A day to stop discrimination against LGBTQI+ people

Activists march on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia in São Paulo May 17, 2022. (© Andre Penner/AP)

Each year, International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) is commemorated in 130 countries on May 17, a date established in 1990 when the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.

“We’re celebrating that LGBTQI+ people should no longer be considered mentally ill, sick, or in other ways different just because of our sexuality or gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics,” says Jessica Stern, the State Department’s special envoy to advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ people.

While she laments that the LGBTQI+ community continues to face discrimination and that “the forms of intolerance are many,” she says that “the ways we can be good allies are almost endless.”

Stern advises allies to be proactive year-round by taking these actions:

  • Fight for legal gender recognition for transgender people.
  • Speak out as allies in your community, such as at church, work or with family members.
  • Volunteer with or donate to a local LGBTQI+ organization.
  • Vote for candidates who care about LGBTQI+ issues.
  • Share information about the discrimination and violence toward LGBTQI+ people on social media.

LGBTQI+ rights are human rights

Woman standing next to white column (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)
U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Persons Jessica Stern encourages everyone to get involved in making the world a better place for LGBTQI+ people. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

Harmful prejudice against the LGBTQI+ community still exists, Stern says. One result is that, in the U.S., 73 percent of 34,000 LGBTQI+ youth polled report anxiety and 58 percent report depression, compared to national averages of 11 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

And LGBTQI+ people in many countries risk arbitrary arrest by police, domestic violence, mob violence or school/workplace discrimination. Transgender people are particularly vulnerable: Violence against them often goes unreported, yet 2021 was one of the deadliest years on record, with 50 tracked fatalities.

“We need to recognize IDAHOBIT because if we don’t fight back against anti-LGBTQI+ ideas, they could be codified into law again today, and there is no place for that in our society,” Stern says.

May 17 is a day to help stop prejudice against or discrimination of gay/lesbian people, bisexuals and people who are intersex, transgender or gender diverse. “We all know someone who is LGBTQI+, so it’s every single person’s obligation to find ways to make the LGBTQI+ people in their lives feel safe, respected and seen before the law,” Stern says.