May 17th was chosen to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) because it was that day in 1990 that the World Health Organization made the decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Now May 17th is day is marked by various activities such as rallies, marches, educational events, and workshops to promote tolerance, understanding, and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. It is also a time to remember those who have been victims of violence, discrimination, and prejudice because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia is celebrated to raise awareness about the continued discrimination and violence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals worldwide. In Nova Scotia, and across Canada, IDAHOBIT aims to promote and advocate for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals through events and activities that promote inclusivity and acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals in the community. The Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP) is another organization that actively works towards promoting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals in the province. They organize various events and activities throughout the year, including during IDAHOBIT, to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and address issues such as discrimination, bullying, and violence in our province.
While many countries have implemented laws and public policies to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination and violence, but there is still much work to be done in this area. In many places, LGBTQ+ individuals face legal barriers to accessing basic human rights, including employment, housing, healthcare, and education. IDAHOBIT is an opportunity to raise awareness of these ongoing issues and promote legal changes that will help create a more inclusive and equal society for all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is important to note that even in countries with strong legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, there is still a need for ongoing advocacy and education to combat homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.
Some efforts to advance LGBTQ+ rights through the legal framework have seen the creation of anti-discrimination laws, advocating for equal marriage rights, and promoting policies that protect LGBTQ+ individuals from hate crimes and other forms of violence. Many organizations, such as the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International, work year-round to promote LGBTQ+ rights through legal advocacy, education, and awareness-raising campaigns. For example, in Nova Scotia:
- The Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and the provision of goods and services.
- Same-sex couples can marry and the Nova Scotia government recognizes marriages performed in other provinces and territories.
- Transgender individuals can change their gender on their government-issued identification documents without undergoing surgery.
- Laws prohibiting hate speech and hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people exist.
- Same-sex couples are recognized as the legal parents of children born through assisted reproduction.
However, this is not the case everywhere. Homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia have serious implications for public policy, as they can lead to discrimination and marginalization of LGBTQ+ individuals. Yet, at the same time, public policy plays a critical role in promoting equality and protecting the rights of all individuals, including those who identify as LGBTQ+. Studies have shown that LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to delay seeking healthcare due to fears of discrimination or lack of understanding by healthcare providers. This can lead to undiagnosed and untreated health conditions, which can have serious long-term consequences. It is only through public policy changes that access to gender-affirming healthcare like hormone therapy or surgery, which may be difficult to access due to lack of insurance coverage or discrimination from healthcare providers can be achieved.
IDAHOBIT serves as a reminder that discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals still exists and that it is important to continue working towards achieving equality and promoting the rights of all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Here are some things we, at Women’s Centres are doing:
- Lobby for public policy that can support LGBTQ+ individuals’ right to be free from discrimination and violence in all areas of their life including workplaces.
- Voting for politicians and political parties who ensure LGBTQ+ individuals are represented in the political process and that their voices are heard. This can include initiatives to increase LGBTQ+ representation in political leadership and to promote voter education and engagement among LGBTQ+ communities as well.
- To address these challenges, it is important to promote LGBTQ+ inclusive healthcare policies and practices. This can include training healthcare providers to be sensitive to the needs of LGBTQ+ patients, creating inclusive healthcare environments that affirm LGBTQ+ identities, and advocating for policies that promote equal access to healthcare services.