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My Own Private IDAHO

May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

17 May is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (image: Pixabay)

It was on May 17 in 1990 that the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases.

For that reason, May 17 was chosen by the founders of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), which has since been expanded to include Transphobia and Biphobia. The driving force behind the establishment of IDAHO was Louis-Georges Tin.

IDAHO was established to help raise awareness of violence, discrimination, and repression of LGBT communities around the world – giving a point of focus in which to engage the media, policy-makers, and the wider public. It's a day that is recognised globally, and encourages local action.

It's encouraging to see the aims and ambitions of IDAHO being embraced by community and political leaders around the world – rainbow flags are being flown, speeches made, tweets tweeted.

IDAHO also presents an opportunity for us all to pause and reflect. The World Health Organisation may no longer consider homosexuality a disease, but the world is still a dangerous place for most LGBT people.

There's over 70 countries where being gay is illegal. A number of those countries punish homosexuality with death, many others impose imprisonment.

In Chechnya, it seems to have been confirmed that the government is actively trying to purge gay men – arresting men believed to be gay, holding them in detention centres, torturing them, inciting violence against them.

In Indonesia, the province of Aceh has recently imposed the sentence of the caning of two men accused of being gay.

In the United States, the advances made on protection for Trans people have been rolled back by executive order of the President.

The HIV virus is still infecting people around the world, and PrEP – arguably our best defence yet – is not widely available.

The world is still a dangerous place for most LGBT people.

While recognising the challenges that remain, it's also important to recognise the progress that has been made.

Achieving marriage equality in a number of countries around the world has been a big deal. It doesn't mean that everyone wants to get married, or that being able to get married somehow makes LGBT people "normal", but it is a material step forward in removing discrimination and working towards equality.

I'm also really encouraged by the way that LGBT people are represented in the media. It's not perfect, and obviously in many parts of the world it's horrific, but to have a major cultural influencer such as Disney include its first openly gay character (Le Fou in Bill Condon's update of Beauty and the Beast) is a big deal. Kids arounds the world will watch that movie and shrug – some guys are into guys, so what?

The B52's classic song "Your Own Private Idaho" explores the paranoia that can engulf you if your frame of reference is too small.

To mark IDAHO in 2017, let's make sure that we take a world view. We need to understand our history, to appreciate the struggles of those who have gone before us. We need to understand the context that defines the communities in which we live, but also the experiences of those in other parts of the world.

None of us chose to be LGBT. None of use had a choice in where we were born. Some of us got lucky.

Things are getting better for some people in some places, things are not getting better for others. In many places around the world, things are getting a lot worse for people who identify as LGBT.

You're out of control, the rivers that roll
You fell into the water and down to Idaho
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My Own Private IDAHO
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