May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB, sometimes also called IDAHOBIT).
Picked on the date on which in 1990 the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, the day serves to reflect on the progress made in the recognition and protection of the human rights of LGBTIQ people, and draw attention to the challenges LGBTIQ people continue to face on a day to day basis around the world.
This year, as news increasingly highlight growing COVID-19 vaccine access, lifting of pandemic related restrictions and a return to normalcy in some places, we need to draw attention to the fact that for LGBTIQ people the pandemic is far from over. LGBTIQ people continue to face a crisis within a crisis, posing the biggest challenge for our communities around the world at this moment.
While a pandemic affects everyone, vulnerable communities feel its impact more strongly than the general population. LGBTIQ people experienced a devastation of livelihoods, higher rates of domestic violence, amplified challenges accessing healthcare, and increasing mental health issues. LGBTIQ people have also been blamed and scapegoated for COVID-19, further amplifying already prevalent levels of LGBTIQ-phobia around the world. Moreover, our communities have also been excluded from humanitarian interventions which often use narrow definitions of family, binary definitions of gender, unsafe locations, or biased staff.
In April 2021 OutRight launched a new call for applications to the COVID emergency fund to support LGBTIQ communities around the world. We received 1500 applications from 111 countries, totalling 26 million USD in need, indicating a deepening crisis. Applications highlighted that LGBTIQ people continue to be out of jobs, continue to have to live with abusive family members, and face challenges accessing life-saving care for HIV, gender affirming treatment, or, indeed COVID-19.
IDAHOTB is a day for reflection. The challenges and marginalisation LGBTIQ people experience have been amplified over the last year, and continue to pose a crisis within a crisis for our communities who, to this point, have been largely left out of recovery efforts. Moreover, vaccine availability is far from equitable across the world and may even be years away in some countries. Without explicit inclusion of everyone, including LGBTIQ people, including in the Global South, we can not hope to overcome the pandemic. Without addressing the marginalisation and vulnerabilities which made this crisis so much more difficult for LGBTIQ communities around the world, this cycle will continue. It is high time the human rights of LGBTIQ people everywhere are recognised.