Why we still need days like IDAHOBIT

Trigger warnings: Anti-Homophobic, -Biphobic and -Transphobic violence, suicide.

IDAHOBIT stands for International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, an annual event, this year celebrated on Wednesday 17 May, which celebrates the social and political advancements of the LGBTQ community (largely in the Western world), and reflects on the global work which still needs to be done in the plight for true LGBTQ equality.

The first thing that strikes me about this day is, incidentally, in its naming. Often when we talk about LGBTQ inclusion, there’s a tendency to focus only on the ‘G’, with some smatterings of the ‘L’. IDAHOBIT asserts its inclusivity upfront, ensuring that bisexual and transgender members of the LGBTQ community, and those who identify more broadly under these umbrellas, know that this is a day for them. So often, both within and without of the LGBTQ community, bisexuality and biphobia are overlooked and homogenised with lesbian and gay issues, though bisexual people report experiencing very specific microaggressions which are not always felt by those of other sexualities.

So, why are days like this still so important? Many would argue that LGBTQ issues have moved on so far and fast in recent years that the fight is almost done, and days like this are now becoming redundant. I, however, would argue the complete opposite.

Below are some statistics taken from UK-based LGBT charity Stonewall, who do a lot of research and policy work, largely focussing on lobbying government, education and workplace equality;

  • 48% of trans people under 26 said they had attempted suicide, and 30% said they had done so in the past year. 59% said they had considered doing so;
  • 26% of LGB people alter their behaviour to hide their sexual orientation in order to avoid becoming the victim of a hate crime;
  • 26% of LGB people are not at all open to colleagues about their sexual orientation, and 42% of trans people do not feel they can live permanently in their preferred gender role, as to do so may threaten their employment status;
  • 55% of LGB pupils have experienced direct bullying, and 96% hear homophobic and biphobic language used in their school;
  • Sex with someone of the same sex is illegal in 72 countries, and punishable by death in 10.

As well as these figures, there are also a string of continued homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attacks often reported about throughout the world, and there are likely many others that we never hear about (Stonewall research found that two-thirds of those experiencing hate crimes do not report them). There are also nations in the world where homophobic, biphobic and transphobic discrimination are not illegal, and so are less likely to ever gain international attention.

One such example is the current situation in Chechnya, which Prime Minister Theresa May addressed for the first time last week. We know so far that ‘gay torture camps’ have been established, and at least 100 gay and bisexual men have been detained and tortured. A number of these have been killed.

Aliv Karimov, a spokesperson for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has said the following;

‘You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic.’

 ‘If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.’

With situations and systems of belief such as this present just at the other end of Europe, it becomes easier to appreciate that we may not have moved as far forward in terms of LGBTQ equality as we would all like to believe. There have undoubtedly been advances; for example, 23 counties allow same-sex marriage, and a further 28 recognise civil partnerships. 26 countries also allow same-sex partners to adopt a child that is not the biological offspring of one of the partners.

There are legal advancements happening for LGBTQ people all the time, but these are mitigated by social and societal barriers and oppressions, by legal sanctions against LGBTQ in some parts of the world, and by a general lack of tolerance or acceptance experienced by LGBTQ all over the world, which can, as seen in Chechnya at the moment, still result in the genocide of LGBTQ individuals.

This is why days like the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia are still so incredibly important.

If you have been affected by the contents of this blog in any way, please feel free to contact School Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator, Jack Kilker, to discuss this further and seek support.