Aengus Carroll Human Rights(ish) Blog

Things related to LGBT human rights at home (Ireland) and abroad

Aengus Carroll

Aengus Carroll
County Waterford, Ireland
October 26
Author (LGBT Human Rights guidance books), Editor (books/texts/documents - fiction, academic (history/politics/education), and organizational report writing and editing Production (print matter - bringing books through stages from idea to bound copy), Trainer (Working with LGBT groups in human rights awareness and advocacy)


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MAY 17, 2011 1:37PM

My Own Private IDAHO

Rate: 7 Flag

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 .

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Thank you for inviting us to your own private IDAHO, Aengus, and for sharing this day. I will remember the people I knew, too.

Thanks also for sharing this vimeo is very clear and enlightening in explaining the Yogyakarta Principles that you talked about before, and each of the speakers is so eloquent! I couldn't help but cry at the part where the young woman was talking about how her family forced her to have psychiatric treatment. I am not sure why that out of all the stories touched me so much, but it seems especially devastating when one's own family believes one is mentally ill, just for being who is one, oneself. Ban Ki Moon says, "These are not merely assaults on individuals, they are attacks on all of us. They devastate the families, they pit one group against another, dividing larger society." That is so true...if one person is being attacked, it makes all of us, every single one of us, unsafe...Conversely, if someone is respected, it adds respect to each one of us. "We all have the same human rights..." Thank you for this wonderful post.
Hey Clay, thanks for your thoughts on this. I think an important aspect to Ban Ki's comments and the video from the Asian countries is that its all happening at present, right now, and not some yesterday, and not something that "now we have sad it its fixed, its gone away". Its all still to play for - these are the early (for some ,and mid-term in the West) days of grassroots movements. Issues of pathologization of sexual orientation and gender identity are active in health, social, legal and political terms and its these that are being recognized for what they are: violations of people's basic rights, and as such, they diminish our silent societies and erode the alliances that should be building amongst minorities to balance the democratic voice in them.
I have learned something new today about the global fight for human rights for LGBT humans. I didn't know about IDAHO. And yes, being from the US, I thought the tite was about the state of Idaho. I imagine that those showing pride in Africa and Russia have to be so much more brave than US marchers. Homophobia is just one of those irrational things that I cannot wrap my mind around. I suspect that religious conditioning has much to do with it. So sad. I wish you peace and happiness.
I suppose I ought to get this out of the way first. I'm not a homosexual, but I certainly don't consider myself a homophobe, either. I have friends who are gay -- or in some cases were, since several of them did not survive the aids epidemic.

Personally, I think most of us are far too concerned what other people do in their private lives -- unless they are public figures who posture and pontificate about family values, while practicing something altogether different. Ted Haggard and Larry Craig come immediately to mind.

I must also add one other exception, and that is for older men -- regardless of their sexual orientation -- who seduce boys and girls over whom they have authority. Mark Foley and God knows how many Catholic priests fall into that category.

Now, if you can get past my limitations, you might enjoy one of my posts that played on the title your borrowed -- tho the subject matter is entirely different.

My Own Private Ohio
Hi Tom, thanks for commenting on my story. I too hope you can get past my limitations (one of which, looking at the length of this post is knowing how to be concise!!)
I did not know you had a story of the same title. I got the title from a 1980 B52's song by that title - because of the line "you gotta get out of the state you're in". I thought that appropriate to the content of IDAHO recalling the removal homosexuality as mental illness in the World Health Organization's coda.
I enjoyed your story, by the way - its a mysterious question - 'Is that all there is", and one that, I imagine, we all have odd experiences 0f that cause moments of sincere doubt to rational logic. Maybe not, though, maybe there are people who have never wondered. But you do tell the story of that experience very well. It resonated with me.

But just picking up on a few of your points: dislike of society's infatuation (and media industry) with others' personal lives is something I share. And agree entirely with your comment about hypocrisy. For me, that logic extends into society's apparent acceptance of diversity, even its promotion of it, yet silence on violation to the 'diverse', or exclusion from the set of rights 'mainstream' (read: heterosexual) society enjoys in terms of marriage and family particularly, but other things too - access to education and health stuff, etc etc. Personally I think that 'disconnect' is something that has to be made visible in society - it happens in the gay stuff, ethnicity, gender, wealth and in many other areas. And advocates or those conversant with the issues must speak. So in this way speaking about sexual orientation is not 'personal' or if it is it is equally 'political'.
Bullying others with political correctness or silencing other's comments and thoughts is not productive. A question that stays with me is 'how do I know where my prejudices are?' I assume I am not clear of them just because I espouse a 'liberal' perspective. I have to encounter them, discuss them, be challenged on them so that I can learn about them, and find why something I think is a funny joke is actually slapping someone hard.
About paedophile priests and the like, I do not think that is a matter of sexuality or sexual orientation, it is a matter of rape and the abuse of power - and the object of desire, be it girl or boy by man or woman, is immaterial to my mind. It is heinous crime with devastating effects. In fact the equation between homosexuality and paedophillia is deeply embedded in Western culture in an odious and extraordinarily offensive manner (the same equation is not present in the 'national mind' between heterosexuality and paedophillia, why - the statistics do not bear that ommission out?). In many countries of the Western world terms of abuse for homos include paedo references 9and in quite a few languages). It is the equation of one of the worst crimes with a person of a certain type (gay). This 'technique' of sowing ignorance and hatred, and preventing learning and acceptance has been used as a political tool throughout history - Nazis and Jews spring to mind. I am NOT saying this is implicit in your words - I am saying however that I obviously agree, crimes like these should be exposed.
Good wishes to you, A
I borrowed my title from the film My Own Private Idaho:

Admittedly, my story bears little relationship to that one; I just thought I was being clever, thought being the operative word.

Thank you for realizing it was not my intention to connect homosexuality and pedophilia. And I quite agree, that my "liberal" orientation does not leave me free of prejudiced. My wife and my father once got into a heated set-to over his use of the word "nigger", and his shot across the bow was that she was prejudiced, too -- prejudiced against prejudiced people. Hard to argue with that sort of tautological illogic.
Yep. Heard that one and version of it - there are many!
Cheers Tom. A
Hoisting a pint to your IDAHO, Aengus. I salute your efforts to raise the collective consciousness of our society toward enlightenment.
I am always chagrined when all other comments get a reply and mine doesn't. I apologize if I offended you somehow. My real last name is Carroll; I was just trying to be supportive because I strongly support your cause.
Dear Kellylark
My sincere apologies. Its was oversight on my part! That you read and commented on the piece and not to get a response in the context of responses being made to others - I too would be offended. So truly, I am sorry. Nothing that you wrote offended me - quite the opposite. What you say about activists in africa and russia is very true, but I believe in the more southern states of the US and small mid-western towns an equal bravery is required of those who stand up to be counted. There's a great safety in numbers, so when boston or NY pride hit the street, its a party (with an edge for some), but when its only 15 people at a shopping mall then that is quite another courage. Yes, I imagine the roots of homophobia are often in religious upbringing, but its elsewhere as well - much as it is in racism and sexism I suppose - some egocentric and delusional superiority assumed by the holder of the attitude. Anyway... thank you for your comment and supportiveness and again, I apologise for the discourtesy of not responding to your comment. All good wishes
Live long and prosper my friend.
Hip Hip Horrah to the WHO...Made my year with this one.