On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organisation, at the 43rd World Health Assembly held in Geneva removed homosexuality from its list of mental illness (Google ICD-10 for technicals). The removal of this taboo greatly helped gay, lesbian and transgender activism all around the globe, and in the context of AIDS was of particular importance in Western societies. Now, in most countries, we were just illegal, but not mad to boot!
In August 2004, Louis-George Tin, a French university lecturer, campaigner for Black and LGBT rights and chief editor of the ‘Dictionary of Homophobia’, launched an initiative to create an International Day Against Homophobia on May 17, to commemorate the WHO’s 1990 regulation. (Oxford: Homophobia - an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people.)
By May 17, 2005, as a result of a year long campaigning effort, 24,000 people worldwide and reputed international organizations like ILGA, IGLHRC, the World Congress of LGBT Jews, the Coalition of African lesbians, to name but a few, had signed the ‘IDAHO appeal’. In May 2005, IDAHO saw some activities take place in many countries around the world: the first ever LGBT events were organized in Congo, China and Bulgaria. Josepp Borrell, President of the European Parliament made a statement supporting IDAHO and invited Tin to the conference the EU Parliament organized for IDAHO 2006.
By that time a new campaign had been launched calling for a ‘universal decriminalisztion of homosexuality’ and by May 17, 2006, it had attracted support from several Nobel Prize winners (Desmond Tutu, Amartya Sen, Elfriede Jelinek, Dario Fo, José Saramago), artists (Merryl Streep, Cindy Lauper, Elton John, David Bowie), intellectuals (Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Bernard-Henri Lévy), NGOs (ILGA, FIDH), politicians, etc ...
For IDAHO 2006 again, the IDAHO Committee and GayRussia co-organized the first Gay Pride in Moscow, preceded by an International IDAHO conference that brought together many activists, organizations and politicians from around Europe and North America. In July 2006, the Montreal Declaration was elaborated - a strong recommendation to all Governments to recognize May 17 as the International Day Against Homophobia or IDAHO.
Many countries and cities around the globe have Pride celebrations, often in the month of June (month of Stonewall, 1969). Lots love it, but equally very many LGBT people hate Pride – brash, too fucking endlessly happy, loud, camp, in-your-face and unfortunately often not very safe for the psychologically vulnerable (the outsider, the fragile, the low self-esteem, the one who does not fit, etc etc). However, IDAHO is about homophobia and transphobia. It’s not really a ‘happy IDAHO’ sort of day in my opinion (which would translate as ‘happy day remarking how LGBT are hated and discriminated’ or something like that). For me, it’s a day to remember.
Today I particularly remember my friend Michael, who would be 45 this June, who was knifed outside a gay bar in London in 1990 but the UK police would not register his murder as a ‘hate crime’ or a ‘gay bashing’. And today I remember so many friends and acquaintances who died from HIV and AIDS complications, buried along with their family’s silent shame, as having died from pneumonia or heart failure, or kidney failure. Failure. Died from being closeted and desperate in so many cases, far from home, because of family failure. It is fitting that IDAHO happens on the day that one mad institutionalized response to ‘homosexuality’ was lifted, so that a whole lot of other mad responses can be exposed, named and shamed.
I am having my little party today. My own private IDAHO. It’s happening here and now, in telling you about this. If it makes you happy, smile, tell someone; if it makes you sad, so be it, tell someone. This is something I can do, all I can think of doing actually – to come together with old friends and new and speak about something dear to my heart, and dear to the hearts of so many – something that matters. Slowly but surely, the dialogue is moving at the family, the local, the national and the international levels to understanding that gay, straight, man, woman, or anywhere along those spectra is what it is to be human.
The vimeo video below (darn, can't get it to embed, just copy the link) - Courage Unfolds - came out today and blew me away - it so humanly speaks about the Yogyakarta Principles (a document that shows what needs to be done so that the human rights of the queer or trans section of the population are met). I find it very beautiful and am deeply moved. Share it if you feel inclined! Link supplied to a quick overview map (PDF) that shows the general scene around the globe, and also link to an important report that comes out annually from the International Lesbian and Gay Association - State-sponsored Homophobia .