Break the Silence This May 17

May 17. The day the world will “break the silence” and remind society the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHO) is here. May 17 is significant because it marks the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Even though we have made much progress in representation since then, we must still raise our voices to illuminate the violence and discrimination experienced by the LGBTQ community. To break the silence, we must no longer hide in the shadows and instead celebrate our uniqueness and own the space we have a right to inhabit.


Be loud on May 17!


Breaking the silence is the theme for 2020’s IDAHO commemoration. How do we break the silence? How do we get the world’s attention and bring to light the injustice and hate we suffer each year? As evidenced by the Hate Crime Statistics report by the FBI, in terms of sheer numbers, gay men take the brunt of the discrimination with 60% of hate crimes crimes committed against them while approximately 12% targeted lesbians, 2.4% targeted transgender and gender-nonconforming people, and 1.5% targeted bisexuals.

If you want to help break the silence, there are many ways you can participate in IDAHO — even with social distancing measures in place. The internet is a great place to start. Social media posts, memes, and Facebook Live are all solid ways to share with others while staying isolated. Examples of online events — which I located by searching for International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia in the Facebook search bar — are the IDAHOBIT by the Bisi Alimi Foundation, an LGBTQ activist group in Nigeria, or an online event presented by forum+ in solidarity with IDAHO. There is also Digital Drag Fest, a gathering of drag queens with eclectic shows available to watch for a minimal fee to support the queens’ art. Digital art is also a popular way to show support. Submissions for mandalas to be posted on Youth Voices Count’s website can be found here.

For those who want to observe IDAHO in a more tangible way, there are always window displays for your home, like a flag, a poster, or a piece of handmade art such as a painting or craft. Any way we can peacefully bring attention to our identities, struggles, and needs is a success.

A final, important way of breaking the silence and taking our space is contacting our lawmakers. Arizona is behind the nation in protection laws for our LGBTQ youth, notably in sexual education instruction and conversion therapy. Just last year, Arizona repealed the “No Promo Homo” law preventing educators from covering content about LGBTQ issues in the classroom. This law specifically prevented discussion about homosexuality as a positive way of life. It also prevented safe-sex education for same-sex interactions, promoted abstinence, and singled out homosexual students in reference to AIDS education. By not allowing open discussion about same-sex relationships, students are pushed further into hiding and despair, which enforces feelings of exclusion and creates an unnecessary health risk to our most at-risk population.

While the repeal of this law is a huge win, we did not replace it with a law protecting and celebrating our students in the LGBTQ community. We are still greatly underserving our students in several subject areas, including history and reproductive health, which is important in destigmatizing same-sex sexual behavior, preventing teen pregnancy, and keeping STD rates low. Without education, our students will not know how to keep themselves or their partners safe.

Arizona also has very few regulations on conversion therapy, with a ban only in Pima County for therapy conducted for a fee. Conversion therapy is the barbaric practice of attempting to change a person’s sexual identity with emotional, verbal, or physical tactics that harm the person receiving the therapy. Some tactics include religious shaming (“pray the gay away”), detrimental electrical stimulation, and sexual attraction reconditioning. San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project reported that 48% of LGBTQ teens attempt suicide if their parents tried to change their sexual orientation — and that shocking number jumps up to 63% if therapists and religious leaders are also involved in these attempts. Conversion therapy is a detrimental practice that should be stopped.

HB 2082 is a bill introduced into the House legislature not requiring school employees to use students’ preferred pronouns and ensuring no punishment if they do not use the preferred terms. Not using a person’s preferred pronouns is destructive to students in several ways: It invalidates their feelings, denies their identity, and is disrespectful. By not holding school employees responsible for their behavior toward students in this manner, the state is turning a blind eye to the mistreatment of this student population. The full description of HB 2082 can be found here.

You can help considerably by contacting our lawmakers and involving them in our fight to protect ourselves and those we care about on May 17. The fastest way of doing that is to call or email them — find out what district you live in here and then find contact information for members of the Arizona Senate and the Arizona House of Representatives.

Whether you call them, email them, or write to them, make sure you tell them (as adapted from this letter from the Human Rights Campaign):

As your constituent and supporter of human rights, I am writing to ensure your support for the LGBTQ community in Arizona and nationwide and speaking out against HB 2082.

Our country cannot continue to tolerate discrimination – in employment, housing, public places, education or anywhere – on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Now more than ever, we need to pass legislation for consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community.

By explicitly including sexual orientation and gender identity in our state’s civil rights laws, and addressing people by their preferred pronouns, LGBTQ people will finally be afforded the exact same protections as other covered characteristics under federal law.

Please consider supporting the LGBTQ community and for the betterment of our state by speaking out against HB 2082. Thank you for listening.

You can also join with Planned Parenthood in their fight for us locally and nationally.

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia is an important reminder that we must stand together and “break the silence” so our voices can be heard and accounted for, especially now. In this political climate, we cannot afford to be meek or quiet about our right to be.

Be loud on May 17, and stay safe.

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