The recent “brainstorm” by anti-gay forces in the US, religious freedom, is something that touches a raw nerve in people like me. The so-called religious freedom activities and laws are thinly veiled homophobia. The advocates of religious freedom claim that their piety and “Christian values” require them to discriminate against gays, lesbians, and anyone else they deem “unsavory”. Then, they have the nerve to claim victimhood. For whatever reason, maybe you, too, might become one of their targets.
The thoughtful person can reflect just a moment and see the parallel between alleged religious liberty and the infamous Jim Crow laws that validated horrendous treatment of blacks and other racial minorities. Mainly white, Southern preachers defended segregation and other mistreatment of minorities because they believed God was on their side. It’s easy to see that “religious freedom” is simply warmed-over Jim Crow.
The religious freedom advocates claim the First Amendment of the Constitution backs them up. However, this cherry-picked viewpoint overlooks the anti-establishment clause that is also part of the same amendment. When a state entity passes a law that enforces a religious argument, it has, in effect, established a religious view. On the surface, so-called “religious freedom” statutes are unconstitutional. The need to balance the religious beliefs of some must be balanced with the inate rights of others.
Those of us who are in the crosshairs of the religious right understand the real intent of these alleged religious freedom actions. We can spot bigotry and homophobia a mile away. We grew up with it. Homophobic classmates and teachers surrounded us and terrorized us. Many of us had homophobic parents and relatives. When a person is the target of such insideous, negative, moralistic righteousness, he quickly develops a “radar” that instantly detects homophobia in his midst.
We think of the playground scenario where the bully controls the other kids by threat of force. He (usually its a boy) might taunt someone perceived as queer. The victim becomes embroiled in a quarrel or a fist-fight. Soon a supervising teacher breaks up the disagreement. The bully then defends his actions by claiming that he was picked on first. The teacher then disciplines the victim and gives a mild reprimand to the bully.
This bullying tactic shows up frequently throughout history. The minority targets vary, but the legalistic and religious excuses are mostly unchanged from antiquity. Human rights and true freedom are greatly diminished each time. Social breakdown through oppression of minorities signals the presence of a form of tyranny in most cases.
Bullying, prejudice, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry pollute society and nations. The ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are polluted when bigotry enters the picture. The moral foundations of religion crumble when followers use it to discriminate against others. Democracy is subverted when oppression of minorities is legally validated.
It is the realization that homophobia has haunted the LGBT community and the world that the International Day Against Homophobia, IDAHO, was organized. The movement for a special day began in Quebec in 2003, as the “National Day Against Homophobia”. Soon, the UK, Belgium, and France joined Canada with their own events. Later, more nations came aboard and proposed that May 17th should become the International Day Against Homophobia, IDAHO.
An international conference was held in Montréal during the summer of 2006 by representatives from around the world. One of the top aims was the adoption of the “Declaration of Montréal”. The declaration calls on all nations of the world to recognize the importance of LGBT Human Rights.
Why is May 17th so special that it was chosen as the date for IDAHO? It was on May 17, 1990 that homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases by the World Health Organization. The removal of this clinical opinion was the official beginning of the fundamental humanity of gay people. It was an historic step in the recognition that people of all sexual orientations and gender identies deserve fundamental human rights. The yoke of clinical homophobia had finally been cast aside.
IDAHO is now celebrated in more than 130 nations, including 37 which have “dark regimes” that oppress and officially harm LGBT citizens. The event draws the attention of authorities, the media, and the public to the harm caused to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people along with those who do not conform to majority sexual and gender definitions.
I remind my fellow gay travellers that homophobia is an insidious phenomenon that affects all of us in discrete, subtle, and sometimes invisible ways. None of us are immune to the hostility and hate directed towards individuals in our community. Some of us, and I know several, adopt homophobic attitudes and behaviors in a vain effort to shield themselves from the hate and aggression that showers down upon us. Internalized homophobia is ultimately unhealthy. It’s unwise to remain in the closet. Come out and celebrate IDAHO, today.
The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that Transphobia has since been added as a major concern of the LGBT community’s efforts. Because of that the acronym “IDAHOT” is often used in connection with IDAHO.