Commemorating the International Day Against Homphobia and Transphobia

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According to the founders of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), the day was created in 2004 and is celebrated annually on May 17 to draw the attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexuals, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people internationally. The day represents an annual landmark to draw the attention of decision makers, the media, the public, opinion leaders and local authorities to the alarming situation faced by LGBTI people and all those who do not conform to majority sexual and gender norms. These mobilisations unite millions of people in support of the recognition of human rights for all, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

To mark IDAHOT in 2015, ARASA provided technical and financial support to LGBTI organisations in five countries (Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe) to implement activities to draw attention to the challenges posed by homophobia and transphobia in their countries. These activities included community dialogues, public marches, radio talk shows, workshops, gatherings, screening of films and entertainment shows. For more information on these activities, please visit www.arasa.info or www.didiri.org

In commemoration of the day, we include an opinion piece written by Diana Mailosi of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, calling on us all to embrace diversity and challenge prejudice wherever we encounter it. 

It is still hate…

By Diana Mailosi

One day I sat eavesdropping on a couple of strangers chatting about how hard things in Zimbabwe are while we waited in the long passport queue. A number of them were lamenting about how the current state of affairs can’t continue and needs to change. The conversation went on for a while until someone decided to talk about what is really causing the misery of the majority of people living in Zimbabwe. Even though I was half listening to the conversation, I became more interested because I expected that the arguments would be enlightening.

“I tell you, it is these homosexuals causing the misery we are facing in Zimbabwe”, said a middle-aged man. Really dude?

A gay man is the cause for your unemployment and need to migrate away from your beloved country? A gay man is to blame for the potholes that have become a part of our everyday life? A gay man is the cause of the political and economic meltdown currently being experienced by the majority of the residents in the country? A gay man is the one who has you queuing for passports?

There is need to move away from notion of the majority versus the minority. We feel comfortable being in the majority enjoying the privilege but lament the targeted hate directed at us when we are defined any differently and become the minority. Black people were discriminated against for the longest time and the effects of that are still evident in a lot of countries worldwide. Women could not speak out and lead, always seen as lesser species in more ways than one. In Zimbabwe, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters were terrorized, harassed and killed. Zimbabweans were attacked, burnt and killed in South Africa. As Zimbabweans we have, in a moment, found ourselves a minority and suffered injustice. However, we speak and continue to speak against such heinous crimes against humanity because such injustice cannot and must not be acceptable.

Society has come up with a new justifiable hate that has become largely acceptable. We call it “homophobia”. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans identifying individuals continue to be persecuted and harassed, with little to no protection from the authorities and the society at large. We justify this hate because of our different cultural and religious beliefs. We justify hate because we cannot understand what makes others so difference and quote our strong stances and “impose them” on the lives of others, forgetting that we are sometimes the minority, suffering the same injustices we decide to exert over others. We also seem to forget that the same group is with us. It’s our fathers, sisters, our leaders, our wives, our neighbours, and our loved ones.

We have created a new kind of minority to exercise our privilege over. So soon have we forgotten of the labels that were put on us and used as a basis for our discrimination? We couldn’t walk the streets of Harare without passes because we were black. Our daughters and mothers were not allowed to continue school because they had turned 12 and deemed mature for marriage because they were women. And we hated the political violence and the forced rally attendance and yet, we find it in us to label others and discriminate. We have simply continued to rename hate, giving it a different face. Hate is hate and hate against any human should not be acceptable.

She is a sex worker, so what? He is a grade 7 graduate, so what? He is black, so what? A Zimbabwean white, female president? Why not? Are they any less human because they are different?

Stop redefining, renaming and recreating hate! 

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Free Gender commemorated the Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in Cape Town, South Africa