International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia truly deserves its title of “Global Celebration of Sexual and Gender Identities”
What is May 17th
It was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people internationally.
In under a decade, May 17 has established itself the single most important date for LGBTI communities to mobilise on a worldwide scale.
The Day represents an annual landmark to draw the attention of decision makers, the media, the public, opinion leaders and local authorities to the alarming situation faced by lesbian, gay, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people and all those who do not conform to majority sexual and gender norms.
May 17 is now celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal, with 1600 events reported from 1280 organizations in 2014. These mobilisations unite millions of people in support of the recognition of human rights for all, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is not one centralised campaign; rather it is a moment that everyone can take advantage of to take action.
The date of May 17th was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
The International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia has received official recognition from several States, international institutions as the European Parliament, and by countless local authorities. Most United Nations agencies also mark the Day with specific events.
Note on the name
May 17 was first known as the “International Day against Homophobia” and mainstreamed through its acronym “I.DA.HO”
In 2009, Transphobia was added explicitly in the title of the name, in the recognition of the very different issues at stake between sexual orientation and gender expression. “IDAHOT” became another popular acronym used alongside the initial one.
Since 2015, biphobia is added to the title, to acknowledge the specific issues faced by bisexual people. A new acronym, IDAHOBIT, has started to be used by groups in Australia and the UK mostly.
To acknowledge this diversity, we use increasingly all three acronyms in our communications.
Wherever we can only use one acronym, we favor the acronym IDAHOT, as being the one most in use at global level*
To ensure even more inclusion and reflect the diversity of sexual and gender minorities, we have created at global level the baseline “A global celebration of sexual and gender diversities”. This is probably the only “solution” to the issue of inclusion and reflection of other diversities, such as Queer, Asexual, Pansexual and regional identities such as Hijras, Weres, Two-Spirit, etc.
The Day is not one central trademarked brand and everyone is free to communicate as they wish. This creates inconsistency but this is the cost to bear for large ownership.
*Consultations on the name with activists in 120 countries have concluded that the reference to hobbits might be clever for some parts of the world, but were seen elsewhere as an imposition of Western values.
What activists say about the Day
“The Day is not dragged down by a Northern or Western identity and seen as somewhat neutral, without a political agenda that is owned by one geopolitical interest. It has sidestepped the geopolitics” (Botswana)
🇪🇬 ”There’s very little coverage about homosexuality or HIV/AIDS in Egypt, even negative. But authorities cannot censor international coverage of IDAHOT by the BBC or Al Arabiya. Some forms of visibility have to come from outside.” (Egypt)
🇮🇩 “The regularity and predictability of the Day allow organizations to plan their mobilization even when the topic is not ‘hot’. Also, by centring the debates on the ‘phobia’, it allows the paradigm shift that the problem is not the diversity in human sexualities and gender expressions, but the irrational rejection they provoke in some people.” (Indonesia)
🇫🇷 “Opposing homo/transphobia can form a common denominator for a large spectrum of stakeholders. Hardly anyone, including religious authorities, will want to appear to support homophobia and transphobia, even if they refuse to support any concrete progressive measure to fight them.” (France)
🇱🇰 “The wide official recognition which the Day gets, allows organizations to leverage policy support. We used the recognition that the Day gets from Western governments to get all their Embassies to raise the rainbow flag on their building on May 17th every year.” (Sri Lanka)
🇦🇱 “The fact that the Day is officially recognized by almost 20 States, countless local authorities and several international institutions like the EU provides a strong argument for the legitimacy of our action in hostile contexts.” (Albania)
🇰🇭 “The fact that we know thousands of other activists are taking action on the same day is an incredible booster of our self confidence. We actually see that the global community somehow exists” (Cambodia).
🇧🇷 “The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia represents a moment when different groups coexist and come together under a same agenda, which gives a necessary complement to more specific dates that allow particular visibilities and empowerment’s, for example of Trans people.” (Brazil)
🇨🇳 “May 17 represents the only annual moment when we work together with organizations from other countries, on the same issues. We have other moments to talk about doing something, but May 17 is the moment when we actually do it” (China)
🇩🇿 “The IDAHOT is a unique opportunity to see what happens elsewhere, to learn from what others do, to launch joint actions with others who work in similar contexts– it breaks the feeling of isolation we so often experience” (Algeria)
Article posted May 17, 2016 revised and updated May 17, 2017