IDAHO: A Free Expression Zone
May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) and this year’s theme focuses on helping make the world a ‘free expression zone’. Logan Bold from Gay Men's Health SA gives us the history and current state of play.
In 2002, a Canadian organisation, ‘Fondation Emergence’ created IDAHO and the date, May 17, was chosen because on May 17 1990 the World Health Organisation (WHO) took homosexuality off their list of diagnosable mental health disorders. This year, it is anticipated that IDAHO will be celebrated across 120 countries around the world.
The term ‘homophobia’ was first used by psychologist George Weinberg in 1972 in his publication ‘Society and the Healthy Homosexual.’ He defined homophobia as, ‘the dread of being in close quarters with homosexuals.’
A broader definition of homophobia is that it’s a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and their behaviour. This can be contempt, prejudice, aversion and irrational fear, right through to overt hostility and violence. There are four different types or categories – personal, internalised, institutionalised and cultural. It is hard to believe that in 2014, there are still 82 countries with anti-homosexuality laws reflecting entrenched cultural and institutional homophobia and transphobia sanctioned by the State.
So far, 2014 has been a big year for homophobia and transphobia on the world stage. In January, Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, signed a new anti-gay law that mandates a 14 year prison term for anyone in a same-sex union and 10 years for anyone who ‘promotes’ homosexuality. In February, Russia held the Winter Olympics at Sochi which highlighted the politically sanctioned homophobia and transphobia in Russia since the introduction of laws criminalising ‘gay propaganda’ in July last year. Also in February, Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, signed an anti-gay law that provides 14 years in jail for first time offenders who commit what they call “aggravated homosexuality”. It also mandates that a person who ‘keeps a house, room, set of rooms, or place of any kind for purposes of homosexuality” faces 7 years imprisonment.
On a more positive note, on March 29, Great Britain legalised same sex marriage. There are now17 countries globally and 16 States in the USA that have challenged institutional and cultural homophobia that denies marriage equality. On December 13, 2013 in Australia, the High Court struck down the Australian Capital Territory’s Marriage Equality Act after the Commonwealth Government launched an appeal against the law. The Court held that only the Federal Parliament has the power under the Australian Constitution to legislate with respect to same sex marriage. Deputy Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek has indicated that Labor will aim to introduce a Private Member’s Bill into the Federal Parliament in 2014 focusing on legalising same sex marriage. It will then be up to the Government, which has the numbers in the House of Representatives to bring on any debate. So, even though the motherland has legalised same sex marriage under a conservative government it seems that here in Australia, we will have to wait a little longer for our right to marriage equality to be realised. For some in our community this denial of marriage equality is the pinnacle of politically sanctioned, institutionalised homophobia in this country.
The LGBTIQ community in Australia still experiences homophobia, transphobia and hate crimes based on sexuality and gender difference in all sorts of social and work settings, online and out in the real world. IDAHO seeks to shine a bright light into the dark recesses of homophobia and transphobia here and all around the world. It’s a day to reflect on and challenge both blatant and insidious forms of homophobia and transphobia from the personal to the cultural. It is also an opportunity to celebrate gender and sexual diversity and as IDAHO encourages, to freely express that diversity and solidarity in the world wide fight against homophobia and transphobia.
Here are five things that you can do to show your support for IDAHO:
Go to www.gmhsa.org.au/IheartIDAHO and download the ‘IheartIDAHO’ banner, take a selfie with the banner then upload it with the hash-tag #IheartIDAHO to your favourite social media site.
Like the IDAHO SA Facebook page at www.facebook.com/IDAHO.SouthAustralia
Go to www.dayagainsthomophobia.org/ for more info about IDAHO. You can also check out www.notohomophobia.org.au/ to find out more about how you can deal with homophobia and transphobia in your work, social and cyber spaces.
Challenge homophobia and transphobia online or in the real world if you feel safe to do so.