IDAHoBiT is the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. Today I am talking about the impacts of denial, discrimination and hate on LGBTQ+ people. Giving you the tools to act against the hate, hurt and harm which results when an LGBTQ+ person is seen as an object of fear.
17th May was chosen as this is the date in 1990 when the WHO finally declassified homosexuality as a mental illness. Despite this, and the later reclassification of sexual and gender diversity as aspects of human diversity LGBTQ+ people continue to suffer discrimination and hate around the world.
What is a ‘phobia
A phobia is a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no danger.
The word comes from the Greek “phobos”, which means fear, or horror. Medically a phobia is an anxiety disorder. Something which directly affects the individual’s life.
What does that have to do with LGBTQ+ people?
When LGBTQ+ people are presumed to be mentally ill, or ‘othered’ by people in power a societal shift occurs. LGBTQ+ people become people to be feared, something different to you.
This gives rise to
- Homophobia – the hatred of people who are sexually attracted to and/ or love others of the same gender.
- Biphobia – aversion to people who have the capacity to become sexually or emotionally involved with people of more than one gender.
- Transphobia – fear of people who transgress the gender binary by identifying with a gender identity other than the one they were assigned at birth.
A ‘phobia that hurts one hurts all. Transphobia also targets femme men and butch lesbians who transgress dominant gender rules and roles. Biphobia also prevents trans+ and their loved ones from exploring their sexuality. Homophobia also leads people into unsuitable relationships.
Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights
This year’s theme is Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights
Trans+ people’s bodies more than anyone else’s have been the topic of recent discussion and debate. The ‘public’ has had to have an opinion on trans+ people’s participation in spaces over which they have no knowledge or influence.
People have debated our rights even to eliminate waste from our bodies!
The polarisation of opinion in mainstream media has smashed the middle ground. The carefully created, well respected, space where everyone can be free to be who they are. Extremes do not care, they do not support, they do not create mental wellbeing. Cruelty and spite have replaced kindness.
How you can help
Use your voice
Trans+ people are people first. Bring any discussion back to the heart of the matter. If the discussion is othering an aspect of LGBTQ+ people, then it is promoting hate and feeding the culture of ‘phobia. Shut it down. Don’t discuss the ‘topic’ educate the participants in some humanity, in kindness, in empathy.
Gender neutral includes everyone
Use words like ‘partner’ to refer to everyone’s lovers. Don’t make assumptions about someone’s gender identity or sexuality. Neutralise your language. Make space for inclusion and make inclusion the norm.
Use your power
Call out bigotry. Check that your work harassment and bullying policies have clear reference to dealing with transphobic and homophobic abuse
Respect the Q
Decouple sexuality and gender identity. Respect the Q in LGBTQ+. It means Questioning (of gender or sexuality or both) and Queerness. Move away from needing to put people in boxes. Don’t assume that because you have always known someone as something that this is all of who they are.
Some people are monogamous (one romantic relationship for the whole of their life) but most people have some flexibility. They might build and change relationships over time. The relationships they build might be with people of different genders.
Respect the individual as the expert in themself
Don’t require surety but respect it. Some people know who they are, they always have and always will. Others might need time to work it out. Yet more might change their understanding of their sexuality and gender identity over time. Respect the potential for change. When someone comes out to you don’t give them your opinion on their mind, body or self-awareness, ask what support they would like of you.
Your power to achieve change is real
IDAHoBiT’s theme is Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights. Mental wellbeing comes from being authentic, being empowered and able to define your own path. When you use your power, your knowledge, and your voice to promote that you are creating a world where homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia have no place. A world where every LGBTQ+ person has the same rights as everyone else to determine what happens to their body and their life.