Cover Image: Advocates for Youth
Traditionally, many LGBTQI youth organisations and young activists participate in organising IDAHOT celebrations. Even more so this year, as “LGBTQI Youth” had been chosen to be the global focus issue for mobilisation.
It can’t be doubted that LGBTQI young people are at higher risk of bullying, of exclusion, of being kicked out by their families and of unemployment than their cis-gendered and straight peers. As a result, suicide rates amongst these teens and young adults are alarming. For more details please refer to our briefing for the IDAHOT 2015 theme.
In order to raise awareness of this situation and to change attitudes towards LGBTQI youth, international organisation as well as local groups have adopted the theme and have prepared creative activities and campaigns. A coalition of international groups has also launched a Thunderclap (an online flash mob) campaign under the auspices of LGBTI Youth umbrella organisation IGLYO to speak up for LGBTQI Youth, reaching over 1,3 Million people on May 17 with the support of over 1000 people and organisations.
Students groups all over the UK, Canada and Australia, have particularly taken ownership of the Day this year, with countless initiatives, impossible to all list.
Official allies have equally adopted LGBTI Youth as a core focus for their engagement:
Ahead of IDAHOT, Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, sent out a message in support of young L, G, B, T and I people, especially in the educational sector. In the message she also announced a meeting of Ministers of Education at UNESCO in Paris, on the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia in 2016 where the first United Nations global report on the status of education sector responses to homophobic and transphobic violence, including bullying, will be launched. Also other experts from the United Nations and other international human rights bodies highlighted the importance of support and respect towards LGBTQI Youth in a joint statement in which they also pointed out the specific threats that intersex children face through involuntary and unnecessary medical surgeries, and the harm that so-called ‘conversion therapies’ have especially for children. The European intergovernmental IDAHO Forum had the issue of LGBTI Youth firmly on its agenda, and European Parliament co-chair Ulrike Lunacek also issued a special statement on this topic.
Amongst some of the many actions, we have selected a few that give a glimpse of the diversity and creativity which has unfolded.
The International HIV/AIDS Alliance launched the Write Us In! campaign in May which ran over IDAHOT. The campaign drew attention to the need to include LGBTI people and other marginalised groups in new post-2015 health goal. For IDHAOT, the campaign highlighted the specific health needs of young LGBTI people. As part of the campaign, the Alliance organised a high-level meeting on the fringes of the World Health Assembly in collaboration with Ministries of Health of Luxembourg, Ecuador and UNAIDS. The Alliance invited Brant Luswata, a young gay man and LGBTI health advocate from Icebreakers in Uganda as the guest panel member. Brant gave compelling testimony to the 100 + delegates of the barriers in accessing HIV services and healthcare for young LGBTI people in Uganda highlighting the need to ensure that young LGBTI people are not left behind in new health goal.
The It Gets Better project which aims to bring a positive message around the world to young LGBTQI people worldwide, has mobilised their affiliates to have events in six continents for IDAHOT. With actions such as Free Hugs in Portugal, video message in Mexico, a flashmob in the city of Bologna, Italy, a multi-performance event in Australia, to a series of articles and artist-rendered graphics online in the United States and the annual Pride March for Equality in Moldova, the launch of a music video in Chile and many more, the global project reached out to LGBTQI and others alike to call for acceptance, respect and inclusion.
Across the African continent, digital media organisation None On Record has asked young LGBTQI people to share their stories and supportive messages which was launched on May 17. Additionally, in Botswana the Bokamoso (meaning ‘Future’) Bracelets campaign was inspired by the global theme and aimed specifically to a better education for LGBTQI young people, while in Kenya young student activists discussed Homophobia and the Youth with leaders from the campus organisations and youth groups on the 16th of May. In Liberia, young LGBTQI people met to share their stories through performing arts and using their creativity to express themselves at the ‘Hear my Heart; Free my Soul’ event. And in South Africa Iranti-org has launched the “I” campaign and brought together LGBTQI learners with school leaders and teachers to talk about the situation for LGBTQI pupils and ways to fight discrimination in educational institutions.
In Asia, Pink Alliance has been touring with their special exhibition ‘Growing Pain’ to various colleges and other venues in Hong Kong and Macau to talk about issues that LGBT Youth and young intersex people face.
In the Philippines, the Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines, Project Red Ribbon, and FEIST Magazine joined forced to commemorate IDAHOT as well as the International Candlelight Aids Memorial and added their voice to the global call to ‘Stand for LGBTQI Youth: Fight for Visibility, Respect, and Equality’. In Thailand, which has seen one of the major IDAHOT celebrations on a global scale, Bangkok’s Deputy Governor Pusadee Tamthai joined the events and made a strong statement in support of a city of diversity and particularly highlighted the need to improve the situation for LGBTI young people and students. Adding to this statement, four young LGBTI people took to the stage to tell their stories and call for more understanding and equality with their heterosexual peers. The week-long series of IDAHOT events included more activities such as book readings and panel discussions that focussed on the global theme. In India, the LGBTI youth group Yaariyan got creative and started a ‘Say it with a Smash’ contest in which they asked the participants to look for clips on the internet that express what they would like to say to homophobes and transphobes and dubsmash them. The price for the coolest dubsmash was a ticket to KASHISH 2015, south Asia’s biggest queer film festival.
Across the Asia-Pacific region, the Loud & Proud campaign collected stories from young MSM and transgender people from Fiji, Indonesia, Mongolia, Philippines, Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The campaign is initiated by Youth Voices Count. In a joined effort, Youth Voices Count and APCOM have released a discussion paper produced which shows that the high prevalence of HIV among young MSM and transgender people in the region is due to the rampant homophobia and transphobia. Additionally, APCOM had also launched a online campaign for IDAHOT which took a twist on the #HowOldRobot app and informed about stigmatisation of young LGBTQI people.
Across the Americas, the global focus issue was also at the centerstage of many initiatives
For IDAHOT 2015, the LGBTI youth support group Out In Schools from BC, Canada brought back their ‘Rise Against Homophobia’ film competition by inviting young people aged 12 to 19 to create and share short films which combat homophobia, transphobia and bullying.
In Brazil, which saw an impressive number of events, and in most of the locations LGBTQI Youth was included in the discussions, workshops, presentation, art performances and other action. For example, all schools in the municipal of Pontal held special lectures for IDAHOT.
In Guyana, a special feature on May 17 on channel 28 in observance of IDAHOT focussed on LGBT Youth. Also in Latin America, the IDAHO Committee teamed up with UNAIDS to produce powerful infographics on the situation of LGBTI youth in the region. For IDAHOT, the first gay-comic from Mexico was released which is called ‘SoyRichie’. The hero of the comic encourages especially young LGBTI to stand up and be proud of themselves. And in Belize, were same-sex relations are still harshly punishable, the Special Envoy for Women and Children sent out an IDAHOT message in which she called out for acceptance and spoke up against Human Rights abused against children while highlighting the specific situation of exclusion, discrimination and bullying young LGBTQI are confronted with on a daily basis.
In the Carribbean, the small island of Saint Lucia held several panel discussion in which they also highlighted the difficulties which young LGBTI people face in the country.
Other creative initiatives were seen across Europe.
To share the stories and experiences of young LGBTQI people, Swiss organisation Dialogai partnered with UNAIDS for this year’s IDAHOT Placemats which were placed in cafés, restaurants and canteens around the city of Geneva, Switzerland. In Finland, SETA and their affiliates addressed the specific discrimination young L, G, B, T, Q and I people face in sports. Also, in Santa Cruz, Spain, local groups have organised various activities at schools and other locations to talk to young people about LGBTI issues. And in Estonia, the Estonian LGBT Association dedicated their IDAHOT celebration to the Estonian LGBT+ young people.
Many allies from the youth sector have joined in this year’s IDAHOT mobilisation to express their support.
In a stand of solidarity, many mainstream youth organisations have taken special initiatives to mark the day, such as the Youth Coalitions’s special edition of its “Watchdog” publication and CRIN, the Child Rights International Network, dedicated its weekly newsletter to LGBTI Youth. The international Falcon’s movement published an specific guide for LGBT youth in the movement, Advocates for Youth, the European Youth Forum, Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and many others supported the cause. Youthpolicy.org published a special resource on the issue in the follow up to the Day
Many other regional, national and local organisations across the world joined in the call to Stand Up for LGBTQI Youth through campaigns, workshops, presentation etc. and the global theme has been highlighted in around 30% of the countries that saw IDAHOT actions
Beyond their individual impacts, these actions all came together to create a strong wave of global solidarity, which contributed to breaking the isolation which young LGBTQI people so often experience.