Today, May 17, is the international day against homophobia and transphobia. Great! It is important to draw attention to the fact that many people who fall under the broad LGBTTQ* spectrum face harassment, discrimination and all too often physical violence because of who they are. Lots of organizations are celebrating this, or are they really?
A number of organizations are leaving out the “transphobia” part of the message in their communications. One glaring example of this is the use of IDAHO as the short form for today. Let’s break that down a bit. (I)nternational (D)ay (A)gainst (HO)mophobia. Where is the mention of transphobia?
The Ottawa Police Services GLBT Liaison Committee used this headline on their announcement: “Today marks the International Day Against Homophobia.” thus erasing transphobia from the day. In addition this continues throughout their post on their web site. The body of the text does use a boilerplate type comment and then goes on to erase transphobia: “This year’s theme is: ‘Fight the Homophobia Web Virus on the Internet and in Social Media’.” Reading further they provide a link to a site titled “International Day Against Homophobia” produced by Foundation Emergence. This website also emphasises that it’s a day against homophobia. A search on the page for “trans” only gets two results, both are part of the name of a single group in their listing of allies.
When I do a search for “International Day of Homophobia” far more results come up that leave out the transphobia than include it. This is in Facebook pages and groups as well as on Google Plus. A simple Google search for the same term shows links that have the full title as well as ones that only acknowledge homophobia. One of the links that I came across is from the CBC and the George Strombolopoulos Tonight page with the headline “Fight Hate: It’s The International Day Against Homophobia” There are two trans references in the article. The first is in the first paragraph where the full name is mentioned, “May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHO or IDAHOBIT for short), and people are coming together across the globe to celebrate and push for an end to discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.” The other reference is to religious Italians who do include trans and intersex people in their call to remember those killed or who live in fear because of who they are.
The 519 Community Centre in Toronto is hosting a community forum entitled “Fight the Homophobia Web Virus” While they are discussing the issue of transphobia, buying into this theme is a form of erasure right in the title.
In the I bulk email I received from the “It Gets Better Project” the subject mentions IDAHO. The body of the email does acknowledge that it is the day against both homophobia and transphobia, but then when one looks at the URL for the web site it only mentions homophobia. Further, the link ends up with a “Forbidden” error. I tried some variants to standard index pages for web sites and all generate the HTTP 403 forbidden error.
So what does this really mean? Why is it important? Why am I “wasting time'” writing about this?
What does this really mean? Once again trans people are not fully included in the discussion about violence against LGBTTQ* people. This is not a new problem, it’s been present for a very long time. There is a sense that we’re accepted when we support the issues that are important for homosexual men, but once their goals were reached our struggle is forgotten.
Why is it important? While a number of places have put in place human rights legislation protecting gender identity and, in some cases, gender expression, many trans people in Canada, North America and around the world still face daily discrimination and violence. How trans people are treated in articles and comments online is often different from how gay people are treated. In Canada if an article points out that someone is gay it is usually accepted with few hateful comments to the article. When there is an article about a trans person coming out and being open, particularly when the person is male to female and transitioning or has transitioned, the number of comments that are hateful or take the position that it is too much information or shouldn’t even be discussed jumps significantly.
Why am I “wasting time” writing about this? Particularly on a beautiful Friday afternoon in Ottawa. One, and I digress, I have a wonderful view out my window so can enjoy the weather without turning into a lobster. More importantly if this isn’t pointed out and discussed how will anything change? I could chose to let it slide, but that would only help to perpetuate the problem. In addition, there is significant transphobia and disrespect of trans people within the LGB community. Some of the most misogynist and trans misogynist comments and actions that I have personally encountered have come from gay men.