So, what’s IDAHO?
A day to celebrate the seventh least densely populated state of the USA? Sadly, no. In fact, IDAHO is that odd acronym which stands for the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, and it took place this past Friday, May 17.
But is there not already a Gay pride or ‘Pride’; is that not all the same thing? The reasons are different. ‘Pride’ started initially as a protest movement, a protest against a repressive society. Over the years however ‘Pride’ has evolved to become more of celebration.
IDAHO is important for another reason. Twenty three years ago, homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness from the World Health Organisation. Distant are those days when electric shock therapy was advocated to “cure” homosexuality. Distant indeed are the days of Section 28, especially when this year a resounding majority of MPs voted in favour of same-sex marriage in the House of Commons. Yet while massive progress has been achieved, there is still much work to be done.
Homophobia is still present, bullying in schools is a major concern and Transphobia is sadly alive. The old clichés are still present and scapegoating LGBT people for all sorts of ills is not uncommon - it has even claimed that the recent volatility in North Korea was somehow linked to same sex marriage!
Certainly, changing attitudes is a slow and on-going process and increasing visibility of the LGBT community helps this process. Therefore it is a symbolic gesture on IDAHO to fly a rainbow flag. Such symbols are important as they can send a strong signal that we would like our environment to be inclusive of everyone and welcoming to LGBT persons.
But it is sad to note that in more than 75 countries, among them several commonwealth countries, homosexuality is still criminalised – often a relic of colonisation. It has been argued that in some cultures homosexuality is not accepted and we cannot “force” them to accept the LGBT community. But it would appear that this argument is unsound. Culture is not immutable. Indeed many countries today that are open and accepting were in another time very repressive. It seems that some people play with the vernacular of cultural defence to veneer their homophobia. We need to recognise that people have different sexual orientation and gender identity. Equally, it is important to recognise that we all have the same capacity for love and compassion – the capacity to be simply human.
Pliny Soocoormanee, Administrative Assistant and an active member of the University of Wolverhampton’s LGBT Staff Network