Here’s Why the World is Celebrating the International Day Against Homophobia, #IDAHOT

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When it began, it was just called “IDAHO” — not the state, but the International Day Against Homophobia. That was back in 2004, and since then, the annual event has expanded to include transphobia and biphobia, mobilizing people in 120 countries around the world. But what is IDAHOTB?

How Did IDAHOTB Start?

Started in 2004, the International Day to End Homophobia was intended to bring international attention to the issues that queer people face. May 17 was chosen for the annual event because it marked the day that the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

Transphobia was added to the name in 2009, and bisexuality in 2015. That’s led to a slightly unwieldy acronym, though some people have switched to the name “IDAHOBiT.” By design, the board of directors that organizes annual events has relinquished control of the name, inviting local organizers to choose terminology as they see fit.

From the start, an international approach to ending queer persecution was embraced by numerous prominent organizations. For the first event in 2005, over 24,000 people pledged their support, and the number has grown year after year.

That’s encouraging, given how much progress still remains to be made internationally. Very few countries have full nationwide equality for relationship recognition and parenting, and many criminalize homosexuality. As recently as this year, Chechen officials launched an unprecedented crackdown on queer citizens, with the tacit approval of their Russian leaders.

Growing Support

Though it varies from country to country, IDAHOTB is usually marked with parades, concerts, and street fairs. South American and European countries are particularly enthusiastic in their celebrations.

Numerous governments and nonprofits have joined the campaign as well. Italy was among the first, followed by Brazil. The EU Parliament has signaled its support, along with Mexico and Venezuela. Financially, it’s backed by progressive groups like the Arcus Foundation, as well as the French Ministry for Youth and Thomson Reuters.

Numerous Important Issues

IDAHOTB organizers recommend focusing on a wide range of issues of importance to LGBTQs. Among them: Mental health, the issue that helped start the event in recognition of homosexuality no longer being considered a disease. Youth, feminism, and free speech are also top priorities.

In past years, the event has been themed to address asylum and forced migration — that is, violence that has forced queer people to flee their homelands. In 2017, the focus is on families: their well-being and their rights.

This latest theme will be bolstered by activities around International Family Equality Day, which is held in early May. By joining forces, IFED and IDAHOTB organizers hope to reclaim the term “family values” to be more inclusive.

How to Take Action

Organizers have released a series of recommended actions for people wishing to support IDAHOTB. The simplest and most direct way for regular people to have an impact: Simply to join existing organizations in their area, whether a local LGBTQ group or a national powerhouse.

On top of that, education leaders are urged on May 17 to create learning materials geared specifically towards LGBTQ issues, and legislators are lobbied to introduce bills to advance the needs of queer citizens. Nonprofit groups are pushed to create resources that will enable allies to become more involved in queer liberation.

Ultimately, the most important way to celebrate IDAHOTB is to make sure it doesn’t pass you by. Given the ongoing persecution that queer people face around the world, it’s crucial that everyone continue to make noise — not just on May 17, but year-round.