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Celebrating Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Communities

Embrace Diversity This International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

Taking the fight against intolerance one day at a time…

There’s no denying that acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals has improved in the past couple of decades. Many countries have legalized same-sex marriage, there are more out celebrities and athletes setting a good example, and businesses and the media are changing their polices in order to be more inclusive. That being said, intolerance, prejudice and discrimination still exist, which is why we still need to bring awareness to all the ways we can do better.

May 17 this year marks the 15th International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, a worldwide celebration of sexual and gender diversities. It was established to help draw the attention of policy makers, opinion leaders, social movements, the media and the public to the violence and discrimination still faced by LGBTQ+ people all over the world.

Now celebrated in more than 130 countries, it was originally called the International Day against Homophobia (or IDAHOT) but was expanded in 2009 to include transphobia and in 2015 to include biphobia. The date of May 17 was deliberately chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s 1990 decision to stop classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Every year, the day is given a global theme or issue to focus on. This year, the theme is “Alliances for Solidarity.” Accepting and giving help wherever it is needed is the only way to ensure safety and acceptance for any and all minority groups. According to the IDAHOT board, “This focus should also be a welcome reminder of the need for solidarity within the communities of sexual and gender minorities, as the rights of one specific group cannot be solidly secured if the rights of other groups are left unchallenged.”

Canada has a reputation for being a country where LGBTQ+ individuals can feel safe and accepted, but there are always opportunities to improve even further. Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement recognizing IDAHOT, saying, “Everyone deserves to live free of stigma, persecution and discrimination—no matter who they are or whom they love. Today is about ensuring that all people—regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity—feel safe and secure, and empowered to freely express themselves.”

Events in hundreds of countries around the world will take place in recognition of this year’s IDAHOT, interpreting the theme in a way that means the most to them. The goal—with the help of LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies—is to not only bring awareness to the ways discrimination is still affecting the lives of thousands of people, but also expose the ways our society is supporting that discrimination.

Understanding where we’re going wrong is the first step towards making acceptance not just an ideal that is expected of us, but something we do naturally. The goal is for every gender and sexual identity to be “the norm,” and that means everyone standing together to support each other. Maybe there will always be people who don’t accept anything but binary representations of gender and sexual orientation, but the least we can do is work towards making them the minority.

COURTNEY HARDWICK is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared online at AmongMen, Complex Canada, Elle Canada and TheBolde.

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