Today is the 2011 International Day Against Transphobia and Homophobia

Today marks the 4th annual International Day Against Transphobia and Homophobia, spearheaded by Quebec-based organization Fondation Émergence.

The holiday commemorates the date–May 17, 1990–that the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. The years since have been an up-and-down battle for LGBTQ folks on the international level, with the criminalization of homosexuality in some countries and the adoption of same-sex marriage in others. In 2006, the World Outgames, an international conference on LGBTQ human rights, ended with the declaration of May 17 as International Day Against Homophobia. Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released this statement in honor of the day:

In every part of the world, men and women are persecuted and attacked because of who they are or whom they love. Homophobia, transphobia and the brutal hostility associated with them are often rooted in a lack of understanding of what it actually means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). So to combat this terrible scourge and break the cycle of fear and violence, we must work together to improve education and support those who stand up against laws that criminalize love and promote hate. As we mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia this May 17, let us resolve to redouble our efforts.

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am proud to reaffirm our support for LGBT communities at home and abroad, and to call for an end to discrimination and mistreatment of LGBT persons wherever it occurs. Whether by supporting LGBT advocates marching in Belgrade, leading the effort at the United Nations to affirm the human rights of LGBT persons, or condemning a vile law under consideration in Uganda, we are committed to our friends and allies in every region of the world who are fighting for equality and justice. These are not Western concepts; these are universal human rights.

Last week saw a stunning LGBTQ-rights victory when the international community gathered together to fight Uganda’s horrific “Kill the Gays” bill, which would have imposed the death sentence on “repeat homosexual offenders.” After millions of petition signatures and pressure from aid organizations threatening to pull funding, the Ugandan government let the bill die on Friday.

As Clinton said, “Let us resolve to redouble our efforts.” The fight in Uganda is still not over:

  • The bill could be re-introduced. Members of the new parliament, sworn in this week, could decide to reintroduce the bill.
  • Hate crimes have increased in retaliation against the bill’s failure. Ugandan LGBTQ advocacy groups are reporting that anti-gay hate crimes are on the rise as a result of the international attention the bill is receiving. Earlier this year, prominent gay rights activist David Kato was murdered in his home on the outskirts of Kampala.
  • The Ugandan government is far from LGBTQ acceptance. Uganda is considered to be the leader of the anti-gay effort in Africa. James Nsaba Buturo, Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity, (ironically) said, “homosexuals can forget about human rights.” Just last year, a Ugandan newspaper published an article entitled “100 Photos of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak.” The piece targeted gay and lesbians nationally, urging the government to “hang them.”

We have to mobilize to combat issues like those in Uganda. Though the bill did not pass, let’s make sure we let the Ugandan government that we are still watching. Sign the petition here and join the other 1.6 million people who are demanding LGBTQ rights.

Already signed the petition? International Day Against Transphobia and Homophobia is the perfect way to continue showing your support. Fondation Émergence urges all supporters to celebrate and spread the word on this important day–whether it be hanging a poster, telling a coworker or asking your representative to fly a rainbow flag. By increasing visibility, we are effectively decreasing the stigma against the LGBTQ community around the world.

Above: Candlelight vigil at the 2010 International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia rally in Chater Square, in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of Flickr user istolethetv under CC 2.0.