May 17 — the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

Bruno Justo Pego / Dribbble

May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), dedicated to raising awareness of discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ+ community. This important day is celebrated globally and aims to remind people of the importance of promoting acceptance and inclusion and the ongoing struggle for equality around the world.

May 17 provides a platform for individuals, communities and organizations to stand up against negative prejudices against LGBTQ+ people and advocate for a world in which everyone can live with dignity and respect, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

History of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia was founded in 2004 by French academic and LGBTQ+ activist Louis-Georges Tin, although it was first celebrated in 2005.

May 17 was not chosen by chance to celebrate this day – in 1990, on this day, the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. This essential moment is one of the most important dates in the history of the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights, and it marked the beginning of a change in global perspectives on sexual orientation.

Since its founding, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia has become an international movement celebrated in more than 130 countries, including many countries where same-sex relationships are criminalized. IDAHOBIT was first celebrated in 2005 with events and campaigns that spanned continents. Over the years, the day has expanded to include not only homophobia, but also biphobia and transphobia, reflecting the diverse experiences and challenges within the LGBTQ+ community.

In 2009, the European Parliament officially recognized the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and called on member states to take concrete measures against homophobia and transphobia. This decision was an important step in making the fight for LGBTQ+ rights an everyday thing in the political and legal framework.

The global reach and influence of this day has grown over time, and each year promotes new initiatives and increased visibility of LGBTQ+ issues. From marches to education and advocacy, IDAHOBIT has become a cornerstone of the global movement for equality, helping to create a more inclusive and just world.

Meaning and Impact

The importance of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia lies in its ability to unite people from different backgrounds and cultures against discrimination. It is a point of coming together for LGBTQ+ people and their supporters and creates a sense of solidarity and common purpose. By drawing attention to the injustices against the LGBTQ+ community, this day helps to challenge stereotypes, reduce stigma and increase understanding.

In addition, IDAHOBIT has led to the adoption of policies and practices that promote equality and mutual respect in educational institutions, workplaces, and communities across the country. By highlighting the importance of acceptance and inclusion, the day helped create safe spaces where LGBTQ+ people can live authentically without fear of discrimination.

Overall, the significance of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia goes beyond a single day and is an important reminder of the importance of working together to achieve equality. Its influence is global and he continues to promote positive change for LGBTQ+ people around the world.

Challenges and Problems

Despite the progress that has been made, the LGBTQ+ community still faces a number of challenges. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are still strong in many countries of the world, including Georgia, and it leads to violence, discrimination and social exclusion. These negative prejudices manifest themselves in various forms, starting with verbal and physical violence, ending with systemic discrimination in such areas as employment, health care, education, etc.

Transgender people, whose gender identity is not recognized by many countries, are the targets of particularly acute forms of violence and discrimination. Transphobic attitudes are associated with social exclusion, limited access to medical care, and an increased risk of mental health problems among transgender people. Lack of legal recognition and protection strenghtens these challenges and leaves many transgender people in a vulnerable and marginalized position.

In many countries, LGBTQ+ people are still the target of criminalization and harassment. Same-sex relationships are illegal in more than 60 countries around the world, with penalties ranging from prison terms to the death penalty. Even in countries where same-sex relationships are legal, LGBTQ+ people are often the targets of significant social stigma and discrimination. Living in such a hostile environment can lead to mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, underscoring once again how important and urgent it is to continue advocating and supporting LGBTQ+ rights.

By speaking out about these challenges and advocating for change, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia helps create a more inclusive world in which all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, can live in dignity.

May 17 and Georgia

In Georgia, homosexuality was decriminalized in 2000, but the attitude of a part of the society towards the LGBTQ+ community is negative. This is influenced by lack of awareness, lack of access or non-existence of appropriate education, although many studies confirm that the main factor is the Georgian orthodox church. In addition, political homophobia has increased in recent years – Georgian Dream is trying to score political points with homophobia.

As for May 17, 2012, the community and its supporters were physically assaulted on Rustaveli avenue. The European Court of Human Rights found a violation in this case.

Then there was a change of government and the arrival of the Georgian Dream in government. On May 17, 2013, LGBTQ+ activists in Tbilisi planned a peaceful demonstration to raise awareness about homophobia. Clergymen and parishioners “armed” with nettles mobilized on Rustaveli Avenue from the morning. It was on this day that the famous photo was taken, where a clergyman can be seen with a stool.

The situation soon got out of control and because of the silence from the authorities, violent mobs attacked the demonstrators. The footage shows how the violent people break the police cordon, and verbally and physically assault the activists and LGBTQ+ people. The police put the peaceful protestors into yellow buses and minibuses, which were also attacked by the violent citizens. Several participants of the peaceful protest were physically injured, and many still have to deal with the stress caused by that day.

In 2021, the European Court called the violence that occurred on May 17, 2013 “unprecedented” and held the Georgian authorities responsible for it, which, despite being aware of possible threats, chose to do nothing.

The violence of May 17, 2013 was repeatedly condemned both domestically and internationally. Nevertheless, this very day was chosen by the patriarch of the orthodox Church, Ilia II to celebrate the “sanctity of the family”. Since 2014, parishioners and clergy have been organizing processions in the streets of Tbilisi, praying publicly, and thus preventing the freedom of expression of the LGBTQ+ community, which can no longer publicly celebrate the International Day of Combating Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia in Georgia.

On May 17, 2018, the LGBTQ+ community planned a rally again, but because the state did not guarantee their protection, they had to cancel the event. However, part of the community did not support the cancellation and came to the rally. Activists and supporters were also present at the government chancellery. On this very day, despite the presence of the police in the area, one person was able to enter the rally and hit Niqo Gorgiladze during his speech. In a few months, Niqo was forced to leave Georgia.

Despite the challenges, LGBTQ+ activists in Georgia tirelessly continue to work and advocate for rights. They continue to work to raise awareness of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, often in very difficult and dangerous conditions. The queer community in Georgia still faces significant challenges, including public stigma, discrimination and violence, but by raising their voices on these issues, activists are trying to create a more inclusive and accepting society in which everyone can live with dignity, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.