Today is the International Day Against Homophobia/Biphobia & Transphobia – IDAHO. It is an annual event commemorated by millions of people from Ireland to Fiji and in dozens of other countries around the world to take action against homophobia. Started in 2004, the day incorporated transphobia into the title in 2009. Last year alone more than 80 countries held events to speak out against homophobia and transphobia.
May 17 was chosen to commemorate the 1990 decision of the World Health Organization to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Care2 has a number of stories related to IDAHO available today. You can “like” IDAHO on Facebook and follow anti-homophobia actions all year round. You can also follow Ampliphy’s IDAHO Blogathon and read about others’ take on the day too.
This informative piece by Sexuality and Disability answers some of the questions many people have about sexuality, including what it means to be transgender. Many issues faced by the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) community have been all over the international news lately, from marriage equality and other human rights to issues of personal safety like bullying and rape. Let’s start with the good news.
Argentina has set a new world standard in human rights for transgender people by enacting a law that allows any citizen to change his/her gender identity just because they want to! No longer do Argentinians have to undergo mental health screenings, hormone therapy or permanent body altering surgery (read: sterilization) to change their legal or physical gender. “But, if trans Argentinians do want to change their bodies, thanks to the new law, insurance companies–both public and private–will now have to provide them with surgery or hormone therapy at no additional cost.” The first country to legalize marriage equality in Latin America is now an inspiration and symbol of hope for transgender people everywhere.
Other countries are working towards equality and inclusion for transgender people in other ways. India’s largest transgender festival has been going on for the past two weeks. Kenya’s Human Rights Commission has produced a 62 page PDF file The Outlawed Among Us available for download that explores the human rights violations of the LGBTQI community there. Activists in Nepal are joining researchers in asking “Can proper ID save the lives of transgender people in emergencies?” Any recommendations for resources or contacts in that regard can be sent here. Finally, Sweden is leading the way in gender neutral language by introducing a gender neutral pronoun for those who do not wish to use gender labels.
Even in the US there is good news on the sexuality rights front. Shocking I know! Barack Obama made history this month by becoming the first President in US history to voice his support for marriage equality. Many prominent black men, including Reverend Jesse Jackson, actor Will Smith, and rapper Jay-Z, have spoken out supporting the President’s “evolution” regarding marriage equality. Some polls show that more than 50% of Americans are in favor of marriage equality, while in Minnesota 52% of those polled agreed that “same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
President Obama has, in addition to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and speaking in favor of marriage equality, clarified to Congress that DOMA is a “bad idea.” He has also threatened to veto the House of Representative’s Republican Violence Against Women Act because it gutted protections for lesbian, bisexual, transgender, Native American and undocumented women and would put victims of domestic violence in severe danger by informing abusers that they have been accused of violence.
Now for the bad news– bullying. Bullying takes many, many forms and is an issue faced by millions of people around the world but members of the LGBTQI community around the world (and those perceived to be) are especially likely to suffer. One example is the infamous Westboro Baptist Church that protests with sign saying “God hates fags.” One 9 year-old is protesting back with a sign of his own saying “God hates no one.” He joins the good company of other Americans who are fed up with WBC’s hatred.
The Pan American Health Organization has joined the outcry against dangerous and hateful homophobia and declared that “treatments” intended to “cure” people of homosexuality are not medically sound and should have sanctions levied against them by governments and academic institutions. So-called “conversion” therapy, or pray-away-the-gay only serves to further shame, isolate and belittle vulnerable individuals who are already facing discrimination in myriad other forms from society. In many places homosexual acts are punishable by law, and in some cases, like Iran, men are being hanged to death for sodomy.
This article explores how South Africa has become the rape capital of the world, including hundreds, if not thousands of incidences of “corrective rape” occurring every year. But the US is not immune to the idiotic idea that raping a lesbian will make her straight. Just last week a Cleveland DJ told a listener who was worried his daughter might be a lesbian to have her “screwed straight.” Such thinking underlines the War on Women being waged in the US and the hugely false Republican belief that women are not to be trusted to make their own decisions, especially regarding sex.
Bullying is a life-threatening issue today. Students who identify as LGBT are five times more likely to miss school out of fear for their safety. A new documentary, Bully, explores bullying in America while the film Teach Your Children Well looks specifically at anti-gay bullying. The Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network, GLSEN, offers anti-bullying resources here. The government also offers tips on creating a safe environment for LGBT youth but acknowledges that federal laws (shamefully) do not protect against harassment based on sexual orientation. This look at how bullying affects children’s and teens’ mental health shows that LGB youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids. But homophobic bullying in schools is not limited to the US; Ireland’s bullying is also “widespread.” The Day of Silence, which takes place every year on April 20, is a way for students to show their support for an end to bullying and to represent all the voices that have been silenced because of violence.
Yet transgender voices are still being silenced in schools, including universities in the US. And the real, day-to-day violence faced by transgender people is often dismissed by the mainstream media, or ignored all together. The New York Times recently ran an article chock-full of transphobic and victim-blaming rhetoric after a transgender woman died in a suspicious fire. The dehumanizing picture they paint is of a deceptive sex worker who deserved what came to her while including unnecessary and disrespectful sexualized comments about her appearance.
The state of North Carolina and its voters asserted themselves as bullies this week when Amendment One altered the state’s Constitution to define marriage as one man and one woman. Don’t worry though, dwellers of the Tar Heel State can still marry their cousins. And, lest we forget, the last time NC amended their Constitution was in 1875 to ban interracial marriage. And while the bigots who voted for Amendment One were clamoring about “traditional marriage” (see below), this badass woman employed strategic nonviolent action to demand her right to marry her female partner. It ultimately got her arrested and I heart her for that! And “to the queer kids of the United States: Amendment One is a form of bullying.”
Other US states are a mix of flat out shame like Colorado which didn’t vote on civil unions and confusion, like Rhode Island, where other state’s same-sex marriages will be recognized but it is still not legal for its own residents to do so.
This awesomely interactive and informative state-by-state guide shows just how difficult it is to keep track of the laws when the states are not at all united. It explores marriage, hospital visits, adoption, employment, housing, hate crimes and schools. Also check out this video of the 2012 Essential Bi Reading List for other resources.
My best friend (who is in law school at the moment) has reminded me time and again that one day marriage equality will be a reality in the US, because it’s not that long ago that interracial marriage was illegal. Seeing as how she and I are both in interracial relationships and I am bisexual, it’s a painful yet poignant reminder of America’s recent history. As Rachel Maddow explained, rights are not supposed to be voted on. Rights are inherent and should be respected as such.
To help fight for equal rights for all people regardless of gender, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, or any other damn thing, get involved! Human Rights Watch is an awesome international organization working everyday on all kinds of human rights issues. The Human Rights Campaign is a more focused group, fighting specifically for the equal rights of the LGBT community. Amnesty International is another group working around the world to guarantee all people’s human rights. And the American Civil Liberties Union also speaks out for marriage equality and numerous other human rights issues in the US. Oh, and the five tips below are a great start too. Have an equal day!