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International Day Against Homophobia

By Senthorun Raj - posted Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Harvey Milk once said, we must "burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight."

Decades on, his remarks remind us why we celebrate days like International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO).

Beginning in 2004, IDAHO aims to reflect upon the continued struggles that sexual and gender minorities across the world endure for recognition and acceptance. May 17 was chosen to commemorate the historic moment when "homosexuality" was depathologised and removed from the World Health Organisation's International Classifications of Disease.


Despite a shift in the psychological and medical classifications of non-heterosexual people, the discrimination that attaches with being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) still inheres today.

For some homophobia manifests in the moment of being labelled a "poof" or "dyke" in school or the workplace. For others it is experienced through physical violence, as was the recent case for a sexually assaulted teenage girl in South Africa, where "corrective" rape remains a widespread practice used to police lesbian sexuality.

Homophobia often works insidiously and intersects with other social prejudices. For intersex infants, for example, homophobia manifests in non-consensual surgical interventions, attempting to "normalise" their sex as either male or female, despite possesing anatomical, chromosomal or hormonal differences.

Homophobic fears or anxieties are not just reducible to a wounding punch or the statement "I hate fags".

How often do we ignore a man and a woman kissing or holding hands in public, only to glare or feel uncomfortable around a same-sex couple that does the same thing? Or when we joke about the oddity of a person who presents a gender role that we do not associate with their perceived sex?

Jason Akermanis made headlines this time last year when he wrote an article suggesting that players should remain silent about their sexuality sending out a troubling social message that being gay is not only disturbing but also something to be silent about.


"Some footballers think there's something wrong with [gay] people, they have some kind of disease."

Sadly, the vernacular that associates diverse sexualities with disease or perversion is not confined to the odd footballer, it has social currency across a range of geographic and cultural contexts. Whether it is Exodus International in the USA attempting to provide reparative therapies to "cure" same-sex attraction, or the current proposals in Uganda for anti-homosexuality legislation to punish people with HIV in same-sex relationships with the death penalty.

Even some of our elected MPs here in Australia still consider homosexuality as a disorder. As Victorian MP Geoff Shaw recently implied in an email, freedom for sexual minorities, is analogous to speeding, theft and pedophilia.

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About the Author

Senior Policy Advisor for the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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