IDAHOT reflections

IDAHOTIDAHOT stands for ‘International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia’. The date of IDAHOT was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organisation’s decision on 17 May 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

On the one hand, it is kind of sad in 2015 we still have to impress upon the public that people should not be subjected to discrimination, hate, ridicule and violence because of their inherent sexual orientation or gender identity.

On the other hand, at least in most Western democracies, we now have an extra opportunity to try to educate and enlighten the public on the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, without fear of arrest or persecution.

However, there is something deeply troubling about the fact that, as we are continuing to fight for equal rights, such as marriage equality, we still have to keep coming back to the very basic concepts of acceptance and tolerance of the mere existence of LGBTI people. This is exemplified by the current attempt in Tasmania to amend the State’s anti-discrimination laws, so children could be excluded from enrolling at a school on the basis of religious beliefs.

Some of the uninformed prejudices we are fighting are indeed very deep-seated and held firmly, even in the corridors of power, making change very difficult.

Homophobia has many faces – all very unappealing. Over the years, I had covered many stories involving discrimination against the LGBTI community. The consequences of that discrimination often manifest in serious physical and significant psychological harm and are significant contributors to long-term health issues in the LGBTI community.

The so-called ‘conversion therapy‘ is one such dangerous, and potentially deadly, manifestation of the uninformed prejudices and deep-seated bigotry against LGBTI people, despite a plethora of scientific evidence that such ‘therapies’ are completely ineffective.

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Despite the social rejection by certain, but thankfully diminishing, groups of people, IDAHOT Australia has achieved growing popularity over the past few years and even schools and corporate Australia are getting in on the act by organising diversity events. One significant Australian development this year came from the usually conservative end of town, with Big Law firm Allens declaring its support for marriage equality to coincide with IDAHOT.

We must also acknowledge today, and every day, the plight of LGBTI people around the world in countries where homosexuality is still illegal, and LGBTI people are routinely persecuted and subjected to violence, from Russia to the Middle East and Africa.

So take a stand, wear and display your purple and be a proud LGBTI or ally!

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