International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia

As you’re no doubt aware, yesterday was International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, a celebration on the anniversary of the World Health Organisation’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness – a fact especially relevant with this year’s focus on mental well-being within the LGBT+ community. With the World Psychiatric Association and the United Nations both speaking out within the past few months against the idea of variance in gender identities and sexual orientations being considered a mental disorder, there’s definitely cause to celebrate how far we’ve come with the acceptance of LGBT+ identities in the past twenty-five years. With the largest global authority on psychiatry condemning the use of conversion therapies and the medicalization of LGBT+ identities in order to further discriminatory agendas, and rainbow flags flying from more world landmarks than I could count on both hands, I do feel genuine pride in our community’s progress towards acceptance and equality.

Through banding together and refusing to back down, we have made enough noise to get ourselves recognised throughout so much of the world, and not just that. We’re constantly taking steps towards being accepted and, on days like this, even celebrated. We haven’t done this just by being our fabulous selves, however. The huge victories and leaps forward in progress we’ve made in recent years have made attitudes around the world more polarised than ever. While much of the world is showing support for their LGBT+ communities and allowing us to take the stage and make our voices heard for at least one day of the year, there are many places that’re now working harder than ever to silence the voices of their queer communities. Despite massive successes in many countries, several conferences, celebrations and protests had to be cancelled or disbanded yesterday throughout the world, even in countries which have held such events to celebration IDAHOBIT in the past, for the safety of the people involved. Look, for example, to the news. There are stories about the murders of high-profile LGBT activists in Bangladesh, organisations such as Proud Lebanon being prevented from holding their events due to threats posed by people opposed to their cause and these are just two of the stories that have caught mainstream attention, barely a glimpse of the countless queerphobic hate crimes that are on the rise throughout the world when people are brave enough to be open about their LGBT+ status.

This, I know, can be disheartening, but I’m not trying to dampen the sense of pride we should feel in our community in the light of celebrations like yesterday. Rather, it should inspire us to band together. Our community is gathering support in so many parts of the world, with many big recent breakthroughs such as the legalisation of same-gender marriage in many countries, the introduction of a mainstream gender neutral title in the English language and the practice of legally allowing people to self-identify in terms of their gender on the rise. Activists in countries in which being LGBT+ are dangerous are still standing up for themselves, and we too can stand up for them. While our work is far from done, it’s important to focus on the incredible progress we have made in such a short time. International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia really brings the global nature of the LGBT+ community into the public eye. It lays out in front of us all of our achievements, and all the challenges we are yet to face. It highlights the true gravity of our movement, the waves we can make when we stand together, and stand proud. On a smaller scale, we can appreciate our close community more than ever.

Our LGBT+ Network here at the University of Nottingham has done so much to embrace LGBT+ students from all sorts of backgrounds and who identify with the community in all sorts of ways and allowed so many of us to become firm friends. It’s ensured there will always be a safe space for LGBT+ students to celebrate their identities and be themselves, and cultivated a strong presence which communicates a message of support, letting everyone know that we’re around, we’re proud, and we will not tolerate anyone discriminating against members of our community in any way, and for any reason. Every day might not be an international celebration, but every small expression of solidarity within our network is yet another stand against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, a small contribution to the greater cause, and while it may not change the whole world, it can certainly be life-changing for individuals. That, I think, is worth celebrating.

– Gabriel Jackson, first year BA English student

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