May 17th, 2012 marks the ninth anniversary of the International Day Against Homophobia.
A Brief History
This day of awareness, was initially started by Foundation Émergence as a national event held on June 4th, 2003 in Quebec, Canda. Soon after, the day took an international lead, spreading to European countries such as Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom. In 2006, Montreal hosted the world’s first World Outgames where over 10,000 athletes (regardless of their sexual orientation) participated. It was here that the Declaration of Montreal was read, calling all countries to mark May 17th as the International Day Against Homophobia and has been going strong since.
Significance of International Day Against Homophobia (also referred to as #IDAHO) can also be found on the day itself. On May 17th 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. This marks the moment where an international authority asserted that homosexuality didn’t need to be “treated” or “cured,” a small battle won in the on-going fight against homophobia across the globe.
The purpose behind IDAHO is to promote efforts to create a world free of prejudice and acceptance of all people regardless of their sexual orientation. By examining and acknowledging the effects of homophobia, Foundation Émergence — and proponents all around the world — hope to combat the ignorance about homosexuality that is prevalent in society while promoting open-mindedness.
The existence of an entire day dedicated to this effort, affords us — including allies like me – the opportunity to see what homophobic habits we have internally, engraved within our psyches. Undoubtedly, if we can become more aware of the homophobic views we carry within ourselves, we are better armed to change ourselves, and join the battalion of people conjuring ideas to enhance public support for the LGBTQI community worldwide.
How Do You Plan to Celebrate International Day Against Homophobia?
My plans for the day involve intentionally using social media to spread the word about IDAHO. I promised myself I would stir up conversation amongst people and show that this day is meant for everyone, not just LGBTQI people, but actually, especially allies like me. I’ve also made a short list of documentaries and films that highlight the experiences of LGBTQI people across the globe to watch within the next few months.
Moreover, and because I believe that International Day Against Homophobia shouldn’t just be about highlighting the victimization of the LGBTQI community, but the empowerment of self and community, I’ll be using my Tumblr account to highlight the victories and success of LGBTQI communities of color, particularly in Africa.
If you’re a POC ally like me, who has just learned about IDAHO, and you’d like to participate somehow, you can. Here’s a list of 15 things you can do to educate yourself, support someone else, and make the world a little better. And to my QPOC brethren, please feel free to share this list with the allies with your lives:
- Share the official website via your social media channels: www.homophobiaday.org
- Reach out to your local government to support International Day Against Homophobia (letters for requests can also be found at http://www.homophobiaday.org)
- Search for rallies, vigils, and protests to attend in your city!
- Hang LGBT-Ally / safe zone posters outside your office or dorm room; purchase an ally bumper sticker to place on your car or backpack
- Have a conversation — they work wonders. Start a dialogue between a few friends or even another family member about their (and your) experiences with homophobia
- “Come out” as an ally on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr e.g. “My name is Betsy, my sister is gay, and we want to live in a world free of homophobia”
- Donate money to an organization that supports LGBT people of color (*cough cough* — QWOC Media Wire)
- Educate yourself — watch a movie featuring prominently LGBT POC characters
- Read and share stories written by LGBT people of color and diaspora (you can browse the site to find some)
- Self-Reflect: Write down in a notebook what you feel about people’s sexual orientation and how you treat them as a result. Push yourself.
- Start learning how to ask people what their preferred pronouns are before inadvertently ignoring their gender identities e.g. during group introductions, learn to say state your name, preferred pronoun, etc.
- Google and Twitter search for blogs and sites run by LGBT people of color
- Find public forums and workshops geared towards allies so you may ask any questions you have there (and not burden your LGBT friends with educating you)
- Send an LGBT friend a message letting them know how much they mean to you and how much you value their relationship; ask them what you can do to be more supportive!
- Smile at people wearing rainbow apparel today; the world could use more smiles.
If you’re looking for more information on the International Day Against Homophobia, feel free to check out the website at homophobiaday.org.