What is IDAHOT?
International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. Not only is May 17th a worldwide celebration of sexual and gender diversities, but it was set up to bring the violence and discrimination still suffered by the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) communities to the attention of policy makers and the general public. Whilst great strides have been made in the acceptance of homosexual and bisexual equalities, there is still much work to be done, as same sex acts are still illegal in 37 countries. Those in the transgender community are even more poorly understood, remaining one of the few groups who do not even have even a minimum level of social acceptance and legal equality in most modern societies across the world.
Why May 17th?
This date was specifically chosen as the date in 1990 when the World Health Organisation chose to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
This year's theme is Mental Health and Wellbeing. Whilst a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is still required for the most part before any transition treatment can take place, this psychiatric diagnosis has led to the development of "treatment" with the aim of reforming or curing them with horrific approaches such as electro-shock, sterilisation, brainwashing, and even more extreme practices. Whilst homosexuality is now not considered a mental disorder, those with gender identity issues are still subject to the stigmatisation of a psychiatric diagnosis and therefore the implication of a mental problem. There is still much research to be carried out to establish the root cause of GID, but at least progressive societies now focus on the mental wellbeing of the sufferer and supporting them through transition where desired, and legislation exists in Britain against discrimination against such groups. Culture change will take longer, and many transgender people, especially the young, still suffer from exclusion and bullying, resulting in high suicide rates within this group.
Only by raising awareness of the issues facing these groups, can change really come about. Perhaps most people don't even consider what people are going through until it touches their own lives, and in the relatively accepting culture of today's Britain, we cannot begin to imagine the systematic violence, degradation and abuse incurred on a daily basis in other less tolerant countries.
How are people affected?
As well as those struggling with the complexities of gender labelling, it can be very difficult for their loved ones to accept that the people they have known for many years have been presenting false images of themselves. Feelings similar to those of grief are experienced as they may dismiss their announcement as a "phase"; blaming themselves for any small event which may have contributed to gender confusion; guilt that their loved one did not feel able to confide in them and has been suffering without support; anger that they should be touched by something that only affects a minority of people; and eventually acceptance that their loved one is still the same wonderful human being inside, and is finally able to live as they feel they were born to be.
Just as with bereavement, however, it can be difficult for some to process their feelings and move on through the stages, and this is where counselling support can help. Both those struggling to come to terms with their own identity, and their loved ones, can benefit from having an independent professional to confide in, someone who will not judge their reactions or allow them to remain stuck in wallowing in the negative aspects of their situation. Counselling can help those affected by any negative feelings around homosexuality and transgender to find positivity and peace, as well as practical solutions to dealing with others' phobias.
How can we help?
If you or someone you know is affected by homophobia or transgender issues and feel it would help to discuss your feelings confidentially with a trained professional, contact Cambridgeshire Consultancy in Counselling on
01733 553166 or 01480 405859.
For more information on IDAHOT, see dayagainsthomophobia.org