Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What Happened To IDAHO DAY In SA?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) is celebrated May 17. The international day against homophobia aims to coordinate international events to call respect for lesbians and gays world-wide. Unlike the LGBT Pride Day, which is meant to emphasise proudness of one's sexuality and refusal to be ashamed of it, IDAHO is held to highlight "... that in reality it is homophobia that is shameful and must be deconstructed in its social logic and fought against openly."

The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) is also seen by many as a day of rememberance, to mark the deaths and lives of those who have died as a result of homophobia and transphobia and hate crime. It also celebrates the fact that there is no shame in being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex.

This year IDAHO day was celebrated widely by pink communities around the world, and on the eve of the 2009 IDAHO day, and France became the first country in the world to officially remove transgender issues from its list of mental illnesses, as homosexuality was globally in 1973. (This means that I am wonko eveywhere in the world - except France. Did I mention I like France?) Sadly I noted nothing of the sort here in South Africa. No announcements, events, full page ads, radio interviews... nothing at all. Perhaps the bigger advocacy organizations here were too wrapped up in campaigning against racism or xenophobia? All jokes aside, I feel it is necessary in South Africa to mark such events - because believe it or not - we are not immune - nor are we untouched by the hand of homo and trans phobia.

Over the past year there have been several deaths and many other hate crimes, assaults and intimidations and things which definitely cast a shadow over our country's already jaded human rights record. No news is forthcoming on the move to pass hate crimes legislation in SA similar to the US Matthew Sheppard Act, the government remains silent on all matters relating to homo and transphobic violence committed by the governments of our African neighbors against their own citizens for fear of alienating them and endangering trade agreements and upsetting other political matters such as the vaunted Pan African Parliament - of which SA was a prominent architect. Still nothing seems to be happening around the issue of so-called "corrective rapes" of Black lesbians. The National Blood Service still commits acts of blatant discrimination and prejudice against the male gay community by denying them the right to become blood donors unless they are permanently celebate. South African radio stations still support James Dobson's Focus on the Family and it also enjoys government sponsorship in some rural education programs. Fundamentalist Christian political parties rally together on the premise - and promise - of revoking gay rights in the constitution of SA and their supporters make war on the pink community on religious grounds. Last March the ruling party's president placed the civil rights and equality of the pink community on the bargaining table to try and win some fundamentalist votes.

Oh, I think South Africa needs IDAHO Day all right - and badly.

While there is no shame in being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex - or even straight (but not narrow) - there is most certainly shame and dishonor in being a homophobe, a transphobe and a bigot.

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