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IDAHOBIT, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia is marked every year on May 17th. That date is chosen to commemorate the day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental health disorders.

1990…let that sink in a little bit. A year many of us will clearly remember in our lifetimes, seemingly not that long ago, yet it’s scarcely credible that an organisation associated with the wellbeing of the world’s population would only be removing such stigma as late as that.

I remember 1990. I was 16 going on 17 and coming to terms with my own sexuality. While not that long ago, the climate was very different, one where we had been subjected to a deeply homophobic campaign of fear surrounding the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980’s. This was also the era of Section 28, and the age of consent for gay men was 21, compared to the heterosexual consensual age of 16.

For many people like myself, trying to figure out who we were in those turbulent years, we often had no one to talk to, nowhere to reach out to and access support (particularly up north), existing instead in a social climate that alienated gay people, subjected us to verbal and physical abuse, and cast us adrift on a marginalised path of perceived sin that many at the time believed would lead to loneliness, misery, and almost certain death.

I was terrified and would have given anything back then to make things different, to be straight, yet somehow I found the strength to be true to who I am, coming out later that same year. Had I known at the beginning of 1990 that the WHO still considered homosexuality a mental disorder I might have thought again!

Thankfully that, along with Section 28, is now a thing of the past. Contracting HIV no longer represents the death sentence it once did, and the perception that this is a gay disease has vastly diminished.

But homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are still very much a part of the present. All over the world, the LGBTQ+ community are marginalised, in some cases criminalised, and do not have the equal rights that ARE their right. Even now, in 2024, on our streets, online, and in our own schools and colleges across the district, people are being abused because of who they are, causing untold harm to their psyche and self worth.

That is why commemorative days like IDAHOBIT are vitally important. We still don’t live in a fair and accepting society, more work needs to be done, and further awareness raised to challenge misconceptions and stereotypes.

No one left behind: equality, freedom, and justice for all, is this years IDAHOBIT theme. A timely reminder that we’re not there yet and so many from the LGBTQ+ community across the globe face marginalisation, discrimination and are victims of hate crime, every minute of every day. So please, call out the abuse when you see it or hear it, report it, and help us to help the LGBTQ+ community to find their rightful place of equality, freedom and justice in the world.

You can find out more about IDAHOBIT Day 2024 here.