without further delay.
Hate Crime – Instances of reports of hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ+ community have been on the steady rise, more on this can be found in this article. Additionally, the figures collated by the charity Stonewall make for a sobering read on their LGBTQ+ facts and figures webpages. A combination of factors are likely to be behind the increased reporting of instances of hate crime against LGBTQ+ people. 1) A real terms increase in instances where LGBTQ+ people are target; 2) the true extent of the problem is being revealed as more feel able to share their lived experience. What is clear is that LGBTQ+ people in Britain are still targeted because of their sexuality, gender identity or gender expression.
Legislation – approximately 69 countries still have legislation on the books that criminalise LGBTQ+ people. Let that sink in. By simply living as their true authentic selves’, individuals risk prosecution or worse. According to the Human Dignity Trust 11 jurisdictions currently impose or have the sentencing option to impose the death penalty on those engaging in consensual sex between same-sex individuals in private. And 15 jurisdictions criminalise transgender peoples expression/gender identity. Some may say that prosecutions of LGBTQ+ individuals in many of these jurisdictions are low/non-existent. This argument misses the point. This legislation stigmatises being LGBTQ+; it creates a hostile environment that legitimises homo/bi/transphobia. The impact & burden on the mental and physical health of LGBTQ+ people should not be underestimated.
In the shadows of historic legislation – In countries where legislation no longer remains criminalising members of the LGBTQ+ community, the laws that once stood can cast long shadows over the community. Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and fear may remain engrained in cultural norms and collective societal behaviours. It can take time for social acceptance of LGBTQ+ people to become the main narrative.
An example of this has recently come to light in the UK press in response to Her Majesty’s government’s proposal to send refugees landing on the UK’s shores to Rwanda. Many have questioned the Home Office’s proposals and the impact it would have on LGBTQ+ people. The Home Office acknowledges that there are indeed concerns. Stating in their own Equality impact assessment of the new partnership that ‘Homosexuality was de-criminalised [in Rwanda] in 2010. At this stage, investigations point to ill treatment being more than one off, but it does not appear to be systemic.’ Coupled with this the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office website issues the following guidance to LGBTQ+ travellers to Rwanda – ‘Homosexuality is not illegal in Rwanda but remains frowned on by many. LGBT individuals can experience discrimination and abuse, including from local authorities. There are no specific anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT individuals.’
What is clear in this instance is that it can be a mixed bag abroad. Lack of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation does not equal universal acceptance or safety. It should be noted that individual experience can differ for those living in a country and for those visiting temporarily for work or holidaying. There can also be regional variances and wider rural vs urban considerations to take into account. The takeaway here is that we can use IDAHO day to highlight both the archaic legislation that remains on the statute books across the globe; and the homo/bi/transphobic views held or perceived to be held by a significant minority that may persist long after decriminalisation.
Homo/bi/transphobia does not always manifest itself in large overt attacks on an individual or community, often it is delivered via small actions that may be best described as microaggressions. These low intensity actions delivered over numerous occasions have an accumulative effect that can be equally hurtful, harmful, and damaging.
Earlier this year I visited a friend who lives outside of London. The weather had been beautiful, and we were heading out to grab some locally produced ice cream to wrap up what had been a brilliant day. At some point on our hunt for ice cream we started holding hands. Such an innocent act. In 2022 two men holding hands in public should not be revolutionary or an act of defiance. Everyone should be able to hold hands with the person of their choice and feel safe, feel confident and feel free.
As we approached a pub, an individual sitting outside made eye contact with myself and my friend, they turned to the person they were sat with and brought their attention to us. Both locked eyes on us and our connected hands as we approached. We continued walking. Then came an inaudible comment from the individuals sat down, clearly about us, about our connect hand, delivered in a tone that was certainly not welcoming. We did not let go but tightened our grip as we glanced at one another, decided to avoid confrontation, and walked on towards ice cream. I was stunned and angered by their small but overt act. Their microaggression.
Do people make comments about mixed-sex hand holding? Imagine holding hands with someone of the same sex and walking down the street and being met with multiple mini incidents like the one I recently experienced. Sure, you can shrug it of once, twice, three times – these microaggressions accumulate. It can be exhausting. It can be isolating. This is why we need to tackle all incidents of homo/bi/transphobia no matter how big or small. Regardless of size it is not acceptable.
IDAHOBIT day acts as a rallying point to call for an end to abuse, stigma, and discrimination. The day also acts as an important opportunity to recognise and celebrate LGBTQ+ identities, individuals, and the wider community. Celebrating who we are is important; it grounds us, gives us renewed purpose & determination and reminds us why it is so important to continue to push for a world free of injustice, intolerance, and hate.
In the past month there have been several stories that should be amplified and celebrated;
- Firstly, this week Jake Daniels has become the UK’s first openly gay male professional footballer to come out in 30 years whilst still playing. He follows hot on the heals of Australian player Josh Cavallo who publicly came out last October. Jake’s public action at the start of his career is courageous. There are already many out players in women’s football and there are countless other LGBTQ+ players who are not out publicly. I personally hope that we will reach a point where the idea of ‘coming out’ is not a news story and that people are simply accepted for being themselves. This said the fact that Jake feels confident and able to share his story and use his influence to enact positive change should be applauded. Now let’s focus on his sporting prowess and not his sexuality alone.
- Secondly, the Netflix book adaptation of Alice Oseman’s ‘Heartstopper’ has recently hit the screens. The show has received phenomenal reviews for its wholesome portrayal of teens falling for each other. The show is hugely relatable. The show and comics were written about teenagers with teenagers in mind as the primary audience; the show has gone on to attract a much larger audience. Twitter has been full of LGBTQ+ people commenting that they wished they had a show like this, characters like this and a plot like this when they were younger. It is brilliant to see authentic & relatable LGBTQ+ stories for all audiences entering the mainstream.
- Thirdly, the UK now has a dedicated LGBTQ+ museum called ‘Queer Britain’; it has just opened its doors to the public in its first physical home 4 years after the museum was founded, it is situated near King’s Cross. The museum sets out to document and celebrate LGBTQ+ histories & identities that have often been forgotten or not given the attention they deserve in the mainstream. The museum will act as a rallying point and showcase the diverse stories of the community.
What you can do to help
We all have a duty to stand up to hate. We all have a responsibility to counter homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. We can each take steps big and small to tackle hate & injustice and celebrate amazing LGBTQ+ individuals.
Here are some things you can do to make a difference:
- Visit the IDAHOBIT Day website.
- Donate to an LGBTQ+ charity tackling hate – we have listed some in the section below.
- Write to your MP to support a trans inclusive ban on conversion therapy. You can do this really easily via a charity like Mermaids.
- Volunteer with an LGBTQ+ charity or event or help fundraise for them.
- Report hate crime via the independent charity Crimestoppers.
For members of the King’s College London community you can:
- Visit our LGBTQ+ allyship toolkit.
- Get involved with our LGBTQ+ staff network Proudly King’s.
- Attend one of our upcoming training courses:
- Request Trans Matters Training for your team.
- Attend Microaggressions training.
- Check out our Diversity Matters training, including the new e-course.
Where you can seek support
For members of the King’s College London Community:
- Visit the Employee Assistance Programme from free and confidential support.
- Check out our Dignity at King’s
- Proudly King’s, our LGBTQ+ staff network.
- KCLSU LGBTQ+ society and network.
- Counselling and mental health support service.
External support available to all:
- Visit the Government pages about reporting hate crime.
- Galop is a charity that supports LGBTQ+ people who have experienced abuse.
- Switchboard LGBT+ helpline offer free, confidential and impartial advice and support.
- Stop Hate UK offer advice and support.
- Stonewall are a leading LGBTQ+ charity.
- Mermaids offer support to transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse young people and their families.
Want to Learn more about Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London?
- Found out more by visiting our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s pages.
- Follow us on Twitter.
- Email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org