Wednesday, May 16, 2012

BAR: San Francisco & the World
Ready for May 17 IDAHO Actions

Heather Cassell, who writes a column about global gay issues for the Bay Area Reporter, has written a terrifically comprehensive story about IDAHO for tomorrow's print edition which is up on their site tonight. I spoke with Heather, thanked her for this article, requested permission to reprint it in full here, and she said yes.

On the eve of IDAHO 2012, I wish to express my deep and genuine gratitude to everyone in San Francisco who has helped organized our local action and will participate tomorrow, and offer best wishes to all our LGBT colleagues and friends around the world who are staging their own events.

From the BAR:

San Francisco LGBT activists will stand in solidarity with individuals around the world by lowering the United Nations flag in honor of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia today (Thursday, May 17).

The ceremony will be held at United Nations Plaza at noon. Activists will join thousands of LGBT individuals and allies hosting actions online and in the streets to raise awareness about homophobia and transphobia.

Gay Supervisor David Campos, who led the effort to host the first city-sponsored IDAHO event, will keynote the local action. Campos worked with members of Gays Without Borders to circumvent bureaucratic red tape and to organize the first formal event at the U.N. Plaza, said Michael Petrelis, a member of the global queer activist group.

Community leaders, including Amy Whelan, attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights; Brendan Behan, executive director of San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee; and Veronika Cauley Fimbres, an African American transgender advocate, will remember LGBT people who have experienced atrocities within the past year, said Petrelis.

Some of the incidents include: the transgender individuals who have been repeatedly abused and murdered without justice in Turkey; the young gay Chilean man murdered by neo-Nazis; the murdered gay youths in Iraq; and the lesbians found murdered in Thailand, Petrelis said.

While there have been great strides, particularly within the past week with Argentina's landmark gender identity bill and Chile's anti-discrimination law passing, Petrelis said IDAHO is to memorialize those lost.

Lowering of the U.N. and American flags are a symbolic gesture, sending the message that "we haven't forgotten how we still have a long way to go before we achieve true equality for LGBT people across the world," Campos wrote in an email.

In San Francisco the LGBT community has accomplished a lot in regards to protecting LGBT rights, Campos wrote, but he believes, "it's critical for us to remember that homophobia and transphobia not only still remain a problem in our city and country but are prevalent in other parts of the world. It's important for we in the LGBT community in San Francisco to stand in solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters abroad who still face discrimination and violence, even death, because of their sexual orientation and gender identity."

San Francisco's upcoming Pride Parade has the theme of "Global Equality," noted Behan.

"In some ways San Francisco has been so deeply involved with the global movement around LGBT rights and in other ways there are certain elements ... that we could do more to be more practically involved in the international struggle," said Behan, who believes that San Franciscans have an "opportunity" to be "more present in the global struggle to fight homophobia and to fight transphobia."

U.N. Plaza is a poignant setting for the fifth San Francisco IDAHO event and the first one supported by the city, Petrelis noted. He pointed to the U.N.'s historic actions within the past two years on behalf of LGBT individuals around the world and the fact that the U.N. was originally chartered in San Francisco.

"It made sense to use the plaza and the flag there to commemorate, remember, [and] honor all of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans people killed in the past year," said Petrelis.

IDAHO organizers hope more U.S. cities will take the opportunity the day provides to open a window to the rest of the world, said Joel Bedos, an IDAHO committee member, speaking to the Bay Area Reporter by phone from France.

"This day provides a fantastic opportunity for having an insight into what happens around the world," said Bedos.

IDAHO started in 2003 as National Day Against Homophobia in Quebec, Canada by Louis-Georges Tin, a French black and LGBT rights activist and professor.

A year later his initiative was turned into an international call for action on May 17 to commemorate the World Health Organization's removal of homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

In 2005, an estimated 24,000 people and organizations around the world participated in the first official IDAHO. In the years following, IDAHO added transphobia to its title, but retained its original acronym, and is run by a nearly 35-member advisory board represented by countries around the world. Events range from online discussions to protests and rallies, he said.

This year's campaign theme is focused on bullying, Bedos said.

Every year more countries, like Burma, which is celebrating for the first time this year, are joining IDAHO events, said Bedos. Unfortunately, some countries, like Malaysia, are refraining from hosting an event due to security concerns as the country continues to struggle with LGBT rights, reported Gay Star News.

IDAHO is unique in the fact that it allows people no matter where they are in the world or their level of acceptance or acknowledgement to openly discuss the human rights of LGBT people.

The organization encourages and works closely with embassies around the world that raise the rainbow flag for IDAHO. Bedos said the committee hopes IDAHO will "break the habit of homophobia" and realize how deeply connected and rooted it is to other forms of oppression. It is his dream that IDAHO will bring individuals and countries to beyond the borders of their communities and nations, sexual orientation and gender identity, ethnicity and race to truly come together globally.

"We would like IDAHO to become the international LGBT solidarity day," he said. Behan couldn't agree more and said that the "fight for LGBT rights needs to go beyond our urban enclaves our major cities," pointing out that there are lessons to learn and teach about the LGBT movement around the world.

For more information, visit,41-.

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