Every year, the world comes together to mark May 17th as the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). The historical background is a stark reminder that LGBT+ have actually just emerged from the shadows and still have a long way to go.
On May 17, 1990 the General Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. To be exact, WHO listed homosexuality in the ICD-9 (the 9th International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems) only removed it from the ICD-10 which was endorsed by the 43rd World Health Assembly that day in 1990, I was 12 years old then and already super gay.
It is a symbolic and important date for our community because it ended more than a century of medical homophobia.
Louis Georges Tin was the founder of the IDAHOBIT Committee (and acted as its Chairperson until he resigned in 2013). He created the committee in 2004 to coordinate IDAHOBIT actions in different countries around the world to promote the day. Today, the Committee is co-chaired by LGBT+ by activists Joel Bedos (France) and Tamara Adrian (Venezuela). I have the privilege to currently sit on the board of the IDAHOBIT Committee and was elected its Treasurer yesterday.
To me May 17th is both a celebration and a call to action. It celebrates the unexpected social, economic, cultural and political achievements of LGBT+ people – something I never expected to see in my lifetime as a young gay man in the early 2000s – but it also marks a call to action for accelerating the end to a global apartheid against LGBT+ people.
Nothing illustrates better the gigantic fight ahead of us than the reluctance of the UN to recognize IDAHOBIT. Despite efforts by our Committee to lobby for IDAHOBIT official recognition, it has not yet happened. While IDAHOBIT is observed as every other International Day (i.e. International Women’s Day, International Human Rights Day, and another 127 days) globally by thousands of organizations in 132 countries, it is not yet recognized as an official UN international day. If you go on the United Nations website, 17 May is ridiculously listed as the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. The reason is that no country had the courage to submit a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly establishing IDAHOBIT as an official international day [read also this hilarious NPR’s You Won’t Believe How Many Special Days Are On The U.N. Calendar]. To date, IDAHOBIT is officially recognized by the EU parliament, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, UK, Mexico, Costa Rica, Croatia, The Netherlands, France, Luxembourg, Venezuela, and Canada.
Despite the limitations due to lockdown and physical distancing measures, the world is getting ready to mark the day and the IDAHOBIT website saw registration of many events such as Live streams, discussions, poetry readings, and much more, on all continents and as far as Lesotho, or as challenging for the rights of sexual and gender minorities as Egypt.
On Monday, May 18 Out Leadership will organize four LinkedIn Live segments around the “Breaking the Silence” theme of this year’s IDAHOBIT. We will also echo the actions taken by our 80+ member companies and their staff all around the World. While progress has been tremendous over this period, the LGBT+ journey is far from over. As we enter an historic and potentially sustained economic crisis due to COVID-19, it is legitimate to ask ourselves how we can keep this momentum and avoid backsliding on the gains we made.
In fact, it echoes our own concern that LGBT+ inclusion might be pushed to the back burner in the post-confinement period which we expressed in previous Insights posts [Read: April 3, 2020 Re-asserting LGBT+ needs during the COVID-19 crisis is NOT frivolous]. We believe that employment protections, visibility and representation are three burning issues in the workplace and the boardroom which deserve the corporation’s urgent attention.
Join us this Monday to mark IDAHOBIT in “Breaking the Silence.”